Zoning & Land Use (ZALU)
by Maryanne Welton, ZALU Chair
by Art Bayce, Safety Comm. Chair
Beautification Committee: Mark Your 2000 Calendar
by Shirley Finfrock Co-Chairperson, Beautification Committee
Barron Park Planting Kicks Off Rainy Season
by Sue Luttner, CANOPY Liaison, Beautification Committee
Summertime in Bol Park
by Inge Harding-Barlow
Barron Park History
by Douglas Graham -- Barron Park Historian
by Mary Jane Leon
BPA Mailing Lists
Donkeys Have A Busy Summer
by Inge Harding-Barlow
The look of Barron Park, El Camino, Palo Alto, and all of the Bay Area is
changing bit by bit. Many of the area¹s older houses are being renovated, expanded
or demolished for new construction of (usually) bigger houses. Existing businesses
are also changing or expanding and new ones are moving in. Every vacant lot
is being looked at for potential new development. This redevelopment and intensification
of uses and density is causing controversy around the Bay from Gilroy to Suissun
City. And it¹s happening here in Barron Park. Here¹s a recap of what¹s in the
development pipeline in our neighborhood.
El Camino Corridor Study: The BPA and several other south Palo Alto neighborhood associations have requested that the City begin a planning study for El Camino Real south of Page Mill Road. The Comprehensive Plan now calls for a coordinated area plan (similar to the planning work done for the South of Forest/PAMF neighborhood) in 8 to 10 years. However, the City has now begun a multi-phased, inter-departmental study to assess traffic conditions and accessibility, land use, and the overall appearance of El Camino. The City¹s Transportation Division has begun the first phase of the study, which will focus on improving traffic conditions and alternative transportation movement along south El Camino and the Charleston-Arastradero Road corridors. The Planning Division will commence its portion of the study in mid-2000. They intend to create design guidelines for renovations and new development along El Camino that will look at the inter-relationship of land uses and the urban design of proposed projects. While not as comprehensive as a Coordinated Area Plan, these planning efforts will help assess the impacts of new development and provide guidelines that encourage high design standards.
Creekside Inn Expansion: The owners of Creekside Inn are proposing the demolition or renovation of several existing buildings and the construction of a new Arts-and-Craft-style building along El Camino. The goal is to create a four-star hotel with an expanded health club for guests. The number of hotel rooms would increase from the current 137 to about 180 rooms. The plans for the four-story building included a new location for Willow Street Cafe but did not include space for Driftwood Market. In addition, Creekside intends to plant more than 100 large new oak trees and 20 sycamoresboth on hotel grounds and on the El Camino medianand would spend nearly $250,000 to restore Matadero Creek to a more native condition. They are working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Audubon Society, Canopy, and Bay Area Action on the creek restoration. Members of the Zoning and Land Use Committee met with Creekside representatives before their plans were presented to the Architectural Review Board (ARB). During that meeting we requested that a ground floor space be reserved for a market and that a walkway planned alongside the creek be open for neighbors¹ use. At the ARB meeting the owners presented a letter confirming their commitment to include space for a community-serving retail market adjacent to the restaurant along El Camino. They will also dedicate a pedestrian pathway for community use along the creek from El Camino to Matadero. A sidewalk will extend along the property adjacent to Matadero for school children who cross El Camino. It was rewarding to have the owners¹ respond to our requests in such a positive manner. We will continue to monitor the project as it progresses through the City¹s planning approval process.
Paul Street One-Story Overlay Zone Request: A group of residents on Paul Avenue presented a petition to the City Council asking them to enact a temporary moratorium that would change the zoning for their street and prevent any future two-story houses. A provision in the City¹s zoning code allows neighborhoods with predominantly single-story homes to prohibit construction more than 17 feet high. The neighbors must prove that the ³overwhelming majority² of their block is supportive of the height restriction. A one-story overlay was approved last year in Barron Park on La Jennifer Way. The Palo Alto City Council rejected a 2-story ban on Paul Ave., preferring to let residents work out their concerns voluntarily. Requesting single-story overlay zones is one way neighbors hope to control two-story expansions and new construction. However, the City has established a voluntary review process to encourage the involvement of residents in the design of their neighborhoods. Many Bay Area neighborhoods are up in arms against so-called "Monster Homes," which they claim destroy neighborhood character with large, incompatible structures that impinge on their privacy. Others think that they are a sign of renewal, upgrading the housing stock and raising property values. The City is considering applying a formal design review process for all single family homes, a move that proponents hope would deter "Monster Homes."
Lucky¹s and Hyatt Rickeys Expansion Plans: Although they are not located in our neighborhood, both of these projects have generated discussion among Barron Park residents. Some people think they will negatively impact traffic and schools here while others support the increased services that would be available. After the results came in from the Lucky survey that we conducted last fall, the BPA Board decided to take a neutral position on the proposed expansion. We sent the survey results and comments to the Planning Commission and they were published in the Palo Alto Weekly. We have not taken a position on Hyatt Rickeys at this time. 4101 El Camino (former Christmas tree lot on the island): The developer for this vacant lot is still in the design phase on a mixed-use project and has met with the ZALU committee to get input on three-story schemes including ground floor retail and office space and eight apartments above. 3606 El Camino (Goodwill trailer site): The owner who originally proposed an executive hotel is relooking at different scenarios for this site.
