Published April 28, 2009 in Palo Alto Weekly
A mother and her daughters sell Girl Scout cookies to their neighbors, walking door-to-door through several cul-de-sac streets that make up Palo Alto Orchards. This is the second generation the neighborhood has seen grow up and most of the cookie-cutter tract houses that were built after World War II have been remodeled to contemporary aesthetics.
Darcy Huston, the mother who accompanies her Girl Scouts, moved to Palo Alto Orchards five years ago with her husband to raise three girls. The Hustons came for the stellar public schools and for the neighborhood’s sense of community; they wanted to be able to sell cookies to neighbors they actually know.
The Huston girls can play in the streets during the summer, and ride bikes around the neighborhood with their parents, but their mom Darcy worries about them walking to school alone because Palo Alto Orchards is wedged between bustling Arastradero Road and El Camino Real.
Henry Lum, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards, has been working diligently to convince the city to put in a crosswalk on Arastradero Road to provide a safe way to connect Palo Alto Orchards to nearby Juana Briones Park.
“I understand the City of Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Department has included this request into their future traffic-calming plans for the Arastradero corridor,” John Spiller, neighborhood association president, said.
Misao Sakamoto and her late husband also raised three children in Palo Alto Orchards, but they did so during a simpler time when parents could rest easily when their children walked to school.
“When my children were little, the mothers sat out in the yard watching the children playing in the street while the fathers went to work. The children were outside playing with each other and walking to school together,” Sakamoto said. “The mothers too had a chance to socialize with each other because unlike today’s mothers, we were not working. It was a very peaceful type of living.”
The Sakamotos moved to Palo Alto Orchards fresh out of UC Berkeley student housing, where they lived while Calvin Sakamoto was a student. The community was still surrounded by walnut orchards then. The Sakamotos joined many former GIs who came to raise their children in one-story homes priced under $10,000 on streets with names such as Suzanne and Lorabelle, after the original developers McKellar and Kelly’s wives.
“This was a very nice place to raise children and it still is, but lifestyle has changed. I don’t see as many kids outside on the street,” Sakamoto said.
Half a century later, young professionals starting families jump at opportunities to live in Palo Alto Orchards. “As soon as a house goes on the market, somebody with kids moves in inevitably because they want to be in the school district,” Huston said of Palo Alto Orchard’s evolving demographic. “Older folks are moving out and new families are moving in.”
Sakamoto values neighborhood interaction and for three years she has invited neighborhood children, their parents and their grandparents to gather around the piano in her family room for Christmas music recitals. Pianists and violinists of all skill level, a single clarinet player and a bassoon soloist bring their instruments and a platter of goodies to her house, and the hostess said they are all very willing to perform and participate.
Sakamoto has seen many neighborhood families grow up. “I love to see the projects of these little children, their aspirations and their accomplishments. I value those relationships where there’s mutual dependencies.”
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Palo Alto Montessori School, 575 Arastradero Road; Young Life Christian Pre-School, 687 Arastradero Road
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: John Spiller, firstname.lastname@example.org
PARKS: Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave.; Terman Park, 655 Arastradero Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Bowman International School, 4000 Terman Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Juana Briones Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, San Antonio Shopping Center