Melting the Mystique - Page 4

Anshen and Allen's 1950s modern designs for an Eichler competitor unlock the mystery at Sunnyvale's Gavello Glen
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Gavello owner Wilma 'Willie' Wool and her kitchen and dining area.
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Gavello owner Sonia Dehazes at her dining room entry.

Gavello Glen has a great location too, a short walk to the region's spine, El Camino Real. It is also near Sunnyvale's lively old downtown, and close to popular Braly Park. There's even a nearby golf course.

The location comes with problems, however. Originally an orchard—'luxurious living among the trees' was an early ad slogan—today the homes sit among apartment houses, shopping centers, and tech firms. The Apple campus is nearby. Traffic is bad and as is expected to get worse.

But the neighbors are organized, and make their voices heard at City Hall. Indeed, when asked what's special about the neighborhood, it is each other that neighbors name first. Gavello Glen, they say, is friendly and well organized.

"Each street has its own mayor," says Jean Maa, a recent arrival.

"We call them the street walkers," because they keep tabs on their street, quips Phyllis Chrisman, a resident since 1979.

When Maa moved in she wondered what to do with her new home. "The houses are very unique," she says. "You have to figure out what you can do to enhance the character of the house."

Margaret Jungling, an original owner from 1956, arranged for Maa to visit seven homes in Gavello Glen to learn about them and get ideas.

The neighborhood association, which has well over 100 household members, puts on annual Christmas parties, an ice cream social in August, and a picnic in September that recently included dozens of families, a fire truck to admire, and visits from the city's K9 unit. The neighborhood donated funds to buy bulletproof vests for the police dogs.

In the old days, long-timers recall, the neighborhood's babysitting co-op was the glue that brought young moms together.

Hard partying played its part too in neighborhood cohesion. Sonia Dehazes recalls parties thrown by Gloria Maciel, Elmer's sister, as "always lots of fun, because the makeup of the neighborhood was pilots and architects and whatever. It was like Mad Men. The pilots were party people when they weren't flying."

Given its backstory, perhaps it's not surprising that Gavello Glen emerged as party central. The man behind the neighborhood, behind Elmer, was Pierino Gavello.

Pierino gained fame in the early 1940s for turning the old Barbary Coast along San Francisco's Pacific Street, which had become "a raucous hellhole," in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, into a more sedate restaurant, shop, and nightclub district he dubbed the 'International Settlement.'