Real Estate

Between two schools

Southgate neighborhood's location near Stanford and Paly give it a unique vantage point

When it comes to the location of neighborhoods in Palo Alto, few have it better than Southgate.

Bordered by Alma Street, El Camino Real, Churchill Avenue and Park Boulevard, Southgate is adjacent to both Palo Alto High School and Stanford University and close to both the shops and restaurants along California Avenue and Town and Country Village.

One would think that Southgate's proximity to multiple schools and shopping destinations would bring unwanted traffic and congestion to the neighborhood. But that is not the case, said Jim McFall, a Southgate resident for over 30 years who helps run the neighborhood watch program.

McFall said there is "very little through-traffic" in the neighborhood because there are few entrances from the main streets. The Caltrain tracks run parallel to Alma Street, while there is no way in from Park Boulevard near Peers Park, blocking it off from two of four sides.

"It's a well-defined neighborhood with geographic boundaries," McFall said. "Not many streets go through the neighborhood. You don't know about it unless you go to a specific location within Southgate."

However, Southgate is not free from all the problems that usually come with living in a popular area -- namely, parking.

The main culprits are students from Palo Alto High School, who park in the nearby streets close to campus. What exacerbates the issue is the narrow widths of the lanes; residents claim that a multitude of cars parked next to the curb essentially turns the roads into one-way streets.

"We have significant issues with parking right now," McFall said. "We're seeing a significant increase in student parking here."

McFall added that there also issues with congestion and circulation, and that he is working with the City of Palo Alto to address the parking concerns. In May, the City Council endorsed a Residential Preferential Parking Program for Southgate, a plan which would require permits for those who park their cars in the neighborhood for longer than two hours.

Southgate, first developed in the 1920s, received its name because it bordered Stanford University's southern side. The Stanford family actually owned the land until it sold and subdivided it.

Since then, the architecture has varied greatly from the original California Bungalow-style floor plans. Construction has been a constant in the neighborhood through the years, with new families moving in and adjusting their homes to the times, said Jim Corbett, a retired longtime resident who lives on Sequoia Avenue.

"The population turns over," Corbett said. "You have new families coming in and making architectural changes. More recently, because of the drought, many homes are now removing their front lawns and putting distinctive, low-water plants."

There are around 230 single-family homes in the neighborhood, many of which have been remodeled. The lack of apartments doesn't take away from the community feel, though. There's an annual block party every Memorial Day and a toy drive in December complete with a holiday gathering.

"Due to the small size (of the neighborhood), people do know each other well," McFall said.

The positive aspects of Southgate are enough to offset its parking troubles. Recently, the city repaved the streets and inserted open landscape basins to collect rainwater that would often settle in the flat neighborhood after a storm. Residents also appreciate the bike paths to California Avenue and downtown.

Corbett frequents the bike paths, and often attends events at Stanford. "It's a pleasant place to live," he said. "The real estate is location, location, location. I'm willing to put up with the foibles of traffic. I can go over to University Avenue, Stanford, Town and Country, and come back. It's pretty simple."

Weekly Editorial Intern Eric He can be reached at

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