Skywood is in the heart of Silicon Valley in the town of Woodside. Our town lies between San Francisco and San Jose, with many neighborhood residents working at technology companies including Apple, Facebook, and Google, Stanford Hospital, and Stanford University. Sand Hill Road is a short drive.
Skywood is made up of about 75 homes in a natural setting. The neighborhood is adjoined on three sides by parkland and open space: Wunderlich County Park, Thornewood Open Space Preserve, and La Honda Open Space Preserve. Pedestrian and equestrian trails connect the neighborhood with the parks.
Some Skywood homes have breathtaking views that show the full expanse of the San Francisco peninsula from the Bay Bridge to San Jose. Others have views of Stanford University's campus and the Dish.
The homes vary in size and type but lot sizes typically range from 1 to 5 acres, and were built from approximately 1960 to today. Some lot sizes are as large as 8 or 10 acres. Each features a unique design, including Bauhaus, mid-century modern, ranch, prairie, modernist, and contemporary.
Skywood is perfectly located: it's high enough to look out over the marine layer of coastal fog that often covers lower elevations in the morning, but far enough from the ocean to enjoy full sun nearly all the time. It's the sunniest corner of the San Francisco peninsula!
• We have a neighborhood winery, Chaine d’Or, owned by Jerry Anderson. You can buy Jerry's wine by the bottle at Robert's Market. Contact him directly if you'd like to buy a case or more. I buy cases of his Chardonnay and Cabernet a few times a year and highly recommend them. Here's an article from The Almanac about Jerry's winery. (I know of another family that recently planted a vineyard on their property.)
• We have Skywood Association annual meetings in the form of neighborhood picnics and have had several get-to-know-your-neighbors meetups at Alice's Restaurant. Our last neighborhood BBQ was in August 2019, with about 60-70 people and was catered by Efrain BBQ. Previous BBQs were catered by La Taquiza Zarape. We had a neighborhood playdate on Skywood Way in September 2018 for children 10 years old and younger. Our previous Skywood Association gathering at Alice's was in December 2017. If county health rules allow, expect a 2021 BBQ in early September.
• We have dark skies with less light pollution than any other neighborhood that's so close to Stanford, Facebook, Sand Hill Road, and so on. Because we're buffered by parks, open space preserves, and houses on larger lots, light pollution is low. You can actually see the Milky Way.
• Uber cars tend to be nearby because of Rosewood Sand Hill, our closest hotel. I have not tried Lyft. For airport pickups and drop-offs, neighbors have recommended Wingz and Avalon Transport (Virgin Atlantic’s contractor). I've used Wingz with excellent results. As of spring 2021, the cost was a $65 flat rate before tip.
• Our closest gas stations are at the Skywood Trading Post and at Alice's Restaurant. A hydrogen fueling station at the Skywood Trading Post is scheduled to be installed. Skywood residents may purchase a license from the Skywood Association to use the Skywood-to-Skyline gate as a short cut to drive directly to Skyline Boulevard.
• There are women's night gatherings, with rotating hosts, occasionally. There have been irregular outings (on nice weekend mornings) among sports car owners in the neighborhood. There's also a "mom's" mailing list for the broader area that's not Skywood-specific.
• John Kapel designed the layout of house sites and driveways in the neighborhood to fit the terrain in an aesthetically pleasing way. John was an acclaimed designer who built his house on Skywood Way in the late 1950s. John's furniture designs appear in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the unique architecture and interior finishes of his historic house on Skywood Way has been profiled in this article and this video. John was honored by the Skywood Association in February 2019 for his contributions to the neighborhood.
• Skylonda Lodge is a luxury destination retreat about a mile north of our neighborhood.
For more information, here's a 2009 feature that Palo Alto Online did on Skywood, and here's a second feature in 2010.
