Nonetheless, a great deal of space on the 15-acre site was set aside for landscaping, and today, manicured lawns and mature olive and juniper deciduous trees line the complex walkways.
"We're not like the new complexes going up. We have a lot of open space," said Nancy Martin, who moved with her 2-year old son to the complex in 1976. Originally attracted to the possibility of easy access to babysitters, Martin watched as the housing market boomed and decided to make the complex a more permanent home.
"It's a nice, quiet place to live: We're the suburbs of Palo Alto," Marvin Sommer, a renter at Greenhouse II since 1995, said. "It's basically a car community."
Many residents have placed flowerpots and planters in their windows, supplementing already ample greenery. The complex grounds provide condominium residents with a green, expansive sense of space without the maintenance obligations that come with traditional homeownership.
"We're a very well-run condominium community with well-taken-care-of, beautiful grounds," Martin said.
The complexes are connected by a path and offer a par course and pool for fitness-minded residents, as well as a clubhouse available for rent.
"It's an extension of the living room," Pat Wegner, a resident since 1979 and the clubhouse manager, said.
The Greenhouse boasts convenient access to Highways 101 and 85, as well as nearby shopping at the San Antonio Shopping Center and Piazza's Market on Middlefield Road. The complex, residents said, is well-located for active seniors.
The community is home to a variety of demographics, with around 40 percent retirees and 60 percent young families. Although the number of renters has increased over the years, the complex still houses more than 70 percent resident-owners, Janet Kahle said. A resident since 1975 and a mainstay on the board of Greenhouse I, she said many residents are original owners but some residents come and go.
"A lot of families come here because it's been so expensive," Kahle said.
The Greenhouse attracts parents looking for affordable access to Palo Alto Schools, and their children attend Fairmeadow Elementary, J.L.S. Middle School and Gunn High. The number of families with children in the complexes is steadily increasing, residents said.
"Some of them go off to school in the morning, riding their bikes," Wegner said.
Despite demographic changes, the Greenhouse's calm, collegial atmosphere hasn't changed over the years, she said. "We have a tidy, congenial neighborhood," she said.
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CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Peninsula Day Care Center, 525 San Antonio Road
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road (temporarily located at 4050 Middlefield Road during construction)
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Palo Alto Greenhouse Homeowners Association, Ralph Cahn, treasurer, 650-858-1012; The Compass Management Group Inc., 650-563-9900
PARK (NEARBY): Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow Elementary, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center, Charleston Plaza, Costco Warehouse
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