Barron Park Elementary School Construction: Anyone going by the school has noticed that construction is underway. In fact, many people who saw the parking lot and front of the school covered with utility trenches and piles of dirt at the end of August wondered how the school would be ready for business on opening day. Trenches were filled, dirt was removed, and school opened as scheduled. Part of the playing field is now fenced off and construction has started on four classrooms and a 2,500-square-foot library. After completion of the new wing next spring, the remainder of the school will be renovated in phases. The School District and contractors are working to make the nearly-two-year construction period as safe and efficient as possible. With the growth of the school population from 110 students at the start of last year to more than 200 this fall, there is a significant increase in the number of students walking, biking, and driving to school. Due to this increased activity during drop-off and pick-up and the construction traffic, we urge everyone to slow down and be alert when driving near the school to ensure the safety of the school children.
ZALU committee meetings are scheduled periodically to review proposed projects and provide input to owners that, hopefully, encourage appropriate development along El Camino. My goal is for us to take a proactive and positive role in shaping the evolution of El Camino into a pedestrian-friendly, neighborhood-serving district. If you are interested in these issues, please contact me at by email or 493-3035.
An evacuation drill will be held in Barron Park on Saturday, October 23, 1999. This drill will be a simulation of a flood from Barron Creek into the neighborhood, similar to the ones occurring in 1983 and1993. We are meeting with the Palo Alto Fire and Police Departments to develop a scenario for the evacuation drill. A map is being prepared to show the boundaries of the evacuation area. Other City Departments, including Public Works and Utilities will also be involved in the drill. The American Red Cross will also participate. Barron Park residents will be involved in the drill in two ways: Those residents who will be evacuated and those who will assist in the drill. It is to be understood that the information to be gained from this drill can apply to other types of disasters besides flooding. Communications and transportation to shelter sites will be tested. We hope to gain valuable information to be used in case any type of disaster should occur in our area.
Beautification Committee Mark Your 2000 Calendar
by Shirley Finfrock Co-Chairperson, Beautification Committee
Sunday, May 7, 2000 has been selected for the House & Garden Tour in Barron Park. A plant sale and raffle will be held in conjunction with the open homes and gardens. While you are dividing perennials this fall or coming spring, or removing plants that have multiplied beyond their space. Please pot, hold, and donate to our plant sale effort this coming spring. The members of the Beautification Committee thank the resident who recently planted a Staghorn Sumoc in our adopted plot in natural habitat area at intersection of Laguna and Matadero. Many thank yous!
Lemonade Stand Will the young man who set up the lemonade stand at Bol Park, May, 1999 during the May Fete, please contact Shirley Finfrock at 493-8054 or by email.
Barron Park Planting Kicks Off Rainy Season
by Sue Luttner, CANOPY Liaison, Beautification Committee
Local arborists Kevin Raftery and Dave Muffly are kicking off this year¹s
tree-planting season with a hands-on training that will include the planting
of red oak saplings in the city easement along Driscoll Court, off Maybell.
Resident Greg Shepherd coordinated the planting with his neighbors and the
non-profit CANOPY: Trees for Palo Alto. The training on October 9 is for "planting
leaders" who will then be qualified to guide untrained volunteers on occasional
tree-plantings during the rainy season. If you want to help with one or more
plantings, or if you¹re interested in a street tree in front of your property,
call the CANOPY office, 964-6110, or send email to email@example.com. The next
large-scale Barron Park planting will be in the fall of 2000. If you want to
help survey the neighborhood for good street-tree locations, call Sue Luttner
of the Beautification Committee, 424-0824.
Sunday, May 7, 2000 has been selected for the House & Garden Tour in Barron Park.
A plant sale and raffle will be held in conjunction with the open homes and gardens. While you are dividing perennials this fall or coming spring, or removing plants that have multiplied beyond their space. Please pot, hold, and donate to our plant sale effort this coming spring. The members of the Beautification Committee thank the resident who recently planted a Staghorn Sumoc in our adopted plot in natural habitat area at intersection of Laguna and Matadero. Many thank yous!
Will the young man who set up the lemonade stand at Bol Park, May, 1999 during the May Fete, please contact Shirley Finfrock at 493-8054 or email her.
Summertime in Bol Park
by Inge Harding-Barlow
About 30 years ago the residents of Barron Park bought the then Donkey Pasture from the Bol Estate under a bond issue. This was beautifully landscaped as a gift by Ken Arutunian and came under Parks when we were incorporated into the City of Palo Alto. Slightly later the old SP railroad track was obtained and became known as the bikepath, under the jurisdiction of the City Open Space Department. The "dog heaven" open land opposite the VA Hospital is actually Gunn High School property. Along the Gunn pathway there are three "gateways" that open onto Georgia, Los Robles and Paradise. The latter gate can be opened fror Emergency and Maintenance trucks.
There are also a couple of open areas and pathways that belong to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, as well as the Sediment Basin area which comes under the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Palo Alto Police and Fire Departments give the address of Bol Park as 3500 Laguna with the Kiosk as the "center" point. We, the residents, know this whole lovely area as greater Bol Park and when there is a problem, we just want it fixed, no matter the jurisdiction! We also found out naming of paths and areas varied by jurisdiction and no one seems to have an adequate map.
