Harmony in the Hills - Page 4

Oakland Eichlers’ historic charm inspiration for us all
Harmony in the Hills
Harmony in the Hills
Harmony in the Hills
Harmony in the Hills
Jeff and Mary Morelli (second photo from top), 22-year residents, redid their kitchen (third from top) to play up the modern. Jeff does it in another way too—with his collections of mid-century modern furnishings, collectables, and art he’s created out of vintage auto parts.
Harmony in the Hills
The neighborhood’s ‘Collected Rules’ supports preservation.

The association maintains a couple of areas of landscaping but has no community park. The neighborhood is walking distance from two wilderness parks, Leona Canyon Open Space and Chabot Regional Park.

Sequoyah Hills has always been family friendly, though the number of children had ebbed in recent years.

"There used to be 14 kids lined up at the school bus stop right by us going to Howard School," Mei Me Spaulding recalls.

Alfreda Abbott recalls the open spaces, many of which have since filled with houses. "The two boys loved it," she says. "They built forts and went out. My son Brian said there were always deer and wild turkeys."

Mei Mei remembers, "All the kids were out playing in the neighborhood and didn't come home till the streetlights came on."

It's not like that today. On an autumn Saturday the sun was shining but the streets were empty, even though new families are moving in.

Gordy Wray, who has two daughters with his wife, Theresa, notes three recent home sales among the Eichlers. "Original owners are moving out. We're seeing younger people replacing original owners," he says.

He notes that a Google shuttle bus picks commuters up every morning, just down the hill at a church. "That has allowed some new people to move in," he says.

Not only does Sequoyah Hills not have a local park where parents and kids can gather, it also doesn't have a local school where they can get to know each other.

Eichler's ads for the subdivision had promised that children "will attend classes in one convenient location." But today the Oakland school district uses a lottery for school placement. As a result, Theresa says, "there are 25 different elementary school options, including private and charter."

So parents arrange play dates and larger events—including a Halloween party on Shay Drive. "The whole goal was to meet families," Theresa says. The event featured a parade, potluck, games, and music. "Women were dancing to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,'" Alfreda says.

The homeowners association puts on several events during the year, including a summertime barbecue, and some neighbors say these events are the best way to meet their neighbors. Other people meet while walking dogs.

But compared to some mid-century tracts, where gatherings are frequent, Sequoyah Hills remains laid back.

"That's the thing about this neighborhood. You don't really know your neighbors very well," says Mary Morelli, who has lived in an Eichler since 1996 with her husband, Jeff Morelli, and two children. (They are not related to Lolita Morelli.)

Sandra Smith, a 17-year resident, says, "I know my neighbors. I don't know all of them by name."