Reunions can be fraught with anxiety, or with great expectation. Childhood friendships may continue for decades, or end the moment the graduate steps across the stage, marking the end of one segment of life, and the beginning of a new one. A recent trip to my husband’s high school class reunion was a case in point. Many decades after graduation, old classmates gathered to reminisce about favorite classes, teachers, and sports victories, and catch up on fascinating careers. It appeared that time and distance had melted away, and a neighborhood gathering of friends had begun.
Although separated by a continent, Santa Clara County (Palo Alto) and Fairfax County share many similarities. Both are highly educated, wealthy communities, with diverse populations, high housing costs, and traffic congestion. An article in the local paper revealed a 1928 bungalow, owned by one family for 70 years, with two bedrooms and one bath, on a 7600 square foot corner lot — sold for $2.9 million! My husband’s boyhood home, purchased for $17,000 in 1946, and with recent renovations, is valued at $3 million plus. When I asked how people could afford to live there, the response was “well, you have to understand how much people make here.”
Many people do not make that much and cannot afford to live there. Driving past the Stanford Stadium, I counted more than four dozen campers parked along the public street. Tailgate party, perhaps? No, the campers are where some workers live/sleep during the week, only going home on the weekends. The vehicles are supposed to move every three days, but it was pretty apparent that many rarely do. Local residents don’t like it, but also acknowledge understanding of the reason for it.
Bicycles and bike paths are on nearly every street, and well-used. Hundreds of high school students ride bikes to school (there are no school buses) and I saw entire families on bikes, carrying packages across the back fender. With gasoline prices approaching $3.99 a gallon, it’s no wonder that human-powered transportation is so popular! Some streets have a “road diet” that provides a buffer between motor vehicles and pedestrians/cyclists. At an un-signalized intersection, two sturdy white bollards are placed about six feet apart, with bright white rounded discs placed on the roadway between them. The high visibility buffer allows vehicular turns, and provides an extra measure of safety for bike and walkers, at what appears to be a reasonable cost.
Hanging a “U” turn is highly controlled; nearly every signalized intersection has a left turn arrow that remains red most of the time. U turns are permitted only when the red arrow turns green, reducing accidents, but adding to the frustration of waiting for the signal to change. Street signs could use some lessons from Fairfax County. Narrow brown or golden signs with white lettering are hard to see in the daytime, and impossible at night. Give me bright reflective street signs any time!
Santa Clara County and Fairfax County both are highly desirable communities, and they share many positive assets. They also are home to millions, and while it was nice to visit, I agree with Dorothy Gale (even without ruby slippers): “There’s no place like home.”
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.