We’d never lived in an apartment complex before coming to California. When we first arrived we started looking at ordinary houses but we couldn’t find one we really liked. Then we thought we might as well look at the many apartments along the Sandhill Road because they are so close to the campus. We were shown two different ones at Oak Creek and liked them both, but one seemed to be in a better position and we decided straightaway to take it. It was clean, light and airy. The only drawback was that it was unfurnished.
This is not a great problem in Palo Alto as IKEA is just at the end of University Avenue. You can buy everything you need and for a good price, and they will deliver it the next day. If we had had more time we could have looked for furniture on Craig’s List or from garage sales, but we wanted to get set up as quickly as possible.
We chose the Oak Creek Apartments for the location near the campus and the facilities. The grounds are beautiful and very well kept. You pay the price for this by having quite a lot of noise from the lawn mowers and leaf blowers which seem to be used most days. I would say noise is the worst aspect of apartment living. We were lucky enough to be on the top floor but the walls are very thin and we could hear the people in the adjacent flat snoring and sneezing! We had quite a lot of noise from the people below us as well. They had a piano, which seemed like it was in the room with us when they played it. We were also unlucky with other neighbours who loved to have late night (until 4am) parties once a week at least. Each apartment block has its own washing machines and dryers. You have to buy a card to use these and each wash costs $1.50 or so. But it is quick, it only takes about 30 minutes for a wash. Each apartment gets two car parking spaces, one under cover. The Stanford bus ‘the SLAC’ stops just outside and runs every 20 minutes during the day but be aware that it can come early as well as late!
However, the facilities made up for a lot of this. There are five swimming pools which are not used very much. The main one is heated all year and it really is warm, even in the winter. There is a gym with modern equipment and several exercise classes, yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics and general work outs, which are all included in the rent. Also a sauna and Jacuzzi. There is also a small movie room where they show recently released movies every week. There is space for about 30 people per screening but it is rare for more than 10 people to attend. There are also three tennis courts. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a tennis racquet, you can borrow them from the club but you will need to buy some balls, unless you can find any lying around the grounds! Also a sort of jogging trail which follows the line of the creek which forms the back boundary of the site.
The clubhouse also plays host to a Sunday breakfast and other events during the week. There are magazines and newspapers, tea and coffee, a photo copier and fax machine. All free. There are BBQs to use and also organised BBQs where you can bring your own meat to cook, every Sunday in the summer.
Oak Creek is well organised. There are over 700 apartments but the strange thing is that you don’t see that many people as you walk around so never feel you are living in an overcrowded environment. If something breaks down the maintenance people are nice and generally things get fixed very quickly.
One word about the rules. If you rent an apartment you have to sign that you will obey all the rules and you have to initial specific rules to show that you have read them and accept them. You will find that these all have to do with protecting the management from being liable to prosecution. The other rules which might affect you, don’t seem to matter,e.g noise from other residents, musical instruments etc. There was a ‘no pets’ rule when we were there and in fact Oak Creek used this as a selling point but it is totally disregarded by anyone who wants a cat or dog. Maybe you won’t mind this.
When it was time to leave, we sold most of our furniture etc to other residents who were just arriving. It was advertised through the Oak Creek newspaper which comes out once a month. Maybe because we arrived and left at the end of August but we could have sold some things several times over, so don’t worry that you will be left with stuff, I don’t think you will.
I enjoyed my time at Oak Creek despite the drawbacks. On the whole the benefits outweighed our frustrations. But you must decide for yourself. I hope this helps you make up your mind.
Chris who lived in Menlo Park and is now back in London