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Neighborhood Snapshot: Ventura braces for big changes

Artsy neighborhood site of new 'concept area plan'

Once described as a neighborhood with a "quiet" feel, Ventura is a little more noisy today with the influx of young families moving into the neighborhood, according to some of its residents.

"Ventura's got a bit of a lower entry point for families," said resident Neera Narang. "It draws younger families, I think, because it's somewhat affordable compared to the rest of Palo Alto."

Originally from Southern California, Narang moved to the Bay Area in 2010 before settling in Ventura the following year with her husband. She lives in a single-family home built in the 1920s.

Ventura has just over 2,600 residents and is bound by Oregon Expressway and West Meadow Drive and El Camino Real and Alma Street.

The low price point isn't the only draw. Narang said Ventura residents are diverse not only in race and ethnicity but across age and professions. The neighborhood is not dominated by those in the tech industry, she said; instead, her neighbors are carpenters, architects and "really cool, funky artistic people."

The walkability of the neighborhood also makes it easy for Narang to frequent nearby Boulware Park and California Avenue with her husband and two children, ages 1 and 4.

Parker Mankey also enjoys the neighborhood's walkability. A lifetime Palo Alto resident who has lived in Ventura for eight years and raised her children there, she said the California Avenue Farmers' Market is a window into what Palo Alto was like when she was a kid, that is to say, more opportunities to gather publicly and support local businesses.

Like Narang, Mankey said there are a growing number of young families in her apartment complex, where she lives with her husband and two teenaged children.

"When we moved here, there were mainly Stanford students and longtime residents," she said. "We're sort of a springboard (for new families)."

Mankey is an accountant for Gryphon Stringed Instruments, a music store that has been in Ventura for more than 40 years. As a small business that has outlasted the ballooning rents in the area, Gryphon is a rarity among Palo Alto retail. Frank Ford, one of Gryphon's founders, said the shop could easily expand but "rent around here isn't exactly what you'd call cheap."

Gryphon sits on the corner of Park Boulevard and Lambert Avenue, directly across from the 39-acre portion of land in Ventura that's use will be debated in the next year and a half by city officials, residents and business owners. In early March, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted to move ahead with a "concept area plan" for the considerable portion of Ventura land.

Narang and Mankey share similar visions for what should be included in the plan. On their wish list is housing, which both feel is desperately needed in Palo Alto, and a generous portion of green space, which is less common in Ventura than in surrounding neighborhoods.

Ventura is mostly a residential area with a mixture of houses and apartment complexes. The houses sit on narrow streets on relatively small lots, giving them little space between their neighbors.

For Mankey, another desired outcome for the land is a fun space for children and teenagers that could potentially include more diverse retail options, such as a bookstore, an independent coffee shop or a live music venue.

"We complain about our kids being on the computer all the time, but they live in a town where they have nothing to do," Mankey said, citing the closures of Denny's and Palo Alto Bowl, places she frequented while growing up in the area.

Marley Arichega is a former intern at the Palo Alto Weekly.


CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Country Day Little School, 3990 Ventura Court; Heffalump Cooperative Nursery, 3990 Ventura Court; Leaping Lizards Nature Awareness Preschool, 3990 Ventura Court; Sojourner Truth Child Development Center, 3990 Ventura Court

FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road

LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road

LOCATION: bounded by Oregon Expressway, Alma Street, West Meadow Drive and El Camino Real

PARK: Boulware Park, 410 Fernando Ave.; Ventura Community Center, 3990 Ventura Court

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Barron Park Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn or Palo Alto high schools

SHOPPING: California Avenue, Charleston Center and El Camino Real

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1 person likes this
Posted by Fairmeadow Dad
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 7:51 am

"We complain about our kids being on the computer all the time, but they live in a town where they have nothing to do," Mankey said, citing the closures of Denny's and Palo Alto Bowl, places she frequented while growing up in the area."

to me this is a very odd final statement to read because so many people say they want to live here because of the quality of life (plus obviously schools).

My kids are only on computers to look things up but spend all their free time at Mitchell Park, the library, biking around the neighborhood with their friends, etc...that part contrasted with my family's version of living here. Oh well. :)

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2018 at 8:17 am

The area is already vibrant and people are happy to live there. They should be allowed to continue living there.

But I agree with the comment about very little to do in Palo Alto for teens. Yes, they can go to a park or a library, but we are losing the places where teens can hang out with their friends on a rainy weekend or a dark evening. Places like the Bowling Alley and Laserquest were great places for teens and quality of life is something that Palo Alto council seems to forget and ignores.

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