Food & restaurants
• Alice's Restaurant is a few minutes' walk away, and some households can take a combination pedestrian/equestrian trail all the way there. The Town of Woodside has promised to improve the trail with grading and handrails but, as of spring 2021, has not given us a construction schedule. Alice's hosts an annual Easter Egg hunt on Saturday morning for children (here's a photo), and a formal Valentine's Day dinner (make reservations!). It's owned by brothers Andy and Jamie Kerr, who grew up nearby and bought the restaurant in 2002. Alice's also sells Christmas trees in late November and December.
• The Mountain Terrace is an event space across the street from Alice's Restaurant and within walking distance. They occasionally feature tasty special events. Here's the menu from the January 2018 buffet and the February 2018 buffet. They offered a St. Valentine's Day dinner with optional wine pairing in February 2019.
• Next to The Mountain Terrace is the Skywood Trading Post, our closest convenience store and gas station. In late 2018, the Trading Post remodeled their produce and dairy section (here's a photo) and now offers daily soup or chili selections.
• Food and grocery delivery is available:
MOVING TO SKYWOOD?
If you're new to the neighborhood, welcome! Here are some tips:
• Properties in the Skywood neighborhood use Comcast for Internet connectivity. As of spring 2021, I'm paying Comcast about $100 a month for 800 Mbit/sec down and 40 Mbit/sec up. One former owner on Skywood Way chose to pay AT&T for a dedicated T-1 line instead of using Comcast. AT&T phone service is available but not AT&T DSL service. As a backup during infrequent (about 12 to 36 hours a year) Comcast outages, at least one property owner has added their name to the list for Starlink satellite service, which is supposedly coming soon in our area.
• There's a private neighborhood-only Skywood Association email list on Google Groups for general discussions and a separate low-volume list for emergency preparedness. There's Nextdoor Woodside as well, but it's not specific to our neighborhood. Note the old Yahoo Groups discussion list operated by the Skywood Association was discontinued in March 2018 in favor of the Google Groups list.
• For local road and traffic information, check out this Twitter account. Signing up for the SMC Alert system is a good idea. There is a fledgling neighborhood watch effort with a meeting held with the San Mateo County sheriff's department in March 2018. Our most recent neighborhood crime and safety meeting with the sheriff's department was in October 2020. (The Town of Woodside has a contract with the sheriff's department to provide police services to the town.)
• The closest churches to our neighborhood are the Valley Presbyterian Church, Christ Church (Episcopal) and Our Lady of the Wayside Church (Roman Catholic), all near each other on Portola Road. Christ Church is home to Carillon Preschool; Our Lady of the Wayside Church is part of the St. Denis Parish. Other nearby churches include Woodside Village Church and the Ladera Community Church (UCC). A little further away are St. Bede's Episcopal Church on Sand Hill Road, Bethany Lutheran Church near Alameda de las Pulgas, and Menlo Church and St. Raymond Catholic Church, both on Santa Cruz Avenue near Menlo Park's downtown. On the St. Raymond campus is a Catholic school with grades from junior kindergarten to 8th grade; St. Raymond also offers religious education for parishioners on Sunday mornings during the school year.
• AT&T cellular service can be spotty and is very property-dependent. Some AT&T customers use microcells or Wi-Fi calling. I've heard that T-Mobile is also spotty and Verizon and Google's Project Fi are better but don't have firsthand knowledge.
• Skywood homes are part of the Skywood Association. Annual dues are $200 for 2021 (these were finally increased after about two decades at $100 a year). The Skywood Association is responsible for maintaining neighborhood mailboxes and representing neighborhood interests at civic meetings. In my experience, the Association tends to be more of a valuable neighborhood social organization; it fortunately does not police house color, design, or noise or anything like that.
• The automated gate connecting Skywood Way to Skyline Boulevard across a private easement purchased by and administered by the Skywood Association is operational. The gate license fee is $2,500 for residents of the Skywood Acres and Still Creek neighborhoods who would like to have another way in and out of our neighborhood. About 80 percent of our neighborhood purchased a license. The gate license fee is optional.
