small homes with semi-rural ambience, usually entry-level
Look here if you want a quaint semi-rural neighborhood and the possibility of a large lot.
Boundaries: Stanford Research Park, Veterans Hospital, El Camino Real, Arastradero (to Clemo/Amaranta), Georgia. Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Neighborhood boundaries may be subjective. Boundaries and other information on this Web site should be verified before being relied upon.
Overview: Sub-divided in 1925 from the Barron Estate, Barron Park may be the Palo Alto neighborhood hardest to pigeonhole. It can be funky, but it's a funkiness that appeals strongly to buyers looking for something different. Barron Park isn't upscale like north Palo Alto and it isn't all tract housing like south Palo Alto. The faintly rural atmosphere (no curbs or sidewalks) is a tip-off that Barron Park was only recently incorporated into Palo Alto. (In fact, I still run across people who think Barron Park isn't part of Palo Alto.) Matadero Creek meanders through still in its natural state, not as the arrow-straight concrete channel it turns into east of El Camino.
Barron Park is a study in contrasts. There’s a trailer park, the only one in Palo Alto, yet another neighborhood along Roble Ridge resembles upscale Los Altos Hills, even to zoning that allows horses! Barron Park has ‘50s housing tracts, just like other south Palo Alto neighborhoods, but its many pre-World War II homes lend it a character not often found south of Oregon. And like the rest of south Palo Alto, and perhaps even more so, Barron Park is transitioning from modest homes to upscale new construction.
Housing stock: There's a little of everything in Barron Park, often right next to each other. The earliest houses, usually very small, date from the 1920s and 1930s. Although most of these old-timers are close to El Camino, many others are scattered throughout Barron Park, surrounded by the standardized tract housing that engulfed south Palo Alto after World War II. But by "tract housing" I don't mean the huge sub-divisions found in most of South Palo Alto (and Santa Clara County). Part of Barron Park's charm is that its sub-divisions are small and few. Most post-war homes are the small one-bath variety typical of the time, but pockets of two-bath housing built from the early '50s into the '70s also exist. Like most Palo Alto neighborhoods, many houses have been expanded and remodeled, and large lots make it a popular area for new construction.
Be aware of single-story overlay districts: At this writing one Barron Park neighborhood, a small Eichler tract on La Jennifer Way, 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 Barron Park and elsewhere in the future. Be sure to verify the existence and exact boundaries of any single-story overlay districts with the city Planning Department.
Eichler corner: Unlike the rest of South Palo Alto, Barron Park isn't known for its acres of contemporary homes. But what's here in the way of flattops is typical of Barron Park sub-divisions: small, and with homes so extensively modified that it's hard to tell what the original floorplans were. El Centro Gardens, 12 houses found on La Jennifer Way, was one of Joe's first architect-designed developments. Dating from 1950, they probably started as 3/1s of 1068 sq.ft. The 50 or so homes of University Gardens, built on Josina, Kendall and Barron in 1949-50, are one of Joe's first three or four projects, so early that they predate his use of architects. Joe designed these homes himself, with the help of a draftsman, and they look like larger versions of the stock-plan contemporaries he'd just built in Sunnyvale. Apparently there were three floorplans: a 3/1 of 1088 sq.ft., and two 3/2s of 1342 and 1389 sq.ft. These are small houses, even by the minimalist standards of 1949, but the two-bath floorplans and big lots suggest that University Gardens was fairly upscale for its day. They have central heating and raised perimeter foundation, not the radiant heating and slab usually identified with Eichlers. Then there's a small tract of about 25 homes called Maybell Gardens, at the corner of Georgia and Amaranta, built two years after La Jennifer, apparently with the same 1068 sq.ft. 3/1s and perhaps some 3/2s of 1405 sq.ft.. Barron Park may have yet more Eichlers—I just ran across two 1974-era gallery Eichlers on a flag lot off La Donna.
Lot sizes: Also unlike most of south Palo Alto, quarter-acre lots are fairly common and even half-acre lots can be found.
Affordability: (Although this section is based on 2002 data, the relative rankings of the mid-Peninsula's midrange and top-end neighborhoods, all of them around for at least fifty years, haven't changed significantly since then. In fact, 2002, a seller's market the first half of the year, a buyer's market the second, and prior to the loose underwriting that pumped up values at the low end, may be the most representative of whatever a normal market looks like in this area.)
In 2002 Barron Park homes sold in the 1st through 82nd percentiles compared to other Palo Alto homes. That tremendous price range is due to an equally tremendous variation in home quality, another reason why Barron Park can be a confusing market. Even narrowing this range—80% of Barron Park homes sold in the 28th through 82nd percentiles in 2002 compared to other Palo Alto homes—still leaves a huge price spread.
