Smaller post-World War II tract homes, usually entry-level. Look here if you want pleasant suburban neighborhoods on a budget (a Palo Alto budget).
Boundaries: Alma, El Camino Real, W. Meadow, Adobe Creek. 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 look is typical South Palo Alto. Conveniently located but with a number of quiet out-of-the-way streets.
Housing stock: With a few exceptions, West Charleston is typical suburbia circa 1950. Eichler built well over 100 of his first homes here in 1950 and 1951, in a tract called Charleston Meadows. They’re typical early Eichlers (and typical of what was built for the mass market in those days), 8 floorplans, all of them small 3-bedroom/1-bath designs, ranging from 1069 to 1374 sq.ft. If you’re wondering why you keep finding this minimalist housing in “upscale Palo Alto”, it’s because that’s what new homebuyers could afford in the early ’50s, and were happy to get—although that would soon change.
Eichler wasn’t the only one building contemporaries here, with Whitmyre & Clements also making a modest contribution with a tract called Blossom Park. Found on Ruthelma, they’re similar to the nearby Eichlers, small 3/1s of 1040 or 1052 sq.ft. dating from 1950. You’ll find a few pleasant pitched-roof ranchers in Blossom Park Unit 2, built in 1951 on Whitclem. These homes will look good if you’re not into flattops, and they offer a few more square feet, but they’re still very small 3/1s. Unusual for south Palo Alto are the 4-bedroom/2-bath homes built in the early ’60s on Victoria, Barclay and Wilkie Courts.
(I’ve always wondered about the odd names of some of the streets in this area. “Whitclem” appears to be an amalgamation of Whitmyre and Clement, the builders. Maybe Edlee comes from their first names, and Ruthelma from the names of their wives. Maybe we should be grateful this sort of thing didn’t catch on.)
History corner: At first glance, West Charleston isn’t exactly steeped in history, but if you look closely you begin to think that this was the southern fringe of Palo Alto (and before that, old Mayfield) long before the tract homes came. This stretch of Charleston has a few old farmhouses, including two dating back to the turn of the 20th century. A few blocks south off Park, on Newberry, there’s an old-timer going back to 1915 (probably built by someone named Newberry). The commercial strip on the island separating El Camino Way from El Camino has two buildings of interest. One, home to a veterinarian hospital, is an interesting and attractive Spanish-style building dating from 1930 that even has traces of Navajo in the exposed beam ends. The other, a bar, is a rare if rather tired example of commercial Streamline Moderne dating from 1940.
The area around Park Boulevard is in a flood zone. This may necessitate flood insurance and make remodeling and expansion more difficult. Contact the Palo Alto Building Department at (650) 329-2496 for more information.
Be aware of single-story overlay districts: At this writing about half this area is a single-story overlay district. That’s a neighborhood in which the majority of homeowners have successfully petitioned the city to prohibit second story additions. There may be more overlay districts in the future. Be sure to verify the existence and exact boundaries of any single-story overlay districts with the city Planning Department.
Affordability: Another affordable neighborhood, at least by Palo Alto standards.
Schools: Palo Alto Unified School District, 25 Churchill Ave., Palo Alto CA 94306. Main number (650) 329-3700.
School attendance boundaries are subject to change and schools are subject to availability. Verify enrollment with the Palo Alto Unified School District.
Amenities: Robles Park, 4116 Park Blvd. (4.7 acres): tot lot, apparatus play area, softball backstop, basketball court, multi-purpose bowl, picnic area, turfed meadow, walking path.
Shopping: Along El Camino.
Neighborhoods with similar ambience: See an overview of neighborhoods with Eichlers or other contemporary homes in other cities.
Interested in buying in West Charleston or in a similar area? Please contact me at email@example.com.
copyright © John Fyten 2004-14