Green Gables

Smaller post-World War II tract homes, usually entry-level.

Green Gables overview

“Green Gables” is a catch-all name for a number of distinct neighborhoods. For clarity I’ve divided them into two groups, north and south of Embarcadero (see below).

Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Neighborhood boundaries may be subjective. Boundaries and other information on this site should be verified before being relied upon.

In addition, I’ve treated separately one neighborhood nominally a part of Green Gables, Leland Manor.

Both sides of Embarcadero share these characteristics:

Schools: Palo Alto Unified School District, 25 Churchill Ave., Palo Alto CA 94306. Main number (650) 329-3700.

Finding your neighborhood school           PAUSD school evaluations

School attendance boundaries are subject to change and schools are subject to availability. Verify enrollment with the Palo Alto Unified School District.

Amenities: Main Library, 1213 Newell Rd. (650) 329-2436. Children’s Library, 1276 Harriet St. (650) 329-2134. Arts Center, 1313 Newell Rd. (650) 329-2366. Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road (20 acres): adult theatre, children’s theatre, adult pool, children’s pool, children’s museum, play area, tennis courts, picnic areas, restrooms. Also includes Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Rd. (650) 463-4900.

Shopping: Convenient to Town & Country Village, University Avenue and Edgewood Shopping Center. In addition, Green Gables south of Embarcadero is convenient to Midtown.

Green Gables north of Embarcadero

Look here if you want an excellent north Palo Alto location but at a discount to the area’s even pricier neighborhoods.

Boundaries: San Francisquito Creek, Highway 101, Embarcadero, Newell

Overview: Although the Multiple Listing Service marketing area known as Green Gables includes other neighborhoods, the ones I’m about to describe are the neighborhoods most people think of when they think “Green Gables”. Its heart is the oldest tract, the original Green Gables, on Heather, Primrose and (later) Iris. Construction started here immediately before World War II, just after Palo Alto annexed the area. At that time Green Gables was on the fringe of Palo Alto civilization. A pig farm on the other side of Channing was the prominent local landmark, and from this new neighborhood you could see all the way to the Bay. In a few years both view and farm would disappear under a wave of tract housing. Green Gables’ earliest homes were built the old-fashioned way, one at a time, giving them individuality and charm. My wife’s parents built their first home here in 1938.

The end of World War II brought the hordes of people and the easy credit that would soon blanket much of the mid-Peninsula, including this area, with new homes. Dating from this early post-war period, Crescent Park Woods is just to the west of the original Green Gables, surrounding the Main Library. Its homes are a bit larger, reflecting the post-war era’s gradually rising prosperity. Crescent Park Addition, the streets between Edgewood, Hamilton, Newell and Greer, was built concurrently. Also during this time Eichler built three tracts here, Channing Park near present-day Duveneck (formerly Green Gables) Elementary, Green Gables Addition (now on the National Historic Register) from Greer to Wildwood, and Edgewood where Edgewood, Channing and St. Francis intersect. Joe also built Edgewood Shopping Center, his first and last such effort, and there’s some debate as to how workable this novel design is.

Housing stock: The homes of the original Green Gables tract were small, typical of the period 1938-48, often two or three bedrooms and one bath. Many are still small but many more have been expanded, some substantially, and there’s a fair amount of new construction. Although some homes predate World War II there’s no pre-war feel; they’re all variations on the typical rancher theme. Similar homes can be found along Greer and Tulip.

Adjacent Crescent Park Woods homes were built in 1950, have at least two baths and are generally a bit larger although usually well under 2000 sq.ft. Homes in Crescent Park Addition, built between 1948 and 1952, are just a bit larger, still generally under 2000 sq.ft. but often with 2.5 or three baths.