Why is all this important? It serves to explain some of the things that happened this summer and why timely fixes take too long. In a "normal" summer we have problems in getting tall weeds cut back, general vandalism and too many late night drinking parties. This year the problems seemed to escalate and perhaps we can now get some long-term "fixes". Some of the major events are outlined below. The first "problem" of note, was a wire strung across the Pasture Bridge, which injured a bicyclist. Next, three fires were set on Strawberry Hill and the BPA Board members and the residents arrived before the Fire Department! (The residents came via the Paradise gate, the Fire Department and Police via 3500 Laguna). The result of this was that the City Manager, June Fleming, got our weeds cut down for us. Thank you, June!
After several further acts of petty, but annoying, vandalism we asked residents (using the BPA e-mail list) to walk in greater Bol Park more frequently on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. That first Saturday evening the hammer attack occurred on the path up to Strawberry Hill. The Emergency personnel came via Laguna and one truck got lost on Roble Ridge. That horrible incident had several consequences. June Fleming and Police Chief, Pat Dwyer walked the whole area and "got a feel" for our problems. Thank you, June and Pat! More than a few Police and Fire persons learned that greater Bol Park was large and a bike might be nice, whereas the Police Dogs, found a new area to run with a wonderous set of different smells. The media vans camped on Laguna, took out their lawn chairs, and stayed for 3 days. Most never even made it up to Pasture Bridge! Many of the residents (those within a certain radius of the Kiosk) received a Police Phone Alert! Certain residents who were supposed to be included in the initial list, received their calls 16 hours later.
What are some of the other results of this, probably never to be solved, attack? The three gateways, Georgia, Los robles and Paradise now have signs, but the color code painting of the gates still remains to be done. This is so Emergency people can be better informed where an incident has occurred. Maps are also being drawn and should be available later this year. Donkey walks took place on weekend evenings this summer and will return next year. This is an effort to attract more families to Bol Park in the early evening, not only to enjoy our beautiful park, but to help cut down on vandalism. Please use our park MORE, not less. During the rest of the summer we had additional acts of vandalism. Another small fire was set on Strawberry Hill. A group of cars had their windows broken. And last but not least, a $4000 park bench, much beloved by old and young alike has disappeared.
Because of jurisdictional problems it has been hard to report its loss and get action leading to its timely replacement. In the next couple of months two groups will be adding to and replacing native plants that have died along the bike path. Please remember native plants only! Such plants as bougainvillea, while pretty, are not native to this area. On Saturday, 23 October 1999 there will be an Emergency Drill simulating flooding from Barron Creek. So don't be surprised to see lots of people and Emergency equipment up by the Sediment Basin and by the Los Robles gate area! Please enjoy our wonderful Park, people come from all over to use it. So let us keep it as a noted show place, with NO litter and NO vandalism! Free Native Plant Seeds Doug Moran Offer of free seeds of native plants (plus some non-natives).
Some of the plants acquired for the revegetation project along the bike path in Bol Park produced more seeds that the project could use at this time, so we are offering them to neighborhood residents (for free). If you have "the knack" and the space to start plants from seed for later transplanting in the park, that would be especially appreciated. The best online collection of pictures of many (but not all) of the native plants can be found at http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/flora/ Native plants are not as "refined" as more traditional garden plants, but they have advantages both in being adapted to our climate (esp dry summers) and they provide food for local wildlife (birds, butterflies, bees, ...). Many people (myself included) believe that we get better yields in our vegetable garden by including plants that attract and support bees and other pollinators.
To get packets of seeds, drop me an email note or telephone (856-3302) and we can arrange a drop-off/pickup. Perennials Bee Plant (Scrophularia californica) grows up to 6ft. Attracts bees and other pollinators. Profuse reseeder. Initial batch had excellent germination rate. Heuchera maxima (Large alum root) Have no experience growing from seed. Hookers Evening Primrose yellow flower, evening blooming, attracts pollinators, seeds attract many songbirds Good germination rate, profuse reseeder (even with birds feeding) Salvia melliflora (Black sage) Salvia spathacea (one of several sages known as "Hummingbird Sage") Salvia somonensis (Sonoma Sage) spreading (horizontal, vs upright), blue flower Penstemon heterophylla (Blue Bedder penstemon) tends to being low-growing/spreading moderately good reseeder Swamp sunflower (non native) small sunflowers in late fall (Sept-Oct) Bulb Seeds - many take 2-3 years to maturity Allium hyalinum Brodiaea pulchellum (Blue Dicks) Camassia leichtlinii Chlorogalum pomeridinum (Soap lily, amole) evening blooming, many small white flowers Triteleia/Brodiaea Laxa Annuals Downy monkeyflower small yellow flowers, good reseeder, needs summer water Phacelia tanacetifolia (Bee Food) blue flower, good reseeder, adored by bees Lupine succulents (Arroyo Lupine) Red leaf lettuce (non-native, but reseed nicely) Native Grasses Briza media Calamogrostis foliosa Carex tumulicola Deschampsia caespitosa (Tufted Hairgrass) Mellica california
Barron Park History
by Douglas Graham -- Barron Park Historian
A Railroad Ran through Here "Next Stop--Barron Park" These words were never heard in any railroad car. But they might be heard today if it weren't for the abandonment and removal of the two railroads that used to run through our neighborhood. The Southern Pacific ran steam and diesel trains and the Peninsular Railway Company of California ran electric interurban trolleys on parallel tracks where the regional bike path through Bol Park now runs.
