04 May, 2012

College Terrace - Palo Alto

A quiet neighborhood, once again

College Terrace has long been known as a place that's good for young families, including those of grad students at nearby Stanford. It's near a public elementary school and several child care centers and parks. Dog-walkers and strollers are common sights on the streets lined with houses of all styles and sizes.

Lorenz Redlefesen has lived in College Terrace since 2005 and is still struck by the quiet. "When we moved in, one of the first things we noticed was how quiet it is compared to our old place on University Avenue. I distinctly remember noticing the birds chirping on our first morning."

His family especially loves the walkability: The kids' school, Escondido Elementary school, is a 10-minute walk. They also walk to restaurants, grocery stores, the dry cleaners, post office, bike store, two Starbucks and the California Avenue Farmers Market. "Every Sunday morning, we take the kids to pick out their favorite fruits, veggies and goodies."

Some residents were unhappy when that quiet Redlefsen loves faded a few years ago; they were glad when the quiet reappeared in January with the departure of a very famous neighbor. This meant no more trucks delivering to the cafeteria at 5 a.m. or shuttle buses bringing employees the rest of the day, said Anne Schmitt, who's lived there since 1987.

"They're gone and we love it," she said.

Not everyone was totally unhappy with Facebook. A resident since 1986, Robyn Duby, enjoyed some of the activity the company brought to the area. "It was mostly fun to see the young professionals pour in throughout the day," she said.

"My favorite sighting was of a handsome, professionally dressed man in his late 20s/early 30s rolling casually by on a longboard with his upscale computer satchel slung over his back. There were multiple visits from media, which spiced up the morning when I was out walking my dog, and of course how incredible it was when President Obama and his motorcade paraded down our humble neighborhood streets!

"It is nice to have our quieter street back again, but I do miss some of the fuss and bother of our former neighbor."

Over the years Schmitt has seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood unrelated to local industry. The kids are growing up and so the number of young families out and about has gone down, she said. Post-graduate students at Stanford move in with their families and often participate in neighborhood activities, even if they'll only live there for a few years, and that adds some nice diversity, she says.

But there's still a core of active neighbors who have formed two book groups and a sewing club. They've started an on-line neighborhood via the website nextdoor.com. It's a custom site only accessible by people who live in the neighborhood and provides a forum for advice on local professionals and exchange or loan of items like garden supplies. If someone can't find their cat, they post to Next Door.

There's also a "Green Team," of which Schmitt is a member. They use the website to post tips about energy savings and green living. 

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