Bike Town Charm: University Estates - Davis - Page 4

Attention to function, not fashion, helps to preserve the Davis neighborhood's 400 Strengs

And, true to the city's logo, University Estates is also a neighborhood of bicyclists, with many residents biking to the university or downtown. Leonard Herrmann, a professor of civil engineering and an original owner from 1966, says he's logged 66,000 miles on his bike, mostly commuting. Wild says he's put in 4,000 miles on his bike in the past two-and-a-half years.

four university estates scenes

The flipside of professors, of course, are students, and they too live in the neighborhood, as renters—not to everyone's satisfaction, however. "They don't act like they belong to a neighborhood," Wendy Jones says of some of their youthful neighbors. "They play basketball to two in the morning. Jim goes out and tells them, 'Please take it inside.'" Patty Mole, who lives on Fordham, has been woken up by parties on a neighboring roof.

No rules prevent people from making outrageous changes to the homes in University Estates. As in most Streng neighborhoods, Jim and Bill Streng set themselves up as the 'architectural committee,' but were never called upon to do anything, Bill says.

A walk through the neighborhood shows that most homes look pretty original—though many have lost the original garage doors that do so much to give the homes their unified look.

Even people in the neighborhood who most love the original architecture do not complain when neighbors change the homes. Also, because the neighborhood was architecturally mixed to begin with, changes do not stand out as they would in a place that's all modern. "Most changes have been in good taste," Bill Streng says. "There are no abominations."

Natalie Nelson, director of the nonprofit Pence Gallery downtown, and Christoffer Herner, a high school teacher, bought their home on Fordham a few years ago and appreciated how little it had been changed.

"Nobody bothered to do anything, which is a plus because there's not been a lot of work that we don't like," Herner says. "We plan to do some work ourselves, but we plan to stay true to the original. Who are we to argue with Carter Sparks?" The home has its original cabinets, fireplace and concrete aggregate interior entry.

"We like the house for the kids," Nelson says. "They wake up, the first thing they see is outside. They want to be outside, and they go outside. It's a beautiful way to live."

It also works for adults. At night, after the kids are asleep, she and Christoffer enjoy sitting outside by their redwood tree gazing, not at the moon, but at the glass wall of their house, glowing from within.


• University Estates is roughly bounded by Highway 113 on the west, Covell Boulevard on the north, not quite to Cornell Drive on the south, and Anderson Road on the east, with one section of the neighborhood extending east of Anderson, along Villanova Drive as far east as Oak Avenue, and on Georgetown, Caron, and Toyon places. Streng homes can also be found on other nearby streets, but, according to Bill Streng, they were not built as part of University Estates.

london style bus for students

Photos: David Toerge

• Thanks to realtor Kim Merrell Lamb of Coldwell Banker, who specializes in Davis Strengs, for introducing us to University Estates.