• Because Skywood is in the town of Woodside, we're in the Woodside Fire Protection District, along with Portola Valley, Emerald Hills, and Ladera. But our nearest fire station is the CalFire station directly across the street from our neighborhood, which is great because firefighters and paramedics can respond immediately to any emergency. Woodside Fire and CalFire have an agreement to cooperate when responding to calls in our neighborhood. The gate connecting Skywood to Skyline across the private easement has Knox boxes for access by emergency vehicles. (The CalFire station is operated by CalFire under contract with San Mateo County, which owns the land and the buildings.)
• Here's Woodside Fire's October 2018 map of CERPP regions. We're in division 19. Here's Woodside Fire's evacuation plan for the town of Woodside, and the evacuation plan for the town of Portola Valley in case of emergencies.
• You should pay $20 to the SSA to qualify for a fuel discount from most providers. Here's how.
Children @ Skywood
If you're living in the Skywood neighborhood with children, or think you might be someday, here are some tips:
• Homes in our neighborhood are in the Portola Valley School District (though of course you should double-check your property to make sure). Ormondale offers a junior kindergarten as well as K through 3rd grades. Kindergarten is half-day through February and full-day for the remainder of the school year. An on-site aftercare program called New Horizons provides optional child care every day, for a fee, until 6pm. Corte Madera is the public middle school. Woodside High is the public high school. If you send your children to Ormondale or Corte Madera, you should check out the website and join the PTO.
• In 2018, voters approved Measure Z, a bond measure that will spend up to $49.5 million to upgrade the classrooms and other buildings at Ormondale and Corte Madera. It raises property taxes in our neighborhood, and other neighborhoods inside the boundaries of the school district, by $30 per $100,000 of assessed value (not market value) every year. Here's the school district's FAQ on Measure Z. If you're 65 years or older, fill out this form to request an exemption from school district property taxes.
• In March 2019, S&P rated the Portola Valley School District's bonds as AA+, a step below the highest AAA rating, saying: "The district serves an affluent residential area in the mountains above Silicon Valley and 37 miles south of San Francisco. Its median household effective buying income is among the highest among districts with debt that we rate, at 296% of the national level... We understand that land use restrictions make growth unlikely but, based on a state constitutional restriction on assessed valuation (AV) growth to 2% per year without a sale, we think the district's $5.4 billion AV likely understates market value to a substantial degree... Exposure to potential parcel tax revenue loss if voters do not approve a renewal, although we understand that the district has clearly identified which services the parcel tax funds and would be in a position to cut back on such services should it lose this funding...."
• There's a bus on school days, the 85 bus, with a stop at the intersection of Skywood Way and 84 at the midpoint of our neighborhood, and another stop on route 84 at the intersection of 35 at the top of our neighborhood. The 85 bus stops at Portola Valley's Corte Madera middle school and Ormondale elementary school and runs in the morning and afternoon. Some neighborhood children take the bus pretty much every day, especially to return home on Wednesday afternoons when school gets out at noon.
• Nearby private schools west of I-280 are the Woodland School in Ladera (preschool through 8th grades) and Woodside Priory (6th through 12th grades). I'm told there's a bus that leaves from Woodside Road and I-280 to the Nueva School in Hillsborough. Some children attend St. Raymond Catholic Elementary School (junior kindergarten through 8th grade) and Sacred Heart, both near the border between Menlo Park and Atherton.
• Preschools, starting with the closest to our neighborhood, include: Windmill School, Carillon Preschool-Christ Church, Grove Academy Preschool, Woodside Preschool (at Woodside Elementary School), Woodside Parents Nursery School, Woodland School, Ladera Community Church preschool, Trinity School in Menlo Park, University Heights Montessori Children's Center, Littlest Angels Preschool, Menlo Church Kirk House Preschool.