Channing Park Eichlers near Duveneck Elementary were built in two phases, the first in 1951-2 on De Soto, Alester and part of Channing, and represent one of Joe’s earliest entries into a more upscale market. They’re big for the time, most between 1500 and 1800 sq.ft., and all have two baths and three or four bedrooms. A second phase of about 30 homes, located at the intersection of Channing and Newell, are also surprisingly large. Just to the east, the 55 Green Gables Addition Eichlers date from 1950 and are typical of Joe’s earliest work, built to a more affordable standard. They’re small, mostly 3/1s of 1216 sq.ft. and 3/2s of 1320 sq.ft. although many have been expanded. Unique among Eichler developments, some of these homes have the garage detached and in the back, a throwback to the pre-WWII days when garages (like the stables that preceded them) were located far from the house because of car (or horse) odors and the possibility of fire. This retrograde idea is just another example of Joe, still new at homebuilding and always an innovator, tinkering with the product. In some instances, two homes share a driveway, also unusual but not unique to this development. North and east of this tract along Edgewood are larger Eichlers from 1956, very typical of what I call the “mature Eichler” of that time found in many South Palo Alto neighborhoods. 4/2s of 1610 and 1614 sq.ft. are most common, complemented by a number of 3/2s of 1346 and 1368 sq.ft., although the block between Wildwood and St. Francis has 3/2s as small as 1153 sq.ft.

History corner: Towering above the Eichlers surrounding it on Louisa Court is the substantial 1905 farmhouse of John Greer, son of one of the earliest Palo Alto landowners. I had the pleasure of seeing this house when it was on the market a few years ago and it’s in remarkably original condition. The street behind this house, De Soto, may be named after the Soto family that Greer married into when he settled here.

More history corner:  A number of homes in Crescent Park Woods and Addition were built by Barrett & Hilp (T. Frank Barrett and H. H. Hilp), a major construction firm located in San Francisco that was involved in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s.  The homes, while not bleeding-edge modern, incorporate some of the design elements commonly associated with Modernism, including large windows and slab foundation.  Barrett & Hilp’s link to Modernism goes further:  there’s an odd reference to prefabricated “Prebilt” homes, designed by architects Wurster & Bernardi, supposedly assembled by B&H in 1953 at a development identified as University Park, which happens to be Palo Alto’s original name.  Photos show a home with windows similar to Palo Alto Barrett & Hilps, but with Eichler-esque siding and a low roofline decidedly dissimilar and, at 900 sq.ft., smaller than what they were building in Crescent Park Woods and Addition.

Lot sizes: Green Gables lots tend to be under a quarter acre, sometimes well under, although there are larger exceptions. The original Green Gables tract lots tend to be small, usually less than 6000 sq.ft. Crescent Park Woods are a bit larger, usually at least 6000 sq.ft. and often in the 7000-8000 sq.ft. range. Crescent Park Addition lots are about the same size. The Eichlers of Channing Park often sit on lots in the mid-7000 sq.ft. range, while those of more affordable Green Gables Addition are usually in the 6s.

Affordability: This area has a broad range of home prices. The small, early Eichlers near the shopping center are about as affordable as north Palo Alto gets, at least for a real house on a standard-size lot. Also relatively affordable are the slightly newer and larger Eichlers on Edgewood near 101. They’re remarkable bang for the buck for a neighborhood this close to University, and with sought-after schools.

But with the next step up you can forget about bang for the buck, at least on a price-per-square-foot basis. While affordable by north Palo Alto standards, the small pitched-roof ranchers of the original Green Gables tract command eye-opening prices by any other standards. In fact, during the bidding wars of 2000 these humble homes sold for as much as more upscale Crescent Park Woods and Crescent Park Addition. That kind of buyer enthusiasm is a testament to what this neighborhood offers. Duveneck, one of the best elementary schools on the mid-Peninsula, is within easy walking distance and there are no very busy streets to cross. So is Jordan Middle School. Residents can walk or bike to downtown. Palo Alto’s Main Library and wonderful community center are close by.

This exceptional location makes the larger homes and lots of nearby Crescent Park Woods and Crescent Park Addition even more expensive.

Neighborhoods with similar ambience: Depends on the area.

The heart of Green Gables, the original tract, is an attractive but unassuming rancher neighborhood much like any affordable tract built around World War II, although its architecture has a bit more variety and distinction, and the curving street layout is more picturesque than the typical grid. The area of Midtown just south of Oregon known as Old South Palo Alto dates from the same era and has a similar look. The original The Willows tract in Menlo Park also has something of the same feel, but virtually any city on the mid-Peninsula has at least one comparable area. Like post-war Palo Alto south of Oregon, it isn’t the ambience that’s hard to duplicate, it’s the schools and the lifestyle.

