Hillside Haven - Page 5

For 100 Eichler owners, the good life is low-key living with big-time views high in the hills of Burlingame's Mills Estates
Burlingame Mills Estates
Original owners Donald and Sora Lei Newman at their atrium pond (today home to carp and turtles), their tradition of relaxation for the past 50 years.

"The area was all yellow sand and clay before the houses were built," Randy Danielian says.

"It was a subdivision," Randy's mother, Cora Harschel says. "When you drove in, you said, 'Wow, there is nothing here except the houses.'"

"Every tree that you see here," she says of her property, "we put in."

Today, the neighborhood is forested, portions heavily, and many views have been lost to trees. Many trees sprout from the middle of homes, growing happily in the atriums.

Cora's husband, the late Jonas Harschel, was the original sales manager of the subdivision, which opened to the public just at the time that President Kennedy was assassinated. Harschel has recalled closing up the sales office when he heard the distressing news.

When the neighborhood was young and filled with young families with children, there was a freedom that can only be imagined today. The Newmans recall their son clambering along the fence line that separated homes on Atwater Drive from homes fronting on Trousdale Drive.

Kids all played in 'the canyon,' now a city wilderness park. Kendall Chong recalls borrowing his dad's 22 to target-shoot cans there.

The adults had their entertainments as well. Sora Lei Newman remembers when one couple "had a hot tub and were nude in their hot tub. That was a big deal in the 1960s."

"A little bit risqué," Donald adds. "Not quite like Marin."

The Newmans could not help but notice one psycho-social characteristic that starkly separated the neighbors on Atwater who lived on the Eichler side of the street from those who lived in the normal houses.

Burlingame Mills Estates
Outside the Newmans' home.

"The people on this [Eichler] side of the street were getting divorced," Sora Lei says. "The people on the traditional side were not getting divorced."

Donald, who had intended to study the matter scientifically but never did, therefore declines to draw conclusions.

The 1970s touched the neighborhood in another way. Leo Ryan, one of the country's more crusading, liberal congressmen, a foe of seal hunters, Scientologists, and cruel prison wardens, who lived in an Eichler on Alcazar Drive, was murdered by members of the People's Temple while leading the delegation to Jonestown that preceded the mass suicides and murders there.

Instead of candy, Jackie Gray recalls, "[Ryan] gave out balloons on Halloween with his name on them. Needless to say, the kids were not thrilled."