Where the Tracks Ran
In our area, there was a commuter flag stop called Alta Mesa by the cemetery on Arastradero Road, and another named Neal where Matadero Avenue crosses the bike path today. From Neal, the train tracks curved north through the Stanford lands where the Varian plant is now. The westerly of the two tracks carried the PRCC (Peninsular Railway Co. of CA) trolleys. It turned northwest where the Varian parking lot is on El Camino Real and ran alongside the highway through Mayfield to Palo Alto with a spur to Stanford (the "Toonerville Trolley" of Stanford fame). The easterly track carried the SP (Southern Pacific) steam trains. It crossed El Camino near where the Fish Market restaurant is today and connected to the SP mainline in a wye near Fry's Electronics.
From Neal to the southeast, the tracks ran across the Stanford lands, separating the two cow pastures that became Gunn High School and the Veteran's Administration Hospital. From the intersection with Arastradero Road south, the right-of-way was later taken by the County to build Foothill Expressway. The Los Gatos "Cutoff" The reason why the SP decided to build a railroad through the Barron Estate is difficult to understand. The SP had taken over the original San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which had reached Mayfield October 18, 1863 and San Jose January 16, 1864. Much later, the SP system was extended all the way down the coast to Los Angeles.
Shortly after 1900, the management of the SP decided that they needed a new high-speed double-track "cutoff" directly across the mountains to Santa Cruz, that would bypass the San Jose-Gilroy route and shorten the distance and travel time to Southern California. It seems they did not properly evaluate the difficulties of building a fast railroad route across a rugged mountain range. The proposal may seem weak today, and one should understand that skeptics even then smelled something fishy underneath the company's optimism. It has been alleged that the route selection had everything to do with land speculation in the future town of Los Altos by top SP executives. In the case of the Peninsular Railway, which had been created by the SP on December 21, 1905, the reasons were more complex but perhaps more aboveboard. The PRCC had been created to link San Francisco and San Jose with electric interurban service. It was involved in numerous schemes to extend interurban trolley service throughout Santa Clara County and beyond, and was constantly jockeying with rival concerns to obtain franchises on favorable terms from the county's municipalities, including Mayfield and Palo Alto.
The cutoff from Mayfield to Los Gatos would connect nicely with other lines of the PRCC from San Jose to Los Gatos, Saratoga and to the orchard area that is now Cupertino. The PRCC could anticipate picking up commute traffic if the promoters of Los Altos were successful in creating a new town out of the area's prune and apricot orchards. Construction Problems So, the stage was set and the railroads laid out their right of way diagonally across the bucolic 320-acre Barron Estate. Soon, however, the project ran into difficulties. Construction began on the SP at Congress Junction near Saratoga, but then had to be halted in June 1905 because the stockpile of rails was needed 500 miles away in the fight against Colorado River flooding in the Imperial Valley of Southern California.
Then came the San Francisco Earthquake in April 1906. Although this temporarily closed one of the tunnels in the Santa Cruz Mountains, it had a positive aspect also. In the cleanup, San Francisco had to get rid of thousands of tons of debris. The new railroad line needed fill material, and some of the earthquake debris was used in fills in the Barron Park area. San Francisco artifacts were recently turned up in excavations during the bike path construction (phase II of Bol Park) in 1977-78, and again during construction of the flood control project under the bike path in 1992-94. Actual construction on the "Mayfield Cutoff" began in April 1907, with track laying beginning in August. The work through the Barron Estate was probably finished in September.
Regular Steam Train Service Begins
Finally, construction was done and the first SP steam trains ran through to Los Altos on April 12, 1908, bringing sixteen carloads of prospective buyers to a land sale and barbeque in Los Altos. The first regular scheduled service began April 19, 1908, with two trips a day each way starting at Palo Alto and going to Los Gatos. Soon, service from San Francisco through Los Altos and Los Gatos to Santa Cruz was established, with the "cutoff" tying back into the main line at Watsonville Junction. By 1911 there were twelve steam trains a day using the line through the Barron Estate besides the Peninsular interurban trolleys.
Interurban Service Begins
In October 1909, work began on electrifying the westerly track to accommodate the interurban cars of the Peninsular Railway. Regular service began March 5, 1910 with gala celebrations in each town along the way as a gaily decorated five-car train of brand-new interurban cars progressed north from San Jose bearing railroad representatives and city dignitaries. The cars were two-thirds closed and one-third open (for smokers) with rain curtains. The closed section had red plush seats, while the open section had seats with slatted backs and bottoms. The following year, the cars were equipped with electric heaters, a much-welcomed improvement. The cars ran every hour between Palo Alto and San Jose, with fares ranging from ten cents between adjacent stations up to 55 cents for the entire distance, with lower rates for weekends and holidays. Monthly commuter tickets were available; Palo Alto to Alta Mesa cost $3. After the PRCC line was completed to Los Gatos, the SPRR discontinued local stops between Palo Alto and Los Gatos.
Beginning January 4, 1914, Los Altos was served exclusively by the electric railway. The PRCC bought newer, heavier 64-passenger cars painted red --the "Big Palys". Twenty-five runs per day in each direction were made on the Los Altos branch. For awhile, the Peninsular did a modest freight business, hauling oil, fruit, gravel and other cargo, and transferring to the SPRR at Mayfield. A PRCC or SP rider would not have had much impression of the Barron Estate as he or she rode through it in those days. The Stanford lands on either side were pastures for cattle. A cattle underpass was built behind today's 1060 McGregor Way, that allowed the "Portugese" farmer's dairy cows to graze on both sides of the tracks in the Stanford Lands. The leased dairy farm stood approximately where the VA Hospital laundry plant is now, just upstream on Matadero Creek from the donkey pasture. The Roble Ridge area was studded with Valley Oak and Coast Live Oak; it probably was used for grazing by the caretaker-manager of the Barron Estate (the family was no longer in residence by 1909). I speculate that the cattle-loading ramp (the decayed remains of which may be seen today in Bol Park) was probably built to serve the Barron Estate shortly after the tracks were laid down.
