New Developments in South Palo Alto: A Historic Opportunity

Three new housing developments are in the process of being built in South Palo Alto, just east of El Camino and south of Charleston. About two hundred and thirty units will be built eventually, which is, I believe, larger than any new neighborhood in the Palo Alto area in decades.


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Thus, these developments represent a unique, historic opportunity to create new Playborhoods in our area. In fact, my wife and I, house-hunters for over two years, are seriously considering buying a house there.Before I discuss some specifics of these developments, I should explain why I believe that these developments will likely result in new Playborhoods. New developments tend to have more young families with children than established communities. That’s both because home buyers are often young families and because young families tend to prefer new housing developments. This is particularly true here in California due to Proposition 13, which provides a strong tax incentive to long-time homeowners to stay where they are.

In fact, when South Palo Alto boomed in the 1950s with, among other homes, 3,000 new Eichlers, twelve new elementary schools were built to accommodate all the students. In fact, when I checked out the home for sale in South Palo Alto at 470 Carolina Lane off Wilkie Way, an elderly neighbor told me that there were no young children there now, but there were 35 between 0 and 5 years old on Carolina Lane back in the 1950s.

The new developments, in fact, are a stone’s throw away from that home. The land they will sit on is partly the old site of Hyatt Rickeys, and partly some land being sold off by the Palo Alto Elks Club. While Rickey’s is long gone, The Elks Club lodge will be rebuilt and much improved, albeit on a much smaller piece of land. I’ll come back to this later.

So, the three developments and information about them are shown below:

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It’s great that these developments have a range of housing sizes, so different kinds of families will be drawn to them. In addition, there will be a small park in Arbor Real and in the Summerhill Homes complex, so there will be some new green space for kids to play.

Gee, I just hope they don't ask me to wear one of those hats...

Finally, the new Elks Lodge (the plans are shown in Elks newsletter, a large PDF file), planned for completion in 2010, will have a great deal of family-friendly facilities including four pools and a childcare room. The Elks’ membership has declined from about 3500 in the late 1960s to about 800 today, but the organization, originally a men’s-only club, is making a big effort to attract families. With this new Lodge and 230 new homes surrounding it, its resurgence seems assured.

The only thing these developments are lacking is a neighborhood retail district. There are retail establishments close by, but they’re scattered along El Camino, so they’re not convenient for walking.

In sum, though, I’d say these developments show great promise for creating a cluster of Playborhoods in the future. As I said in the beginning of this article, my wife and I are very interested in buying there, so I’ll probably have a lot more to say about this area in the coming months.

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One Response to New Developments in South Palo Alto: A Historic Opportunity

  1. Claudia_Matthias says:

    Hi Mike,

    so did you end up buying there? We just moved close by (Duluth Circle, just opposite) and would be happy to learn about any playborhoods and find friends for our 2y old son and/or our 9m old daughter!

    Matthias