Palo Alto neighborhoods
July 11, 2009 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Where should I live near Palo Alto? For two months?

I've got a new assignment for work that will put me in Palo Alto for two months. I'm very excited, I love the Bay area but haven't had a chance to live there since the early 2000's. I used to live in San Francisco but I've only been to Palo Alto once, so I don't really know the area at all.

My company is going to put me up in housing of some sort, and I need to find something on my own or risk getting a semi-random extended stay hotel which I would not like. I'll be using craiglist to find a place unless someone can suggest something more useful to the area.

What neighborhoods should I be looking at? I need a 1-bedroom apartment, or possibly a studio, or possibly even a really nice shared house. I'll have my own car so as long as it's within 20 minutes driving range of Stanford, I'll be okay. My budget is somewhere around $1800/month max. I'd like to be nearby places I could bike or hike, but I imagine those places will have few apartments to rent. The dates will be approximately August 1st to September 31st, so I'm not sure there will be many student apartments available.

Also, any suggestions for gyms, libraries, great places to hike or swim would be much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by bluejayk to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You should get a studio or 1-bedroom near downtown Palo Alto. I know, San Francisco has its allure, but for eight weeks of work, suffering the commute is not worth it.

Downtown Palo Alto puts you in the range of some spectacular places to hike, including along the bay; "The Dish," which I think is technically part of Stanford; and many of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's properties (, some of which are open to biking.

If you live downtown, everything will be bikeable, and there will be places to eat out, a bit of nightlife, etc.

If you're looking to swim in a pool, check out Burgess Park. (It's in Menlo Park.) Menlo Park also has a surprisingly pleasant library, and the world's best bookstore (Kepler's). If you live in downtown PA, all this will be ~2 miles from you.
posted by purpleclover at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Specifically, I would use the corner of University and Ramona (or Bryant or Florence) as my center point and try to find an apartment close to there. It puts you near Caltrain (for trips into SF) and people and Stanford.
posted by purpleclover at 1:28 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: I can't recommend housing stuff - I work near PA, but don't live there - but hiking/biking? I can do that.

Road biking is incredibly popular in the area - look online for clubs - and I often see pelotons heading west on Sand Hill Rd as they head into the hills west of Stanford. You can bike on trails - hilly - at Arastradero Open Space Preserve, and also hike there. You can run or bike at Baylands (very flat). The Dish is good for a run or a hike - I don't think they allow bikes. Watch out for cows and stay on paved trails (it's a working ranch).

Poke around on for more ideas - there's a ton of different places near Palo Alto to hike/bike/run. Stanford's campus is certainly one of them!
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2009

At $1800/mo for a 1bd you're really not limiting your options. I'd look into shared houses at College Terrace (the nicest place to be, by far, if you want to get on campus - 5 minute walk or so - and on the right side for the Stanford gym & library if you can use those). The part of Menlo Park off of Sand Hill is really nice and close to campus as well. Both of those are very strongly residential. Around Castro St. in Mountain View is a bit more lively, if you're into that, or California Ave in Palo Alto if you don't want to go down to Mtn View (Castro St is still within 20 minutes of Stanford driving though - Cal Ave is probably 20 minutes biking).

In terms of hiking and biking, there's tons of places very close by, most you'll need to drive to (20 minutes maybe). The Dish is a good exception, though it's paved. Windy Hill open space preserve, and almost anything off of Skyline are terrific hikes. There are a ton of people in PA that are very, very into cycling and routinely leave from PA to go up into the hills, so if you're into that kind of biking you'll be in good company.

I don't know about gyms off campus. The Palo Alto public libraries don't have very good hours or a very large selection, but they're not terrible. Feel free to MefiMessage me if you want more specifics or have questions.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2009

If you are set on Palo Alto specifically, purpleclover's suggestion of centering your search on downtown PA is a good one. The one drawback to downtown PA is that there is only one grocery store within walking distance, and that's a Whole Paycheck Foods. That can get expensive. There will be a Trader Joe's opening in Town & Country Village at some point in the near future, but I don't know if that will happen in time to be useful to you.

If you really just want to be close to Stanford, also look at downtown Menlo Park (use Santa Cruz Avenue & Crane Street as your epicenter.) It's just as close to Stanford as Palo Alto is, but is an easy walk to three grocery stores (an enormous Safeway, a Trader Joe's, and super-fancy Draeger's), Burgess Park, the library, Kepler's, and Caltrain. It also has a "downtown" that is not quite as lively as Palo Alto's (which is all of two miles away) but has plenty of little eateries. You should have lots of options in your price range.
posted by ambrosia at 6:18 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: Mountain View is next door to Palo Alto. All of downtown is walkable, with bookstores (plus a good library), coffee, plenty of restaurants, and a Farmers' Market on Sunday morning at the train station. A biking trail a few blocks from downtown will take you out to the Shoreline bird preserve.
posted by dws at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2009

Devilsbrigade has it 100% if you must live in P.A.

(But, honestly, this place is kind of a wasteland.)
posted by paultopia at 10:54 PM on July 11, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not wedded to living in Palo Alto, but I will be working around there. A twenty-minute driving radius is fine. So if I want to live elsewhere, Mountain View, Menlo park, any others?

Thanks for the advice everyone, it's made looking on craigslist a little easier.
posted by bluejayk at 11:20 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: I second the poster who suggested Mountain View as an alternative. You'll find housing to be cheaper there, so your $1800 will go much farther in your apartment quest. Furthmore, proximity to the Mountain View CalTrain station will provide you with a really easy way to get down to the Palo Alto CalTrain station, and from there, destinations in Downtown Palo Alto and in Stanford via a short walk. Since you'll only be traveling within a single zone, tickets are quite cheap.

That said, for $1800 a month you should have no trouble finding apartments above shops on University Ave in Downtown Palo Alto if you enjoy being at the center of things, and you might also see if you can find any vacancies in the newish apartments on High Street, just south of University. You'll find it quite convenient to grab groceries at Whole Foods if you live there, and Alma is just a corner away.
posted by arash at 6:12 AM on July 12, 2009

Best answer: I think the problem you're going to run into is finding a place to rent for just 2 months as most regular apartments will want you to sign a 1 year lease. And your dates don't really work for a summer sublet since you go into September. I assume you want some place furnished as well?

When I first started working out here, my company put me up in a corporate rental in Oak Creek Apartments. It is totally within the location range you want, but it is sort of a "corporate complex". But for two months overlapping into September, I think your options might be limited to that kind of arrangement.

Also, consider looking at Redwood City. Two stops up the Caltrain line from Palo Alto (well, three if you count Atherton, but they'd prefer you forget they exist) and probably also a bit cheaper with a decent downtown.
posted by marylynn at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2009

Sorry, meant to include the link: Oak Creek
posted by marylynn at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the link, Marylynn, the lease options are what most concern me. I need a furnished place that will accept a 2-month lease and has utilities all set-up. That narrows things quite a bit.
posted by bluejayk at 3:39 PM on July 12, 2009

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