Car riders might have been able to catch an occasional glimpse, between the stately oaks, of the imposing, three-story mansion three-quarters of a mile away near the San Francisco-San Jose Road (El Camino). Operations of the Peninsular Railway The PRCC increased the number of trips in 1919, including 34 one-way trips on the section that ran through the Barron Estate. That was the year that the estate was sold to Driscoll and Reiter, who began subdividing it for small berry farms. On October 1, 1921, a new daily schedule called for hourly runs northbound from San Jose from 6:40 a.m. to 7:25 p.m. with 9:25 and 11:25 p.m. cars. Southbound from Palo Alto the hourly service went from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., then 10:20 p.m. and 12:20 a.m. plus a 6:55 a.m. run on Sundays and holidays. Most cars connected with steam trains at Palo Alto.
At the peak of its expansion in 1924, the Peninsula Railway had 80 miles of lines and its companion the San Jose Railroads operated another 46 miles, for a total of 126 miles of interurban tracks in the Santa Clara Valley. During the 1920s Barron Park became home to about 100 families, of whom probably half were engaged, at least to some extent, in small-scale intensive agriculture. Most families, however, had a wage earner or salaried person who commuted to work in Mayfield, Palo Alto, Stanford or elsewhere, a few even to downtown San Francisco.
Obviously, there was a growing potential market for a new railroad stop somewhere between Alta Mesa and Mayfield. Riders through our neighborhood would have seen berry patches, tomato fields, and apricot and prune orchards being laid out. They would have observed the construction of tidy cottages along Laguna Avenue and on Roble Ridge. In the late 1930s, they would have watched the activities of the burgeoning Bol Family, who acquired property on both sides of the line west of Matadero Creek. Barron Park Strawberries Shipped by Railroad George Fitzgerald, in his oral history, remembers that most of the land in Barron Park between Military Way and the railroad tracks was planted to strawberries when his family came in the 1920s. Mr. Strain, of Strain's Dairy owned much of the land, leasing it out to "Japanese" tenant farmers. George said that the SP had a spur track "at the Palo Alto Railroad Station" where they loaded strawberries into express refrigerator cars for shipment to the East Coast. He is probably referring to the spur at the Sutter Packing Company on Park Boulevard in Mayfield, in the building Fry's occupies now. In any case, many, if not most, of those strawberries came from Barron Park growers operating under the guidance of Driscoll and Reiter, whose Watsonville-based company continues in business today as the Driscoll berry packers. George believed that there were six commuter trains per day to and from San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s. He says the club car was "exclusively for the use of executives who got on at Los Altos", and it was discontinued during World War II.
Neal "Station" for Barron Park Commuters
It may have been about 1933 when Barron Park became a stop on the railroad. That was the year that the local improvement association succeeded in getting the County to build a bridge across Matadero Creek on Laguna Avenue, eliminating the previous path along the creek bank and ford where La Calle Court stands opposite to Laguna Court today. According to Ernest Johnson's memory, when they laid out the new stretch of Laguna through the Gough property (later the Bol "donkey pasture" and now Bol Park), the railroad put in a stop where Laguna ends at Matadero Avenue. The "station" was named after James H. and Bee Neal, who owned about eleven acres in two parcels on both sides of the creek below (northeast of) the previous winding course of Laguna Avenue and Matadero Avenue. Josina Bol described the "station" as being very small, just a shelter with a built-in bench, and painted yellow. Most of the commuters in those days were men, but Josina remembers that Miss Calderwood worked in San Francisco and took the train from Barron Park. Mr. Sherman, a lawyer, always took the train. There were others also, whom Josina did not know.
Neal station is shown on one of the older USGS topographic maps. This stop, if in fact created as late as 1933, had a very short life as a PRCC trolley stop since the days of the electric cars ended in 1934. However, it continued as a SPRR commuter stop until the Los Gatos cutoff was abandoned in 1964. Special Excursion Trains The railroad did more than haul passengers and freight. There were numerous special excursion trains for a variety of purposes. During the warmer months many groups arranged picnic trains to private or public parks such as Congress Springs, Alum Rock, and Big Basin. There were convention trains for the Shriners and other groups. When the Republican Party nominated Herbert Hoover for President in 1928, special trains brought the SRO audience to Stanford Stadium to hear his acceptance Speech. The "Big Game" Trains The excursion trains of greatest interest to Barron Park, however, were the trains that brought football fans to the stadium in odd-numbered years when Stanford hosted the annual "Big Game" with the University of California.