• If you don't have a pool, your nearest and cheapest option is Ladera Rec, which is 15 minutes away in normal traffic. As of 2018, Ladera Rec has a $980 individual annual membership fee, a $1,925 family annual membership fee, and a $15 per person fee to visit if you are not a member. But Ladera Rec does not have a year-round pool; it closes for the season in October. If you know someone living in Ladera, chances are you'll see them at Ladera Rec in the summer.
• If you want year-round swimming, you might want to get a job at Stanford to use their pool. Otherwise your closest options are Ladera Oaks and Alpine Hills. Both are proprietary clubs, meaning there's a fixed number of memberships. If you want to join, wait until someone leaves, and then buy in at the then-current rate (when I took a tour of Alpine Hills, there was a one-year expected wait). If you want to leave, you get back something like 80 percent of the fee paid when your successor buys in; once you join, you may find yourself suggesting higher initiation fees. Both Ladera Oaks and Alpine Hills offer lots of services, including year-round pools, exercise rooms with machines and free weights, social events, and a summer-only cafe (Ladera Oaks) or a year-round restaurant with mandatory monthly minimum purchases (Alpine Hills). Alpine Hills membership seems to be mostly Portola Valley and PVSD, while Ladera Oaks draws from Menlo Park as well.
• Children at Ladera Oaks and Alpine Hills compete in a summer swim league with Stanford, Palo Alto's University Club, Palo Alto's Foothills Tennis and Swimming Club, and Los Altos Hills' Fremont Hills Club. This swim league is called the Peninsula Swim Association (PSA) and is open only to children who are proprietary members (full members, not associate members) of those clubs. The year-round swim league, part of USA Swimming, is open to non-members.
• Swim instruction is available at Ladera Oaks and Alpine Hills in half-hour increments. You don't have to be a member to sign up for swimming lessons, though you will pay about 15 percent more.
• Some after-school activities include French lessons in Ladera given by the Education Française Bay Area and the Bay Area Martial Arts Academy in Portola Valley. Many children in the neighborhood play in the fall AYSO soccer league, which is run by volunteer parents, with games at fields including Ormondale and Portola Valley Town Center. A year-round soccer option is Alpine Strikers. The local scout troop for Woodside and Portola Valley is Troop 64. There's talk of creating a Trail Life troop (unlike Boy Scout troops, Trail Life troops are open only to boys).
• Summer camps west of I-280 include the well-regarded Mountain Camp Woodside in Portola Valley (both a day camp starting at rising kindergarten ages and, for older children, an overnight camp), the Decathlon Camp at Woodside Elementary School, Art & Games Summer Camp, Ladera Oaks day camp, Camp Ladera, Camp Alpine, Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory's camp, Cool Coyotes Kids Camp, and Portola Valley's Spring Down equestrian camp. On the east side of I-280, there are many, many camps in Menlo Park and Palo Alto--too many to list here. Some popular ones include Legarza basketball camp, Stanford's Camp Cardinal, Stanford's iD Tech camp, and Camp Galileo (the closest location to our neighborhood is in Menlo Park on Santa Cruz Avenue). There's also a Stanford swimming camp.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ELECTRICIANS, TREE TRIMMING, AND MORE
These are companies or individuals who I've used for work in the past, or other neighbors have recommended.
Asphalt: Blacktop Paving in Redwood City
Decks: Sierra Lumber and Fence in San Jose (ask for Mauro)
Electricians: Foley Electric, Adary.
Landscaping (drainage, fencing, planting) and brush clearing: Octavio Curiel
Plumbers: Purple Plumbers, EJ Plumbing, Regina Plumbing, Larratt Plumbing, Guy Plumbing
Car repairs and maintenance: Ron Ramies in Portola Valley (they will drive your vehicle, with your permission, for pickups and dropoffs)
Tree removal and trimming: King's Mountain Tree Service (ask for Kenny)
The Woodside Fire Department offers free wood chipping service. Place your brush, small tree limbs, and branches with diameters up to 8″ in a pile near the road, and it will be chipped for you at no cost. The chipping dates for our neighborhood tend to be in the fall.