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By John Fyten | Agent in Palo Alto, CA
  • Introduction to the Allied Arts neighborhood of Menlo Park.

    Posted Under: General Area in Menlo Park, Home Buying in Menlo Park  |  October 23, 2014 8:36 PM  |  44 views  |  No comments


    Pre-World War II homes, usually mid-range to top end.  Look here if you want pre-war charm with a minimum of commercial and apartment buildings.  View map

    Overview:  Built mostly during the same pre-World War II era as residential downtown Menlo Park, Allied Arts is a much larger neighborhood and lacks the people and traffic (with two exceptions, El Camino and the beautiful Allied Arts Guild complex) that businesses bring.  Allied Arts also doesn't have nearly as many apartment buildings and duplexes.  Blocks close to El Camino ("lower Allied Arts") do have some baggage:  cut-through traffic (note the speed bumps), parking problems (also note the No Parking without Permit signs) and traffic noise.  Otherwise Allied Arts is a quiet, gracious area and one of Menlo Park's most beautiful neighborhoods, especially along San Francisquito Creek.  The blocks west of University ("upper Allied Arts") are some of its most attractive, and well away from El Camino, although Arbor gets significant traffic (including buses) from Allied Arts.

     Housing stock:  An eclectic group, mostly small traditionals from the '20s through 1950, but a handful of homes are even older.  Many have been expanded and updated.  Most of the original homes are small and can be quite humble, although some are substantial and many have been updated.  New homes are relatively common, with the PUD style (basically two 3/4-scale homes sharing a deep lot) popular.  You'll also find a few very expensive apartment buildings and duplexes, and one small townhouse development on its fringe.

     Lot sizes:  Varies from 5300 to 8000 sq.ft., with many around 7800.  Shape is usually narrow and deep.

     Affordability:  Generally expensive, even by Menlo Park’s pricey standards, but it depends on the house and the lot.

     That price range is unusually broad for what’s generally considered an upscale neighborhood.  Affordability is enhanced by the many small, tired homes, relatively inexpensive unless they're on a sub-dividable lot.

     Schools:  K-8 district:  Menlo Park City School District, 181 Encinal Ave., Atherton CA 94027.  Administration-Superintendent (650) 321-7140.  District attendance map.  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:  Nealon Park, Middle Avenue (golf driving range, lighted tennis courts, softball field, children's playground, picnic areas, Little House Senior Center).

     Shopping:  convenient to Menlo Park and Palo Alto downtowns; Allied Arts Guild, a collection of small shops in a large Spanish-style building built in 1929; walking distance via foot bridge to Stanford Shopping Center.

     Neighborhoods with similar ambience:  It's tricky to compare the mid-Peninsula’s best pre-war neighborhoods because they’re far more distinctive than the post-war tracts.  And just to further complicate things, Allied Arts mixes the modest and the relatively upscale.  I use “relatively” because even Allied Art’s larger old homes weren’t built on an imposing scale suggesting Old Money, and the neighborhood’s more casual accessibility is part of its considerable charm.  Palo Alto’s Community Center with its combination of the upscale and the humble may be the closest in overall feel.  For the same reason Palo Alto’s Crescent Park and Old Palo Alto (but not the areas with grand houses on huge lots) also resemble Allied Arts.  Redwood City’s Wellesley Park and Wellesley Crescent just west of El Camino are great comparables, as are as the more interesting parts of Mount Carmel.  From Palo Alto’s Oregon Expressway southward you won’t find anything comparable to Allied Arts until you reach Old Los Altos.  After that it’s another long drive to San Jose’s pre-war Rose Garden, Willow Glen and Naglee Park.  ‘50s ranchers are more plentiful in Willow Glen and Rose Garden but their pre-war neighborhoods offer an exceptional ambience.  So does San Mateo’s Baywood, Aragon and San Mateo Park and Burlingame’s Easton Addition and Burlingame Park.  Even parts of Burlingame and San Mateo just east of El Camino offer some of Allied Art’s bang for a lot less buck, but without Menlo Park’s great weather and proximity to Stanford.

    Interested in buying a home in Allied Arts or in a similar area?  Please contact me at jfyten@cbnorcal.com

    More from JohnFyten.com, Silicon Valley Real Estate Explained (TM).

    copyright © John Fyten 2004-2014

  • Where to find MCM in Menlo Park, California.

    Posted Under: General Area in Menlo Park, Home Buying in Menlo Park  |  July 16, 2014 5:29 PM  |  68 views  |  No comments


    Eichlers do exist throughout Menlo Park, but you could live there a long time without knowing that.

    Central Menlo Park has numerous clusters of genuine Eichlers dating from both his earliest and latest periods, although their visual impact is minimal. Like every upper-middle class neighborhood in this area, Central Menlo's architecture is overwhelmingly conservative, and its few contemporaries are usually dismissed as "land-value only". Only one Eichler neighborhood is of any size (but it's one of the best around) and most are dispersed through in-fill housing and lost among the conventional ranchers.

