Dani Malik will never forget driving towards Castro Valley from her home in San Francisco's edgy yet chic South of Market neighborhood. She was considering moving to this lightly bucolic, very homey, and slightly homely East Bay suburb, a sprawling unincorporated town that, to the general public, lacks cachet.
It was a glum day, she recalls, and rainy. But the clouds parted and she spied "a rainbow in the sky arcing right into the Greenridge neighborhood."
"This," she thought, "is a sign."
Dani and her husband Jim Reed weren't the first youngish, hip San Franciscans to make the move to Joe Eichler's Greenridge development in the Castro Valley hills. Her friend Thomas Westfall, the agent who was showing her the home, had moved there in 2007 with his wife Andria Tay, who'd hesitated when her husband first suggested the move.
"Her first response was, 'Where's Castro Valley?'" Westfall recalls. "It's in the middle of everywhere," he responded.
And if Castro Valley is little known, so too is Greenridge, approximately 185 homes built along a ridge from 1960 to 1965 from plans by Jones & Emmons and Claude Oakland.
During the six years he's lived in the neighborhood, which is often called 'the Hill,' Mark Yin has seen more young families like his own move in, many with young children. "It's a resurgence," he says.
"You always see a house being worked on and the work is in a positive way," says Steven Cavalieri, a three-year resident whose wife, Winnie Wong, gave birth to their son two weeks after moving in. "Most aesthetic changes are relevant to the '60s Eichler look."
Among those hard at work are Scott and Mona San Filippo, also émigrés from San Francisco attracted by their friends Thomas and Andria.
The San Filippos, whose Eichler had been bastardized into a quasi-French Provincial, had to rip their home to its studs and remove a large storage space that had been shoehorned into the gable-end of their atrium.
Rather than fret because their original mahogany siding had been destroyed by paint, they restored their home's luster by bringing in new mahogany with beautifully figured grain.
Not every recent newcomer qualifies as young in the strictest sense of the term. Barbara Eandi has emerged as Greenridge's latest firebrand, hosting events, going as retro as any dewy-eyed youngster by filling her home with modern and Art Deco furnishings, and promoting the neighborhood.
"That's because Barbara is really in her 20s," says her husband, Dick.
Kristi Bascom, who arrived with her family four years ago, brags about her neighbors -- landscape architects, designers, musicians, and wizards of high tech. "What I enjoy about living here, the people attracted to these houses tend to be more creative, just a little more -- I don't know -- I just find very interesting neighbors."
Kristi is a city planner. Steven Cavalieri is a graphics designer; Winnie Wong designs 'user interfaces' for our favorite electronic devices. Thomas was once in music marketing (groups like Radiohead, Sublime), and Andria is an entertainment marketing executive. Dani is an interactive designer for all things digital. Jim is a creative director in advertising. Mark is a landscape architect whose work has included Disney theme parks worldwide.
It's interesting that Kristi finds her neighbors interesting -- because Greenridge, remote and little known as it is, has always been known for people who are interesting -- scientists, educators, activists, musicians.
Just a few years ago, one leader of the neighborhood association, when asked about the makeup of the neighborhood, bragged about just how 'interesting' the old-timers were. Wendy Bisset did add, graciously enough, that "some of the younger people are almost as interesting."
Newcomers to mid-century modern neighborhoods often face such familiar challenges as restoring a neighborhood's architectural luster or reigniting its communal vibe.