Crescent Park Woods and Addition could be compared to Menlo Park’s Linfield Oaks. You’ll also find comparables in the tracts of Los Altos and in some of the best Cupertino and Sunnyvale tract neighborhoods.

The various Eichler tracts north of Embarcadero are quite similar to their counterparts in South Palo Alto.

Green Gables—south of Embarcadero

Boundaries: Embarcadero, Highway 101, Oregon Expressway, Middlefield

Overview: This side of Embarcadero has an even greater array of neighborhoods than does the north side of Embarcadero. Homes range from entry level near 101 to very expensive close to the Community Center. Much of this area is quite similar to Midtown and the rest of South Palo Alto but there’s a small pocket that can hold its own with Palo Alto’s most prestigious neighborhoods.

Housing stock: Most of south-of-Embarcadero’s Eichlers can be found in an apparently nameless tract built in 1955 along Elsinore, popularly called “Triple El” after the names of the three neighborhood streets. These are what I call “mature Eichlers”, bigger and more upscale than his earliest efforts and quite similar to Eichlers of the same vintage in South Palo Alto. They’re mostly three-bedroom/two-bath homes of 1163 or 1486 sq.ft. or four-bedrooms of 1639 sq.ft., although many have been expanded.

Between Greer and 101 homes are generally small one-bath traditional ranchers of around 1000 sq.ft. built between 1947 and 1951. Embarcadero Oaks is split between fairly substantial homes from the 1930s along Fulton (“Christmas Tree Lane”) and Guinda, and some of the most appealing of Palo Alto’s post-war ranchers, small three-bedroom/two-bath homes on Bret Harte and Mark Twain dating from 1948. South of Jordan Middle is Garland Manor, built between 1946 and 1956 and a microcosm of traditional ranchers of that period. Homes range from the humble earliest efforts of the immediate post-war building boom, 2/1.5s under 1500 sq.ft., to more substantial two-bath homes from the mid-’50s. There are even a few of the Coastwise homes so highly prized in Midtown just across Oregon.

History corner: With the exception of pre-war Embarcadero Oaks, the only pre-World War II homes in Green Gables south of Embarcadero are along its southern boundary, Oregon Avenue. These modest homes were an isolated outpost when built in the 1920s. To the south was virtually nothing except farms and pastureland. To the north was nothing on the east side of Middlefield until you reached Embarcadero. And on the west side, even Old Palo Alto wouldn’t reach Oregon until the 1940s.

Lot sizes: Between Greer and St. Francis lots are in the 6s. Embarcadero Oaks along Fulton and Guinda has sizeable lots, usually at least 7000 and often up to 10,000 sq.ft. while the post-war streets have lots in the 7200 sq.ft. range. Garland Manor has a wide range but mostly in the 6s and 7s. Elsinore lots are generally in the 6s.

Affordability: Even more so than Green Gables north of Embarcadero, home prices cover a huge range. South of Embarcadero is still a good-to-great location, although not always as good as north of Embarcadero. You still have Duveneck, one of Palo Alto’s most sought-after schools (check with the district for availability). Downtown, the Main Library and wonderful Community Center are still close by, although now you have to cross Embarcadero.

Entry level is relatively affordable by Palo Alto standards. There’s St. Francis Woods and the other tracts of small ranchers close to 101, as well as a few early Eichlers along Louis just south of Embarcadero.

The next step up is the tract of “mature Eichlers” along Elsinore. Garland Manor is perhaps 15% more expensive although prices on that street vary significantly due to differences in house size, and because some homes back onto the schools. Post-war Embarcadero Oaks is in the same ballpark.

Leading the field by a wide margin is pre-war Embarcadero Oaks with its Old Palo Alto ambience and Christmas Tree Lane.

Neighborhoods with similar ambience: Depends on the area. The various Eichler tracts south of Embarcadero are quite similar to their counterparts in South Palo Alto. The old homes along Fulton and Guinda are reminiscent of Old Palo Alto. The rest of Green Gables south of Embarcadero has an ambience more like that of the older parts of Midtown.

Interested in buying in Green Gables or in a similar area? Please contact me at jfyten@cbnorcal.com.

copyright © John Fyten 2004-14

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