The first of these were on November 13, 1909, when the PRCC was able to roll interurban cars right up to the stadium on the "Toonerville Trolley" branch spur. As Charles S. McCaleb says in "Tracks, Tires and Wires"; "For the next two decades, every fall afternoon saw city and interurban cars rolling up to the bleachers jammed with fans from Palo Alto, San Jose, Los Gatos and intermediate points. At game's end the cars stood ready to whisk them home. For the fans these were days of great merriment. For the Peninsular, which pressed into duty all its available equipment, they were a headache but also a great moneymaker." It was later on when the Big Game trains began to make an impression on Barron Park residents. The SP would run trains from San Francisco and Berkeley for the game. After depositing their fans at the Embarcadero Road crossing close to the stadium, each empty train would proceed to the wye at Park Boulevard where Fry's Electronics is today, and then would back down the little-used Los Gatos cutoff to make room for the next one. They would be "stacked" on the Barron Park stretch of the line until the time came to pick up their fans after the game. As many as sixteen thousand fans would ride to the game this way. For instance, on November 21, 1953 there were ten trains in all, eight from San Francisco with 16-18 cars each and two from Berkeley with 17 cars each. Several long-time Barron Bark residents who made oral history tapes in the 1970s and 80s spoke of seeing the trains lined up along Roble Ridge in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Josina Bol of Roble Ridge remembered that the neighborhood kids would find ways to climb aboard and amuse themselves by racing through the cars. The Blossom Trolley Trips In the spring of 1910 the PRCC instituted the famous "Blossom Trolley Trip", a $1 tour of the valley when the orchards were in full bloom and the wildflowers most spectacular. Views of the valley in bloom with Mount Hamilton in the distance were renowned. You can get a good feel for the extraordinary beauty of our valley in those days by viewing the enormous mural in the downtown courthouse in San Jose. Thousands of riders enjoyed the blossom trips and stopoffs at Saratoga's Blossom Festival. The trip began in San Jose and passed through Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Congress Springs, Monta Vista, Los Altos, Mayfield, Palo Alto and Stanford, where an hour-long tour of the campus was conducted at the end of the day. In 1924, the special trains were discontinued and the blossom tours reduced to a special discount ticket book covering the same trip on the regularly scheduled cars. In 1962 and 1963 rail fans organized nostalgic $2 "Blossom Valley" excursion trains on the SP, but the rapid suburbanization of the valley meant that the days of the orchards was almost over, and those were the last.
The "Suntan Specials"
Starting on July 3 and 4, 1927 the SPRR began running a special summer excursion train from San Jose through Los Gatos to Santa Cruz. In 1929 it was dubbed the Suntan Special, and in 1932 the origin point was changed to San Francisco. This is when the trains began coming through the rapidly developing Barron Park neighborhood. They became so popular that several sections were added, as well as Oakland for an alternate starting point. On holiday weekends, as many as seven sections would be run. At the height of its popularity, the wet winter of 1939-40 washed out sections of the line across the Santa Cruz Mountains and the line was abandoned. For two more years the Suntan operated via San Jose, Gilroy and Watsonville, but World War II shortages ended it after 1941. The Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce got the SP to start the Suntans up again in 1947, and they were greatly successful through 1960. However, they didn't pass through our neighborhood after 1939.
The End Comes for the Big Red Electric Cars
The end for the railroads came piecemeal. The spread of the automobile-based culture and economy, better roads and finally the Great Depression of the 1930s did in the Peninsular Railway. Even in the 1920s, the PRCC was uneconomical; profits were inadequate to repay the startup debts that had been taken on by the parent company, the SP. Service cutbacks were made on some lines as early as 1921, and conversion of routes to bus service began with Palo Alto in 1924. Fare increases helped temporarily, but the cutbacks and fare hikes led to more loss of ridership in a classic downward cycle. More and more people were buying automobiles and using them for their commutes, errands and pleasure travel. Corporate restructuring in the middle 1920s also made the balance sheet look a little better for awhile, but the end was clearly in sight.
In 1930, as the Bay Area and the nation slid down into the Great Depression, the PRCC chose to retire its best and biggest interurban cars --the ones that served Barron Park. They were replaced by older, smaller and less comfortable cars, which only helped accelerate the downward trend in ridership. Chatham Forbes, in his oral history, remembers how uncomfortable the old cars were. By 1933 the Peninsular was ready to call it quits. Trolley service ended on the Mayfield-Los Altos line at midnight on October 1, 1934. Two cars of the system, numbers 52 and 61, were preserved and still could be seen in the 1980s at the Northern California Electric Railroad Museum at Rio Vista Junction east of Fairfield in Solano County. On June 12, 1935 the PRCC was legally disincorporated and its assets, including the 17-mile long Los Gatos cutoff, reverted to the SP. The westerly track was soon taken up and from then on, our railroad was a single track served by the SPRR, which re-instituted one steam train commuter run per day to Los Gatos. A few Barron Park commuters continued to be served via Neal Station for nearly thirty years longer
From 1934 on, then, the story of railroading in Barron Park is restricted to the SP's track and its steam trains. But the steam trains were passing, too; they were replaced with diesels in January 1957. No more would the mournful hoot of a steam engine's whistle grace the hearing of Barron Park residents. Living by the Tracks: Josina Bol's Memories According to Josina Bol, in her oral history given in 1977, only one train per day ran in the last years of service for commuters, up to San Francisco in the morning and return in the evening about 6:00 p.m. It was used mainly by commuters to San Francisco, and it always stopped at Neal Station. Heavy freights also used the line, hauling cement from the Kaiser-Permanente cement plant in Cupertino, and they were very noisy. Excursion trains still ran on occasional Sundays to Santa Cruz.
