Things change. Get over it.
When I first moved here, Los Altos was a group of upscale housing tracts thrown up amid vast apricot orchards, each home a one-story ranch house boasting a gabled roof, two-car garage and a remnant apricot tree or two. The front yards were set off with split-rail fences covered with fence roses or English ivy, and had velvety green lawns suitable for setting up croquet hoops or badminton nets.
The apricot trees have died off, the one-story ranchers are being scraped one by one in favor of two-story mock-Tudors or mock-Mission or mock-modern homes with an extra garage for an RV, and the lawns are being replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. Things have changed.
When I first moved here, Los Altos Hills was a scattering of older farmhouses and former summer cottages, with large lots suitable for corralling a horse. Equestrian trails bordered the two-lane roads or cut between houses on recognized rights-of-way. Children rode school buses across the railroad tracks to schools in the flatlands.
The farmhouses are being replaced one by one with mansions that fill the large lots up to the setback requirements. The horse corrals have morphed into vanity vineyards. The equestrian trail I rode on has been replaced by an eight-lane freeway, the railroad tracks are overlain by a four-lane expressway, and there are no school buses. Things have changed.
Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were designed as white-collar bedroom communities, providing shelter for families whose breadwinners were working locally (nearly all my teachers lived in Los Altos, within a short distance of the schools) or in nearby businesses spun off from Stanford University (for example, Varian) or related to the military (for example, Lockheed).
It was assumed, if anyone thought about it, that our gardeners and gas station attendants would be living in blue-collar communities such as Mountain View or Redwood City or East Palo Alto. In four years of my high school education, there was only one Black student at Los Altos High School, and she was a senior who graduated the year I entered as a freshman. A quick rundown of last names in my graduating class shows, out of 500, only two Mexican surnames, four Japanese surnames and zero Chinese surnames. It was understood that El Camino Real, which divided attendance at Los Altos High from Mountain View High, was also the dividing line between white-collar and blue-collar families. There was no idea that a city zoned mostly for single-family housing with off-street parking was exclusionary or practicing systemic racism. Things have changed.
We can’t turn back the clock. There’s no use in wallowing in nostalgia for a suburbia that no longer exists. Things have changed. Let’s do our best to deal with it.
Allyson Johnson is a longtime Los Altos resident. To read her blog, visit allysonjohnson.com.