South Palo Alto with Los Altos schools (Monroe tract)


Small homes with semi-rural ambience, usually entry-level.  Look here if you want great schools, even though they’re not in the Palo Alto district, and some of the consistently largest lots in South Palo Alto.

Boundaries: Adobe Creek, El Camino Real, Mountain View. 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.

Overview: The Monroe tract is an interesting, out-of-the-way corner of Palo Alto. Its strong ties to neighboring Mountain View and Los Altos made Palo Alto think twice about annexing this area.

For one thing, it’s served by the Los Altos Elementary and Mountain View-Los Altos High school districts, not by Palo Alto Unified. Because local school districts formed long before mid-Peninsula cities expanded to their present boundaries, school districts and cities don’t usually match. Apparently the Monroe tract was once part of “greater Los Altos”, much like the areas of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara with Cupertino schools were once part of unincorporated Cupertino.

And since the Monroe tract is cut off from Palo Alto by Adobe Creek, it’s more accessible from Mountain View than from Palo Alto. Mountain View was more interested in this area and moved first, annexing the eastern half.

Lastly, Monroe is a rather un-Palo Alto-like neighborhood. Ambience is somewhat like Barron Park, with its lack of curbs and sidewalks, but Monroe has a higher percentage of post-war tract housing. And even though South Palo Alto is known for its small tract homes, Monroe is the only area where many are under 1000 sq.ft.

Housing stock: Aside from an old farmhouse from the ‘teens and some interesting ‘20s bungalows just off El Camino, most homes were built during the post-war boom of 1948-53. Many started out small, just 2/1s or 3/1s, and the majority have stayed that way. However, the combination of sought-after schools and large lots has attracted a fair amount of new construction.

Lot sizes: Land must have been cheap when this area was developed because the builders put very small houses on huge lots, routinely in the 8-13,000 sq.ft. range. A few lots are as large as 15-16,000 sq.ft. This makes Monroe a real anomaly for Palo Alto in yet another way: you don’t consistently find lots this large in this price range, even in nearby Barron Park.

History corner: Keep driving on Monroe until you enter Mountain View and you’ll see something that’s extremely rare now but was a common sight when Santa Clara Valley was covered with farms and orchards: a water tank house. A well on the property would provide high-quality water which was pumped to a redwood storage tank elevated one story above ground, usually atop a small storage building. A smaller pump would move water from the tank to the house for domestic use or into the fields to irrigate crops. These days I wouldn’t use well water even to water my lawn unless I had it periodically tested.

Affordability:  You could speculate that this neighborhood should sell at a discount because of the Los Altos schools: since much of the appeal of South Palo Alto is in its schools, a South Palo Alto neighborhood without Palo Alto schools is an anomaly for the average buyer, and anomalies usually sell at a discount. But you could also speculate that Monroe sells for more, since nearby Mountain View with Los Altos schools sells at a distinct premium.

As it turns out, Palo Alto with Los Altos schools doesn’t sell at either a discount or a premium, probably because Los Altos and Palo Alto schools are of similar quality.  Homes on lots of 5-8000 sq.ft., the typical size for South Palo Alto, sell at typical South Palo Alto prices. Homes on lots of 8000 sq.ft. or more account for most sales in the area and while their prices are slightly higher, they’re still reasonable. Most homes, even those on large lots, are very small and that keeps prices down.

Schools: K-8 district: Los Altos Elementary, 201 Covington Rd., Los Altos CA 94024. (650) 941-4010. Find schools. School evaluations.

9-12 district: Mountain View-Los Altos Union High, 1299 Bryant Ave., Mountain View CA 94040. (650) 940-4650. Find schools. School evaluations.

School attendance boundaries are subject to change and schools are subject to availability. Verify enrollment with each district.

Amenities: Monroe Park, Monroe and Miller (.6 acres): tot lot, benches, open space, path.

Shopping: San Antonio Shopping Center (San Antonio and El Camino Real), Mountain View.

Neighborhoods with similar ambience: There’s a funkiness here that reminds me of Barron Park. Other areas include the Ray-Nor tract off Wolfe in Sunnyvale, the Garden Gate tract and Monta Vista in Cupertino, Cambrian Park in the Cambrian area of West San Jose, and parts of Campbell.

Interested in buying in the Monroe tract or in a similar area? Please contact me at

copyright © John Fyten 2004-14

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