The younger Bol children and their friends would wait for the trains to go by and the engineers would always recognize them. The trains were always going slowly past the Bols' house because the stop at Neal Station was so close. One time the train stopped and Josina ran to find her children, fearing the worst, but the engineer had stopped it because two of the Bols' small goats had gotten on the track and one of them had gone under the train -- to emerge alive. She also remembered one time when the dairy cattle found a break in the fence near their underpass, and the whole herd came along the railroad tracks. The farmer came on horseback and herded them back to their pasture. Going to School on the Train In another oral history interview, Laguna Avenue residents Lena and Ernest Johnson remembered sending their children to Sherman School in Mayfield on the electric cars. Sherman School was near the SPRR Mayfield Station, the present-day California Avenue Station. Their daughter took the train to school rather than walk because it was more fun. The "Japanese" farmer's children who lived across the street walked. In the primary grades, their children got home around 2:30 p.m. During fourth through sixth grades they went to Mayfield School on El Camino, and a school bus picked them up at the door. When they attended Jordan Junior High and Palo Alto High Schools they walked or rode bicycles to El Camino and met the bus there. Ernie commuted to San Francisco during some of his early years in the neighborhood, usually driving directly to Mayfield Station to board the steam train in the morning but sometimes returning home on the 5:18 p.m. that switched to the Los Altos branch and let him off at Neal. It had a club car, which you had to join the club to use. The morning train didn't connect conveniently at Palo Alto -- he would have missed the 6:35 a.m. train he needed to be on.
The Last of the Excursions
In the late 1950s several special excursions ran on this line, and the last of the famous Blossom Specials was run as a excursion on March 24, 1963. Another memorable event occurred December 21, 1958 when a fire blocked the main line of the SPRR north of San Jose, causing the northbound Daylight from Los Angeles to be re-routed through Barron Park. The Final End of the Railroad The final end was anticlimactic. On March 21, 1962 the SP asked the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission to abandon six miles of track from Alta Mesa south to Simla in Cupertino, so that Santa Clara County could build an expressway on the right-of-way. It was granted, and the SP shut down service despite last-minute pleas from 170 dedicated commuters. The last commuter run was on January 27, 1964 with railfans in a private observation car. The following summer, the track was removed through Los Altos.
Does anyone know if the track through Barron Park was taken up at the same time? I can vouch for its absence by 1972. From Trains to Bicycles This was not the end of SPRR influence on our neighborhood, however. About the time that the tracks were removed, the Barron Park Association and the Bol family began to make plans for a park at the donkey pasture on Laguna. Phase I of Bol Park was finally dedicated in 1974 and the Association immediately began negotiations with the SP to acquire their right-of-way from Arastradero Road to the Stanford Industrial Park for a regional bikepath. Negotiations were eventually successful, the land was granted for a nominal fee, and construction on Phase II began in 1977.
The bikepath design called for restoring, as nearly as possible, the pre-railroad contours of the land. This was most significant at "Strawberry Hill" on the Gunn High School playing fields, where 1907 fill material was scraped up to fill the cut through the hill. At this time, the cattle underpass behind 1060 McGregor Way was covered over. The underpass was demolished and removed in 1992 to allow construction of the underground box culvert for the flood control diversion project. The bikepath construction was finished and it was dedicated in 1978. Today the railroad exists only in historic documents and in the fading memories of long-term Barron Park residents.
If you have any information to add to this account of our railroad, please contact Doug Graham either by mail at his permanent home at 984 Ilima Way, or by e-mail at his current job in Pennsylvania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Mary Jane Leon
How Do You Choose a Senior Center? In Barron Park, we are surrounded
by Senior Centers. There is, of course, Avenidas in Palo Alto. But we also
have the option of affiliating with any senior center close by. Let's look
at the four closest centers and see what they have to offer: the Palo Alto
Center, called Avenidas; the Menlo Park Center, called Little House; the Mountain
View Senior Center; and the Los Altos Senior Center.
How are these four alike? They all have only one requirement for use: you must be a senior citizen, defined variously as over age 50, 55, or 60. Place of residence is not an issue. Some may restrict a given activity to local residents, but at all four at least 90 or 95% of the services are available to all. In fact, membership is not even a requirement to use the centers. All four offer comfortable, inviting lounges, with the coffee pot always on, cookies, card games or puzzles, newspapers and books, and volunteers to help out. They offer free or cheap entertainment, like afternoon movies, card games, pool (billiard?) tables, special parties. And lots of dancing: tap, line, ballet, ballroom, etc. They all offer free or low-cost health services like consultation with an eye doctor or podiatrist, blood pressure screening, legal consultation or notary public service, HICAP (health insurance counseling & advocacy program), group travel, help with transportation, and exercise programs. They also all offer large schedules of classes, at varying costs. All except Los Altos offer low-cost lunches five days a week. All rely heavily on volunteers, and promote volunteer activity in the community at large.
Just as they have similarities, there are differences that make each center unique. Consider which provide the features that are most important to you personally when you are choosing among them. You might even choose more than one. Little House in Menlo Park Little House hides its lovely, spacious quarters behind Nealon Park at 800 Middle Avenue, Menlo Park. Phone: 326-2025. Special offerings include a full gem polishing facility, jewelry-making lab, golf and tennis groups, hiking, computer club and classes, arm-chair opera. Lunch is served five days a week, and Little House is big on holiday parties. They are open 365 days a year. Membership is $35 a year, but Becca French, the Director, points out that membership is not required for you to use the center. Membership does give you a break on cost of trips, tours, lunches, some classes, and special events. If you use the facility much, you actually save money by being a member.
