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Our Neighborhoods: Park Forest in Menlo Park

If you want to meet your neighbors, walk your dog

If you want to meet your neighbors in Park Forest, a development of about 75 multi-story townhomes off El Camino Real in Menlo Park, walk your dog, says Peri Caylor.

Neighbors are out and about multiple times a day, walking up and down the three non-through streets, she said.

In 2011, Ms. Caylor and her husband, Scott Szymkowski, had been looking for a shorter commute from Fremont and a larger home for their now teenaged twins. “This allowed us much more square footage than a single-family house with a yard,” she says.

Ms. Caylor was quickly integrated into the community when a member of the homeowners’ association asked her to fill in for the secretary at a meeting; she kept the job for five years.

The main responsibility of the association board is to manage the park and pool. There are three associations (Park Forest I, Park Forest II and Park Forest III), which manage the three private parks and pools that serve the residents. Each holds annual meetings and occasional social gatherings.

Morris and Denise Brown have lived in Park Forest I since 1970.

“I loved gardening, but not an acre’s worth,” Ms. Brown says. Both liked the idea of a private pool and park, “and I didn’t have to take care of it,” she adds.

Over the years much has changed and evolved. Generations have turned over.

“When we moved in there were more retirees or people further along in their careers. It’s multi-generational now. You can see a dad pulling a red wagon with a toddler, signs to slow people down,” and bubbles and sidewalk chalk, Ms. Caylor says.

Another change is the constant state of remodeling up and down the street, with construction trucks often parked in the median strip. Many homeowners have expanded by incorporating former balconies into their kitchen/family room. Some have added elevators to the shaft/storage areas already framed in.

When they moved in, their backyard “was a forest,” Mr. Brown says, but now the rear of the home faces an office building. The back of Ms. Caylor’s home once overlooked the Roger Reynolds nursery, but now oversees construction of new three-story condos. Construction in 2017 of a 61-room Hampton Inn by Hilton on El Camino Real will change the rear view of other Park Forest homes.

Probably the biggest change over time has been the increase in traffic and the challenge to parking, Mr. Brown says. When the homes were built (mainly in 1964), Park Forest was part of San Mateo County, but in 1979 the area was absorbed into the city of Menlo Park. At that time the homeowners associations were formed to maintain the pools and parks. The city allows daytime parking on the median strip on Stone Pine Lane, and today there is spillover from nearby businesses and apartment dwellers, Ms. Brown said.

Despite the traffic, Park Forest residents enjoy the easy walk to downtown Menlo Park or to restaurants along El Camino Real.

Loreli Trippel, who took over this year as secretary of the homeowners association, moved in 2014 from a canyon in Belmont where she had to “get in the car to get anywhere,” she says. She lauds the walkability and especially enjoys the trees behind her home. She could live without the blasting horns from the train, she says, but adding double-paned windows has helped.

A runner, Ms. Trippel keeps in shape dashing up and down the steps in her multi-level home.

Carol Blitzer, 2017


CHILDCARE & PRESCHOOLS: The Playschool, Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave., Atherton; Trinity School Early Childhood Program at Holy Trinity Church, 330 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park

LOCATION: between El Camino Real and Caltrain tracks, from Buckthorn Lane to Stone Pine Lane

PARK: Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave., Atherton

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Menlo Park City School District -- Laurel School, 95 Edge Road, Atherton; Encinal School, 195 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park; Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Ave., Menlo Park. Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton

View the neighborhood map (PDF)

— Carol Blitzer

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