Larger post-World War II tract homes, mid-range to top end.  Look here if you want an upscale suburban neighborhood in rolling hills.

Boundaries:  Stanford lands, Alpine, Portola Valley.  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:  Not a part of Menlo Park, although it shares the same zip code, Ladera is close to, and similar to, Sharon Heights.  The similarities are marked:  mostly upscale larger ranchers on rolling hills, with its own shopping center, in the Las Lomitas school district and convenient to Highway 280.  But there are differences as well.  Many Ladera homes are slightly older, especially in lower Ladera.   There’s more variation in home size and quality.  Ladera has no condos or apartments.  It’s unincorporated so doesn’t have city services, but does have its own recreation center.  Lots can be steeply sloped, especially going up the hill from Alpine into “high” Ladera.

Ladera is now an upscale housing tract but has a rather daring history born of Palo Alto’s cooperative movement.  Conceived during World War II as an unconventional answer to the shortage of affordable housing (even then!), the project was eventually derailed by escalating construction costs and an unwieldy decision-making process.  The co-op did build a number of homes before its collapse, California contemporaries symbolic of the progressive attitude of their owners, but a local developer, Hare, Brewer & Kelly, finished Ladera.

NOTE:  This area can have either a Menlo Park or Portola Valley mailing address but is not part of either city.  Ladera is governed directly by San Mateo County, not the City of Menlo Park or Town of Portola Valley.  Menlo Park and Portola Valley police and public works services are not available to Ladera residents.  Contact the Menlo Park City Clerk’s office at (650) 858-3380 and Portola Administration at (650) 851-1700 for city and town services that may be available to Ladera residents for a non-resident fee, such as library and recreation programs.  If you think you might be remodeling or expanding your home, contact the County Planning & Building Division at (650) 363-4161 for guidelines before you buy.

Housing stock:  Construction began in 1948 and Ladera was mostly built out by the early ’60s although some construction continued into the early ’70s.  Homes in the first phase near Alpine can be small although virtually all have at least two baths.  Typical size range is 1500-2500 sq.ft. although a few are larger.  As mentioned, the earliest homes are California contemporaries with floor-to-ceiling windows and wood-grain plywood paneling.  Designed by modernists John Funk and Joseph Allen Stein of San Francisco, these homes resemble Eichlers but are a bit more luxurious than most of Joe’s early work.  (A few years later Eichler did build the homes of Ladera Unit 2 along La Mesa, Dedalero and W. Floresta.)  As you go up the hill the homes get bigger and more traditional, usually at least 2000-2500 sq.ft. and often larger.  Still further up in “high” Ladera ranchers give way to custom contemporaries, often clinging to cliffs.

Lot sizes:  9000 sq.ft. and up with many half acres.  Lots tend to get bigger as you go up the hill but are often steeply sloped and not all that usable.

Affordability:  Ladera is generally expensive but it depends.  Similar to Sharon Heights for comparable properties, but lower end Ladera is less expensive because “lower” Ladera homes are older and smaller than Sharon Heights homes.

Within that broad price range are at least two sub-markets.  Tier two is the older, smaller homes (around 2500 sq.ft. or less), some of them California Contemporaries dating from the original development, while others more conventional in architecture.  Tier one is the newer, bigger homes (2400 sq.ft. or larger).

Schools:  K-8 district:  Las Lomitas, 1011 Altschul Ave., Menlo Park CA 94025.  Administration Office-Superintendent (650) 854-2880.  School evaluations.

9-12 district:  Sequoia Union High School District, 480 James Ave., Redwood City 94062.  Administration (650) 369-1411.  Boundary search.  School evaluations.

This information is based on district and other sources but may be obsolete by the time you read this.  Verify district boundaries and school availability with district offices. 

Amenities:  Ladera Oaks Swim & Tennis Club (private, fee):  children’s pool, adult pool, aquatic programs, tennis courts, tennis activities, tennis office and pro shop, volleyball courts, playground, clubhouse, fitness center, bar, snack bar, weekly family BYO barbecues and other social events.

Shopping:  Ladera Shopping Center, Alpine Road.  Café, pharmacy, market, restaurant, liquor store, gas station, deli, pizza parlor, hardware store, garden center and a few other shops, plus extensive office space.

Neighborhoods with similar ambience:  Quite a few if you’re feeling generous.  The obvious ones are Sharon Heights and Stanford Hills, but those willing to travel north can find something fairly similar in Redwood City’s Farm Hill Estates (especially the newer, more expensive homes south of Farm Hill), the San Carlos hills along upper Brittan, Crestview and Club; Belmont’s Hallmark area; Burlingame’s Mills Estate and parts of the Burlingame Hills; and even most of Millbrae’s Highlands.  Heading south check out Los Altos’ Highlands and homes in the Cupertino foothills.  All of these areas can at least hold their own with lower Ladera, although the expensive custom homes of high Ladera won’t necessarily be duplicated.

Interested in buying a home in Ladera or in a similar area?  Please contact me at

copyright © John Fyten 2004-14

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