Mt View Senior Center
The Mt View Senior Center, at 266 Escuela Avenue, is just off California Avenue in Mt View. Phone: 903-6330. The center holds an orientation and tour of the facilities on the third Tuesday of each month. At the August orientation, Michele Petersen, Acting Senior Recreation Coordinator, explained that the Center is part of the Mt. View Recreation Division. The spacious facility is owned by the City. The Center charges no dues and keeps no membership roster. The monthly newsletter, which is available at the reception area, covers many civic and local activities that are of particular interest to seniors, as well as its own services. Special features at the center include daily lunches (Michele stresses that the chef is a gourmet cook -- even has a garden plot right outside for the freshest of vegetables), hiking, ESL classes (English as a second language), bookmobile service, arthritis workshops and exercise classes, and Sunday activities.
The Palo Alto Senior Center, Avenidas, is in the old police station at 450 Bryant Street, just off University Avenue in Palo Alto. Phone: 326-5362. It offers lunches five days a week, computer classes, caregiver support, day care for dependent seniors, a health library. Avenidas offers a lecture series to take advantage of their large population of Stanford scholars. Membership is $15 a year, and an additional $10 a year if you want to borrow materials from the health library.
Los Altos Senior Center
The Los Altos Senior Center is housed in rooms at the huge Hillview Community Center complex, 97 Hillview Avenue, just off San Antonio Road in Los Altos. Phone: 948-7483. This small Center has ties with the Mt. View Center. Members go there for lunches. At Los Altos, they offer some health services, computer tutors, and a large roster of classes. Membership for non Los Altos resident is $17 a year. Choices, Choices You can phone any of these centers, but the best way to learn about them is to visit, ask questions, poke around, maybe stay for lunch. Each of these centers is a community in itself, offering a wealth of features, services, and entertainment We have only scratched the surface in this short article. The more you investigate, the more depth you will discover. There is sure to be something of value at one of them for each of us.
BPA Mailing Lists
There are two e-mail lists available for posting information
related to Barron Park:
1) click for current info
This list is only for Barron Park and Barron Park Association related issues. Currently there are roughly 150 addresses on this list, including some city officials. Examples of messages appropriate for the bpa list: announcements of public events, city meetings, BPA meetings, BPA announcements, alerts about vandalism and other crimes, other problems of general interest. The number of postings on this list is very low (some weeks go by without any postings). To subscribe/unsubscribe to this list, send your request to: click for current info
2) click for current info
This list handles any other messages likely to be of interest to Barron Park residents. This is a separate list so that people who want to get only the more important announcements can subscribe to just the bpa list. Examples: requests for house-sitters & nannies, house repair advice, etc. To subscribe/unsubscribe to this list, send your request to click for current info Note that you are not automatically added to bpa-misc, but must explicitly request it. Membership in the Barron Park Association is encouraged but not required in order to be on the bpa or bpa-misc lists. The lists are intended as neighborhood communication systems. These lists are currently maintained manually -- the additions and deletions are so few that an automated system is more trouble than it is worth.
Barron Park Association Board of Directors - email address:
If you want to send information, questions or requests to the BPA board, use this address: . It is also the address to use if you don't know which board member to address your concerns to. Also, see our Free Bulletin Board: www.bpaonline.org/bulletin-board And, our Barron Park Businesses directory: www.bpaonline.org/business
Donkeys Have A Busy Summer
by Inge Harding-Barlow
Perry and Miner 49er had a busy summer and have lost a little
weight! Know a good donkey slimming program? They have attended several parties
and pose for the camera very nicely, thank you! Their joy this summer, in addition
to the usual year-round Sunday morning Playtime (9:30-10:30AM), were the weekend
evening walks, with plenty of time-out for picking up tasty snacks at the blackberry
patches and other choice spots. There was also time for rolling in the sand
and other donkey pleasures. We will have the donkey evening walks again next
summer and hope to remeet old friends and make new ones. This Fall we are looking
forward to again working with the current Kindergarten classes and pre-schoolers,
as well as a couple of parties! If you would like to scheduling a time and
date for the donkeys to visit your special event, please call Inge at 650-493-8146
or e-mail her. And YES, the donkeys will take part in Emergency
Drill on Saturday, 23 October 1999!!!
The donkeys welcomed many new donkey handlers this summer - Aimee Cardwell, Susan Carsen, Gene Coan, Norman Copperman, Birgit Fisher, Leila Heintzelman, Christina Luce and Yvonne Wolters. And for special times - Eric Struck and the Richard Wilde family. Thank you also to the old timers - Jim Bronson, Mary Jane Leon, Doug Moran, Pat Rogow, Edith and Leland Smith and Ted Thomas. We would like to have TWO FURTHER donkey handlers to fill-in when people are away or sick - one for mornings and one for evenings. PLEASE WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!!!
To volunteer or for more information, please call Inge (donkey scheduler and co-ordinator), at 650-493-8146 or e-mail her. Perry and Miner 49er were delighted to learn that their Vet, Garry Haines, now has his very own donkey, named Cosmo. A picture will shortly go up on the Barron Park Donkey web site showing Garry and his animal family! Please, continue to send donations to cover feeding costs and Vet and Farrier bills. The checks should be made out to PCCF (Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation) - Donkey Project and sent to c/o Inge Harding-Barlow, 3717 Laguna Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94306, who will tally them and send them on to PCCF.
3450 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306 (near Creekside Inn)
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