Portola Valley is a community whose guide is often the preservation of its rural ambience and the environment. It is an upscale town roughly the same geographic area as Palo Alto but with 7% of the residents. Since its incorporation in 1964, the town has sought to foster low-density and a natural setting. They also aim to keep costs low by having a mostly volunteer government. This is not the community in which to build a gigantic monster home. You can build big in Portola Valley, but it will need to fit into the natural setting and meet a strict ‘green building’ mandate that was ushered into the planning process in 2010.
Portola Valley is home to one of the largest open spaces and trail systems. It is said there are more miles of hiking trails in Portola Valley than there are paved roads for automobiles. There is an open space fund that includes tax revenues that were voted in to support it. Through this fund and community donations, several open spaces have been developed. The largest of the open spaces is the Windy Hill Preserve, a trail system of over 1,300 acres managed by the Midpeninsula Open Space Preserve. Portola Valley is also an equestrian mecca with several equestrian centers. Its proximity to scenic roads both flat and mountainous, also draws scores of cyclists on its main roads.
Depending on the address, Portola Valley is served by either the Portola Valley Elementary or Los Lomitas School districts for K-8 students. The high schools are either Menlo-Atherton or Woodside High School. Additionally, there are numerous private schools from which to choose.
With the exception of a few strip malls and professional office complexes, Portola Valley does not really have a commercial area for shopping. The markets that are there are very good. There is just not the depth of variety. To hit the big box retailers and numerous dining and shopping choices, residents of Portola Valley travel to Redwood City, Menlo Park or Palo Alto, all of which are nearby.
If you have money to spend and want proximity to Palo Alto but prefer a convenient, rural feel, the town of Portola Valley could be for you.