Palo Alto Weekly 25th Anniversary

Melanie and Sammy Oh
Schools, community resources still lure new residents

by Carol Blitzer

Sammy and Melanie Oh spent nearly two years searching for the perfect house in Palo Alto, after moving back from Greenwich, Conn.

With their oldest son Matthew about to start kindergarten, the Ohs were under the gun to make a decision.

" We only considered Palo Alto and Saratoga," Sammy said, because they felt the public schools were strongest for their three children. And they wanted to buy for the long haul -- not move for the better high schools later.

The Ohs found just what they wanted on El Cerrito Road in Barron Park -- a five-bedroom house, with an open kitchen, an office and a large back yard on a flat lot where their three boys -- age 5, 3 and 18 months -- can play.

" We wanted (a neighborhood) that was trick-or-treater friendly," Melanie said.

" This is the urban oasis, where the sidewalk ends. You can close your eyes and fancy yourself in a rural setting. It's such a pleasure to wake up to the chirping of birds," Melanie said.

Like many other residents, the Ohs also found the city's schools, downtown, community resources and restaurants attractive. They liked the rural setting and small-town feel of their new neighborhood.

" We think it's neat people have lived here for so long," Sammy said, noting that one of the first neighbors he met was John Dusterberry, 83, who's been on the block for 50 years.

Yet, all this comes at a price.

" If you didn't know what the house cost, you'd think it's just an ordinary neighborhood," said Sammy, who works as a portfolio manager.

Sammy acknowledges that "there's no question there's a huge financial barrier to moving into Palo Alto. ... Unless you have a lot of assets, you have to sacrifice things to pay your mortgage."

Even though they paid a million dollars more than they'd originally budgeted -- and shell out around $6,000 per month between mortgage and property taxes -- they consider the purchase the right combination of home, lot size and affordability..

" I feel we lucked out with what we could get for the money in Palo Alto," Sammy said.

Both Sammy and Melanie have more resources now than when they were children, but, Sammy said, "We kind of want our kids to have the same values we had growing up. We don't want to send them to private schools."

" I don't want my kids to be around just kids with a lot of money. I want them to be exposed to a diverse community ethnically and economically, but it's a fine balance," Sammy said.

Although Sammy described one of Palo Alto's disadvantages as its homogeneity, he believes that will soon change. They note that their block is somewhat diverse, with a new Indian family joining the Chinese couple around the corner.
Their new street is pretty similar to what they left in Greenwich -- a few younger couples and a lot of people who'd been there 20-plus years when they bought their homes for 1/20 of the value. In their Connecticut neighborhood, similar community changes were happening -- teardowns and new people moving in. "
But, Sammy said, "Palo Alto has everything we could hope for. I can't think of anything it doesn't have, that we wish it did have."

" We plan to be here a long time. We'll be the Johns (Dusterberry) of the neighborhood," Sammy said.

Age: Sammy, 37; Melanie, 36 Income: N/a Kids: Matthew, 5; Michael, 3; Peter, 18 months Years in home: Five months (since May 2004) Price of house: About $3 million Community involvement: Volunteer at Hoover School Car: 2002 Honda Odyssey (minivan) and '94 Lexus Where'd you grow up: Sammy in Houston, Melanie in San Francisco Profession: Sammy is a money manager Do you consider yourself rich?P "Not here. We feel fortunate. Everything is relative," Melanie Oh said. Mortgage payment: About $3,000/month Property taxes: About $3,000/month


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25th Anniversary • 1979-2004




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