To make sense of Barron Park prices you need a few guidelines. As a rule, prices are high by south Palo Alto standards for mainstream Barron Park homes, the small but serviceable three-bedroom ranchers on standard-size lots common to south Palo Alto. Much of this premium is due to location: highly-regarded Gunn High School is next door and the neighborhood is favored with two elementary schools. It's also well away from 101, and at night the quiet is almost country-like. In 2002 these mainstream homes sold in the 28th through 60th percentiles compared to other Palo Alto homes. Approximately 60% of mid-Peninsula neighborhoods are less expensive.
But where Barron Park really excels is in its good supply of ranchers on lots of over 8000 sq.ft.. The value of mid-Peninsula real estate is primarily in the land, and these homes on big lots sell at a real premium, especially during the bidding wars of 2000. In 2002 they sold in the 47th through 78th percentiles compared to other Palo Alto homes. Approximately 70% of mid-Peninsula neighborhoods are less expensive.
There are at least three other ways to slice and dice the Barron Park market.
There’s entry-level Barron Park, the surprisingly affordable, funky homes left over from the County’s more relaxed approach to building codes. Barron Park’s older housing stock was built when it was unincorporated, and even now you can see signs of the County’s laissez faire attitude in other neighborhoods that are still unincorporated such as Redwood City’s Emerald Hills and Menlo Park’s County neighborhoods. In 2002 entry-level Barron Park sold in the 1st through 9th percentiles compared to other Palo Alto homes.
At the other end of the spectrum are the new or newer homes. In 2002 these accounted for 29% of Barron Park sales, an indication of how popular the neighborhood is for new construction. These homes sold in the 60th through 82nd percentiles compared to other Palo Alto homes.
Finally, the neighborhoods of the outer fringes of Barron Park, near El Camino, Arastradero and Stanford Research Park, sell at a substantial discount to the neighborhoods in the interior of Barron Park, which in turn sell at a substantial discount to the neighborhoods furthest to the west, past Amaranta and along Laguna. The affordability factor is 6 to 6.9 for the outer fringes, 7 to 7.5 for the inner core, and 9.2 to 15 for western-most neighborhoods.
As for Barron Park’s slightly offbeat atmosphere, it attracts the minority of buyers looking for something slightly different but turns off the majority looking for a manicured, homogeneous neighborhood. My rule of thumb is that anything that significantly reduces the pool of potential buyers also reduces prices. Adjacent Green Acres, with its tract-like atmosphere and far more consistent housing stock, seems to bear this out, selling for about 10% more than the most comparable Barron Park tract neighborhoods. But there’s no other neighborhood with Palo Alto schools like Barron Park, and a nice Barron Park house in a nice area will be pricey by south 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: Bol Park, Laguna Avenue (13.8 acres): two large meadows (one wild, one maintained), mile-long bicycle path, footpaths, tot lot. Convenient to Page Mill Rd. YMCA, 755 Page Mill Rd. Bldg. B. (650) 858-0661. Group exercise studio, racquetball courts, free weight area, stretch and conditioning studio.
Shopping: Along El Camino. Not far from California Avenue, Palo Alto’s second downtown
Neighborhoods with similar ambience: Locally, Palo Alto’s Monroe tract with Los Altos schools has some of that country feel, as does Menlo Park’s Fair Oaks. After that it depends on how you define “semi-rural” and “semi-funky”. Los Trancos Woods, Woodside Glens and the Russell-Santa Maria area have some of the same appeal but are funkier and woodsier. There’s a part of Cupertino’s Monta Vista near the Blackberry Farm that’s almost a dead ringer for Barron Park, although the funkiness is rapidly disappearing under an onslaught of new homes. Some parts of Campbell also have Barron Park's blend of old houses, big lots and no sidewalks. Parts of Belmont also have a casual feel, particularly Country Club just east of Alameda with its sprinkling of pre-war homes on winding narrow streets. San Carlos’ Devonshire definitely has “it” and perhaps some of the funkier San Carlos neighborhoods along Dartmouth and just west of Alameda.
Neighborhoods with similar prices (5% +/-): Entry-level Barron Park can be as small, humble and cheap as anything else in Palo Alto. However, the more mainstream stuff is priced like Palo Alto’s other solidly midrange neighborhoods: College Terrace, Evergreen Park, Midtown conventional ranchers, Eichlers on Elsinore in Green Gables, the better contemporaries east of Midtown, and conventional ranchers in Greenmeadow. In Menlo Park, North Palo Alto and some of the other, better areas of Upper Willows, as well as some of the County areas. To the north, San Carlos' beautiful Brittan Acres with its large lots and views, and the ranchers of the San Carlos hills; and the hillside ranchers of San Mateo's Laurelwood and Baywood Park. To the south, Mountain View's Varsity Park with excellent Los Altos schools and the new Whisman Station; and the attractive rancher neighborhoods and sought-after schools of midrange Cupertino. See an important qualification regarding price comparisons.
Interested in buying in Barron Park or in a similar area? Please contact me at email@example.com.
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