One in a series of stories from the Almanac's annual publication, "Our Neighborhoods."
By Carol Blitzer
Back in 1982, Lynne and Tony Reynolds and their daughter were looking for a larger space in Menlo Park, ideally with a "nice-sized yard and a pool."
"It was a very pretty neighborhood: lots of trees, walkable," recalls Ms. Reynolds. "Once we moved in we realized what wonderful neighbors we had."
With ranch-style homes and two-story apartment buildings, Linfield Oaks – located west of Middlefield Road to Alma Street and between San Francisquito Creek and Ravenswood Avenue – was mostly developed in the mid-1950s. By the time the Reynolds' arrived, the first residents' children had grown and moved on, and a whole new set of young families settled in.
"At one time we had something like 18 children under 15 on this block," she says.
Block parties were the norm on Memorial Day and Labor Day, with potluck barbecues and Frisbee tossing in the streets. "On a warm night, we'd sit out until 10," she adds.
That generation has turned over as well, but neighborhood traditions linger with an annual Labor Day weekend block party, Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend pizza party and elaborate Christmas lights.
"It's fun to drive around at Christmas," Ms. Reynolds says, due to the rivalry over the decorations. "It feels like a neighborhood that comes together and supports each other."
Ms. Reynolds' only nit to pick is the change in traffic over the past 35 years.
"This used to be very quiet," she says, noting that there's a lot of cut-through traffic despite the city's installation of speed bumps on Willow Road.
At the edge of Linfield Oaks, behind the former Sunset magazine headquarters, is Morgan Lane, a townhouse development with a homeowners' association, website and a neighbor-to-neighbor email list. Debby Seaman moved back to the Bay Area from Seattle in 2015, to be closer to her adult children.
"I knew what the market was like here, and I'm an experienced buyer," Ms. Seaman says. She credits her no-contingency offer as the clincher in this competitive market.
"I thought I was buying a smaller, adorable detached house. I didn't know I was buying a community," she adds. She was quickly invited to serve on the homeowners' association board, which she describes as "a way to get to know more people."
She was very attracted to the location, where she can walk to downtown Menlo Park or Palo Alto. She's even sampled the wares from food trucks that gather, along with many neighbors, at the Willows Market just blocks away on Monday nights.
Ms. Seaman has found the neighbors friendly. She hadn't been there long when a neighbor came by with a bottle of wine – and an observation that an upstairs window screen was falling off. He then told her how to fix it and offered to do it if she couldn't; she did figure out how to fix it herself, but she appreciated the heads up, she says.
Morgan Lane boasts a couple of greenbelt areas with children's play areas. Every year they invite the fire and police departments to join residents at an annual May/June barbecue, another way for neighbors to get to know each other. And especially for the children are the annual Halloween parade (complete with treats before dark) and an Easter egg hunt.
One challenge is visitor parking, but at least it's free, notes Ms. Seaman, a real contrast to Seattle.
Freelance writer Carol Blitzer can be emailed at [email protected]
• Child care and preschools: Burgess After-school Program, Burgess Kindercat Program (Menlo Park Recreation Center), 801 Laurel St., Menlo Park; Geokids Day Care Center, 345 Middlefield Road, M/S 204, Menlo Park; Menlo Children's Center, 801 Laurel St., Menlo Park.
• Fire station: 300 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park.
• Location: west of Middlefield Road to Alma Street and San Francisquito Creek to Ravenswood Avenue.
• Park: Burgess Park, Alma Street and Mielke Drive, Menlo Park.
• Public schools: Menlo Park City School District – 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.
• Shopping: Downtown Menlo Park; The Willows Market, 60 Middlefield Road.