In no other Bay Area city, besides San Francisco, is the differentiation of neighborhoods as important to value as it is in Palo Alto. This partitioned designation of the many neighborhoods in Palo Alto speaks as much to how Palo Alto residents view their uniqueness as it does to the actual differences between the neighborhoods. The attached maps and neighborhood descriptions, courtesy of the Palo Alto Weekly, do an excellent job of describing the various neighbors in of Palo Alto. With some areas selling for an average of over $1,000/square foot, Palo Alto is not for the value seekers. Yet ask anyone who lives in Palo Alto and they will tell you it is worth it.
People live in Palo Alto for the lifestyle and the cache of being in the most ‘happening’ place in all of Silicon Valley. On any given day, you can walk the main drag of University Avenue and see, at an outdoor café table, a venture capital elite brokering deals with the some of the most powerful executives of high-tech companies. Palo Alto is a great destination location with excellent shopping, a wide array of restaurants, multiple movie theaters and so much to do. Incredible parks are located throughout the city. Mitchell Park, one of the largest parks, is located in South Palo Alto. It includes its own library, and acres of grassy area and different playing fields and play structures for a variety of sports and ages. Fitness enthusiasts will welcome their options. The Stanford campus and surrounding hills provide a bicycling wonder frequented by pro cyclists and triathletes. World class equestrian areas are nearby along with top yoga studios and gyms. Perhaps the most popular hiking area is locally known as ‘The Dish,’ land owned by Stanford University but open to the public for pedestrian use. Palo Alto is one Silicon Valley town where you can find something exciting to do every day. With a vibrant downtown scene and a wealth of arts, Palo Alto is the closest thing you can get to city living without living in San Francisco. It has perhaps the most liberal attitudes of any Silicon Valley city and is known for being the most ‘green’ city in the Peninsula/South Bay as measured by its strict building standards.
With Stanford University as its intellectual anchor, Palo Alto residents are a cosmopolitan mix of the World’s greatest minds, some of whom are icons among high-tech circles. Sergie Brin, the founder of Google, Mark Zukerberg, the founder of Facebook, and until his recent passing, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer all call Palo Alto home. Keeping true to its Stanford academic roots, the public schools in Palo Alto are among the best in the country. That is now a two edge sword as some families feel the academic standards create too much stress for their kids. The other concern is the popularity of the school district means that class sizes in the in the elementary schools are creeping to a few more students per class size. If you are considering purchasing home in Palo Alto, make sure you check with the neighborhood school to learn if your child’s grade is impacted. Your child might be sent to a different school in the unified district until there is an opening in the neighborhood school. Those caveats aside, the same parental enthusiasm and philanthropy that make the schools fantastic will likely address the issues over time.
If you happen to be lucky enough to be an employee of Stanford University, check to see if you qualify for Stanford housing. Qualifying means you will be able to get about 25-30% off market value for a property that is on the land owned by Stanford University. Sometimes these properties are leasehold estate (where you own the building for X number of years but actually lease the land), other times they are fee (where you own them outright.) But you need to qualify or you cannot even write an offer on them.
If you can afford to live there, Palo Alto is a great community to live in, rich with activities, great schools and bright minds.