    Joe’s first Menlo Park effort, Stanford Gardens dates from 1950 and was one of his first five projects. This is an upscale development for its time, sizeable 3/2s, most of 1640 sq.ft., done without the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architects who would shortly make him famous. Designed instead by Joe with the help of a draftsman, they look like scaled up versions of the homes he built from stock plans for his first tract, Sunnyvale Manor. They have the same shed, “hat” or gable roofs.

    A few similar shed roofs with radiant heating can be found just outside this neighborhood, on Olive and Cotton, suggesting that Eichler didn’t limit his efforts to Stanford Gardens. In fact, several pockets of known or suspected Eichlers are hidden on cul-de-sacs and flag lots along Santa Cruz near Hillview, and there are one-off contemporaries throughout Menlo Park, from Menlo Oaks to the County area, substantial homes that may be Eichlers or architect-designed customs or perhaps just stock plans. (With Joe basing his designs on stock plans, it's hard to tell which is which.)

    There’s another small tract of verifiable Eichlers next to Stanford Gardens called Oakdell Park, built in 1952-53. Like its neighbor, Oakdell Park is upscale with 3- and 4-bedroom/2-bath homes in the 1600- and 1700-sq.ft. range. At least one of these homes has a rather odd transitional layout, with two hall baths instead of the usual hall bath/master bath combination, an arrangement also found in Palo Alto's Fairmeadow development of the same period—a rare example, like his idea of running radiant heating pipes in the patio slabs, of the Master out of step with the market. Having Eichler's earliest draftsman-designed homes next to his architect-designed homes confirms just how much of Joe's legacy is due to his architects. That's not to say that the earlier homes of Stanford Gardens are deficient, but they're decidedly typical for their era and price range, stiffer and more vertical than the low spreading homes of Oakdell Park.

    Finally, there’s a hidden cul-de-sac of 1971-vintage Eichlers in this area, off Stanford.

    Further east, Menlo’s Lorelei Manor off Bay Road consists of quite affordable 3-bedroom/2-bath contemporaries built in 1956. They’re small, mostly 1100 or 1120 sq.ft., on perimeter foundation with central heating.

    Belle Haven and Newbridge Park, extending from Bay Road to east of 101, have a number of small flattops, usually 2- and 3-bedroom/1-bath homes. Dating from 1946 to about 1954, these are typical of their era and market, ranging from about 900 to 1100 sq.ft., built on slab and with wall heater and one-car garage.

    Feel free to contact me at jfyten@cbnorcal.com.

    More from JohnFyten.com, Silicon Valley Real Estate Explained (TM).

    copyright © John Fyten 2004-14

  • Introduction to Menlo Park, California

    Posted Under: General Area in Menlo Park, Home Buying in Menlo Park, In My Neighborhood in Menlo Park  |  May 12, 2014 3:18 PM  |  158 views  |  No comments

    One of the mid-Peninsula’s prestige addresses, Menlo Park offers a wide range of neighborhoods and ambiences.  View map.  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.


    pros and cons


    •   One of the more consistently attractive cities on the mid-Peninsula.
    •   Superb weather.
    •   Of the three elementary school districts within its boundaries, two have excellent test scores.
    •   Downtown is attractive and upscale but has a relaxed feel.
    •   Wide range of affordability, from entry-level Belle Haven to numerous upscale neighborhoods.
    •   While post-war ranchers predominate, there’s still a good variety of neighborhood types and architectural styles.
    •   Upscale areas have attracted a fair amount of new construction, and older homes have often been extensively remodeled and expanded.
    •   Live in the hills or on the flatlands.
    •   One of the better townhouse and condo markets, especially in the hills, with a good supply of upscale developments.
    •   Excellent recreation programs.
    •   Good network of parks.
    •   Has benefited culturally, intellectually and financially from its location next to a major university.


    •   Like Palo Alto, Menlo Park is not a “bang for the buck” town, unless you value the intangibles that come from living there.  But there’s no doubt that your money gets you less house and neighborhood than in most other cities.  See Neighboring Cities for more affordable alternatives.
    •   Not a large selection of pre-war homes, and what there is is often modest.
    •   Compared to most nearby cities, Menlo Park doesn’t have a great selection of affordable condos.
    •   During rush hour, getting across the city or along El Camino can be difficult.  Willow and Sand Hill are bumper-to-bumper.

