Real Estate

Neighborhood Snapshot: South of Midtown

They came for the schools, stayed for the 'grounded, eco-conscious' vibe

A family walks across the Magical Bridge at the 21.4-acre Mitchell Park that often serves as a gathering place for impromptu neighborhood get togethers. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Marilyn Keller and Lisa Barkin both chose their homes in Palo Alto's South of Midtown neighborhood in 2000 because, at the time, it was less expensive than surrounding areas and could still get them a Palo Alto ZIP code and inclusion into the high-ranking Palo Alto Unified School District.

Nearly two decades later, the longtime residents say they have remained there for an entirely different reason — they don't think there's a better place to live.

"People here seem very family-focused and grounded compared to the Palo Alto stereotype of the super elite," said Keller, who's youngest child is set to begin college next fall. "I like the international character of our neighborhood with a lot of newcomers from various places with interesting and inspiring life stories. ... Our neighbors are super friendly and very supportive of each other, which I value. "

She said residents get together several times a year for block parties, an ice cream social at Hoover Park and numerous local events held by the schools or the Midtown Residents Association.

Barkin said the neighborhood's location — bounded by Alma Street, Middlefield Road, East Meadow Drive and Loma Verde Avenue — can't be beat: It's within walking or biking distance of Midtown, California Avenue and Mountain View's shopping districts, as well as Fairmeadow Elementary School, JLS Middle School and Mitchell Park, with its library and community center.

"I'm pretty happy here," said Barkin, who moved into her house 19 years ago and has since watched her children go through the public school system. "We wanted our kids to go to public schools ... and I'm happy with our decision."

Barkin, who has one child in college and another in high school, said the school district continues to be a big draw for many of the younger families moving into the neighborhood.

Bryant Street, which runs through South of Midtown, is a defining part of the neighborhood. Designated as a bike boulevard optimized for bicycle traffic, the street in part has fostered an "eco-conscious" vibe, Barkin said.

"There's a lot of accessibility, so it's an active walking and biking community," she said. "I feel safe doing both, and my son has ridden his bike to school for the past two years. People are very conscious about their footprint and the environment. For the most part, people are good about taking other methods of transportation besides their cars."

It's that sense of community and feeling of security that keeps residents active and connected to their neighbors, she added.

Keller said she's concerned about the future of the neighborhood as the city moves forward with plans to redesign its rail corridor, which runs through the neighborhood. Closing down the rail crossing at Churchill Avenue is among the options being considered in the redesign. Keller said she's worried that closing the crossing could compound the neighborhood's worsening traffic congestion spurred by construction of higher-density housing in the area.


CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Besse Bolton Kids' Club, 500 E. Meadow Drive; Milestones Preschool, 3864 Middlefield Road; Covenant Children's Center, 670 E. Meadow Drive; El Carmelo Kids' Club, 3024 Bryant St.; Grace Lutheran Preschool, 3149 Waverley St.

FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road

LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road

LOCATION: bounded by Loma Verde Avenue, East Meadow Drive, Middlefield Road and Alma Street

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: part of Midtown Residents Association, Sheri Furman, 650-856-0869

PARKS: Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive; Hoover Park, 2901 Cowper St.

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS (nearby): International School of the Peninsula, 3233 Cowper St.; Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road; Keys School Lower Campus, 2890 Middlefield Road

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: El Carmelo and Fairmeadow elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School

SHOPPING: Midtown Shopping Center, Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue; Charleston Center; Alma Plaza

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