Cozy, Cordial & Cooperative - Page 2

Palo Alto’s Meadowcreek Eichler condos—where tight quarters make for a tight-knit community vibe
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Claire and Tom Spahn in their patio, which looks Eichler-like in every way.

But to create and maintain a good group requires attracting only what Nancy calls "somebody perfect."

"If people sell, they are very particular about who they're bringing into the association," Nancy says.

What makes a Meadowcreeker perfect?

Someone who's "not so private, I'd have to say," Rania hazards. "Your next-door neighbor is really your next-door neighbor. You hear a lot of stuff. Our kid plays viola and practices. Some people are up late at night and like to vacuum at midnight."

"People who are a little more rigid," she says, "may not like to live here."

That's where Jim Dougherty, Sharon's husband, steps in.

"Jim is part of the pre-approval process," Vijnan says, joking. But it is true that Jim keeps tabs on comings and going in Meadowcreek. He encountered Tom Spahn and his wife, Claire, a pharmacy student from Ireland, when they were first scoping out the neighborhood. Apparently he gave them the nod, and they quickly became part of the scene.

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The remodeled kitchen of Ben Tran and Rianne Lu.

"Within one day of living here, we knew everybody," Tom says.

A few days later they attended the Halloween party, with pumpkins donated by one couple and carving knives flying.

"It's a real community vibe here, starting as soon as you move in," Claire says.

Meadowcreek is special in another way—in a high-priced town like Palo Alto, where starter homes go for $1 million-plus and where Eichlers in Greenmeadow can go for $1.6 million, the $600-$700,000 price tags for these condos seem a bargain. "Everything else was so out of our price range," Tom says.

Thirteen of the units are two-bedroom, four one-bedroom. The one-bedroom homes separate bedroom from living area by a sliding pocket door that's half the width of the wall, opening the bedroom onto the living room for more living space as needed.

No one has lived in Meadowcreek longer than the Doughertys. Jim arrived as a renter when the place, then called Greenmeadow Apartments, first opened in 1961. At the time he worked as advertising manager for Eichler Homes—though not on this complex. For a while he and Joe Eichler lunched every day, Jim recalls.

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Meadowcreek is a neighborhood that knows how to carry on together. Like the fall pool scene here, residents regularly gather for food, drink, swimming, and camaraderie.

"Hey, that's California living," Jim thought the first time he visited an Eichler home. "That's what I want. It had this Eames chair in red leather, and I said, 'that's for me.'" He says this today while sitting in his own Eames chair—in black leather.

Jim stayed a year at Greenmeadow Apartments, worked in Orange County when Eichler built there, became a lawyer, and returned to the Bay Area with his flight attendant wife, whom he'd met skiing.

When one of the units in the complex, which went condo in 1971, suddenly became available in 1976, Jim bought it—while Sharon was overseas.

"I just bought an Eichler in Palo Alto and we're moving in Friday," he told her by phone. "It didn't bother her. She was used to packing and unpacking."

Greenmeadow Apartments was Eichler's first venture into apartments, or multi-family housing in general, Jim says. They were followed soon after by two similar projects nearby.