    Interested in buying a home in Menlo Park?  Please contact me at jfyten@cbnorcal.com



    Click on each of these Menlo Park neighborhoods for an in-depth look.


         price performance

    Part 1:  Here's how Menlo Park's major sub-markets have performed since 1994 (or 2000).  Top-end Menlo Park consists of Allied Arts, Central Menlo Park, Downtown, Felton Gables, Menlo Oaks, Sharon Heights, Stanford Hills and Vintage Oaks.  Entry-level Menlo Park is everything else west of 101, generally the tract neighborhoods built after World War II:  Alpine, Bay Road, County, Linfield Oaks and The Willows.  Menlo Park CID (Common Interest Development) includes all condos and   townhouses, regardless of area.  I've combined Belle Haven with East Palo Alto, since the Belle Haven market has performed more like East Palo Alto (and much of the rest of California) than west Menlo Park.  This graph is based on data from the Multiple Listing Service, corrected to eliminate anomalies at both ends of the price range that skew average sales price.  The data has also been adjusted to compensate for the often substantial differences in average property size from year to year that can also skew the average.  In effect, we're tracking a townhome of 1705 sq.ft., an entry-level neighborhood SFR of 1623 sq.ft. and a top-end neighborhood SFR of 2396 sq.ft. through eighteen years of boom and bust.  The base year, 1994, was the last year of the post-1989 bust (note that there is no 1994 data for CID).  2000 was the dot-com peak, Q4 2001 the bottom of the dot-bust.  2005 is often called the recent market's peak although, like other mid-Peninsula middle-class neighborhoods, the Menlo Park market west of 101 peaked in early 2008.

    Part 2:  The charts below are easier to understand than they look, and they have great information. Based on the same data as above, all you really need to know is that "peak" means "peak", "trough" means "bottom of the market for this city's SFRs and condos, whenever that was", and that the more negative the number in the last column, the more volatile this city's home prices have been during the period covered.  I recommend that you scan the chart now, then come back for the more detailed explanations below if you need them.

    The charts are formatted in six (Menlo Park CID) or eight (Menlo Park SFR) columns covering five (CID) or seven (SFR) time periods to illustrate Menlo Park home price appreciation in percent since 1994 (SFR) and 2000 (CID), and the size of its recent real estate peaks and troughs.  In each case, Menlo Park home appreciation and depreciation is compared to the average of all local submarkets covered by this site.  The last column in each chart is a non-statistician's attempt to quantity volatility by combining home price depreciation over the two most recent downturns and comparing it to the area average.  Here are detailed explanations of the six (or eight) columns in each chart:

    1. 1994-2013:  (SFR only) Menlo Park home price appreciation from the beginning of the dotcom boom to present, compared to the average of all local submarkets described on this site.
    2. 2000-2013:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom to present.  I separate this time period from 1994-2013 because the data I have for some local submarkets goes back only to 2000.
    3.  1994-2000:  (SFR only) Menlo Park home price appreciation during the first boom with which I had first-hand experience, the dotcom boom, which began as a modest recovery in the mid-1990s, gained considerable momentum in the late 1990s and spiked from late 1999 through the end of 2000, with a sharp but temporary downturn in early 2000.
    4. dotcom peak to dotbust:  Menlo Park home price depreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom, 2000, to the bottom of its collapse Q4 2001.  Note that not every local submarket lost value then.  The handful of local submarkets driven not by stock market wealth but by wages and interest rates (like much of California) actually gained value during this period (see Belle Haven, below).
    5.  dotbust to previous peak:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from 2002 to when the various Menlo Park markets peaked:  early 2008 (top-end and CID); 2007 (entry-level); and 2006 (Belle Haven).  To facilitate comparison between local submarkets, I say "previous peak" rather than give a date, since our submarkets peaked anywhere from 2005 to early 2008, depending on strength of demand ("brand").
    6.  Previous peak to trough:  Home price depreciation in the various Menlo Park markets from when they peaked (see 5, above) to when they bottomed:  late 2008 (top-end and entry-level); and 2011 (CID and Belle Haven).  To facilitate comparison, I say "trough" rather than give a date, since local submarkets bottomed anywhere from late 2008 to 2011, depending on strength of demand ("brand").
    7. Previous trough through 2013:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from either late 2008 (top-end and entry-level) or 2011 (CID and Belle Haven) through 2013.
    8. Total depreciation 1994-2013:  Total Menlo Park home price depreciation during the two downturns included in the data, compared to the average for all local submarkets covered by this site. Total depreciation greater than average suggests greater-than-average price volatility--in other words, a bumpy ride. It's surprising, given west-of-101 Menlo Park's reputation as a typically solid mid-Peninsula investment, to see that, at least by this measure, it has greater-than-average volatility, but its greater-than-average appreciation may offset this for many. Incredibly, Belle Haven and neighboring East Palo Alto, so badly hammered during the last downturn, is only slightly more volatile than top-end Menlo Park, which got through the subprime meltdown with virtually no bank-owned or short sales. Note that during the dotcom boom top-end Menlo Park outpaced entry-level, which suggests where dotcom money went (see also Atherton), but that entry-level outgained top-end during the mid-2000s when interest rates were more a factor.

    More from JohnFyten.com, Silicon Valley Real Estate Explained (TM).

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