The Hubris of Neighborhood Profiles

The 2008 edition of Our Neighborhoods, published by the Palo Alto Weekly.

Pretty much every Palo Alto neighborhood in the new 2008 Our Neighborhoods guide, published by the Palo Alto Weekly, is lauded for its great sense of community and for being a great place for families.

It seems as if you can’t go wrong, no matter where you move. Palo Alto’s neighborhoods are so family-friendly that all you need to do in buying a house is find the right house.

Yeah, right.The Playborhood Survey tells a very, very different story. 82.3% of all parents surveyed would like to see their children play more outside in their neighborhoods, and Palo Alto / Menlo Park (PAMP) parents’ responses to this question are consistent with the overall sample.

In addition, 81.4% of PAMP parents said they would move to a new house in a neighborhood adjacent to their current one that has “significantly better play opportunities for your child(ren)” if the move cost them no money. 53.7% of those would pay $50,000 or more additional for this house, and 17.1% would pay $200,000 or more.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the Palo Alto Weekly’s findings and the Playborhood Survey’s findings? Well, neither is a totally “scientific survey,” but I suspect that the Palo Alto Weekly was a lot more biased. The Playborhood Survey had a lot of open-ended questions that elicited many positive and negative responses.

Meanwhile, we don’t know how the Palo Alto Weekly asked their questions, but practically no negative comments were reported in any neighborhood profile in the Palo Alto Weekly’s Our Neighborhoods.

To those of us who are dissatisfied with our children’s play opportunities in our neighborhoods, this is frustrating. Sure, we can believe that there may be a few pockets of kid heaven in Palo Alto, but we need a lot of help finding them.

Local realtors are no better in this regard – to them, pretty much all neighborhoods are great for kids. My wife and I have been looking for a house to buy in Palo Alto and Menlo Park for over two years, so I have many stories of realtors claiming this without really researching it.

Playborhood’s mission is to help parents improve play opportunities for their children, and one way to do this is to help parents who are willing to move find a home in a pocket of kid heaven.

In 2008, we will be rolling out some features that will help in this regard.

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