"It's a very family-oriented neighborhood," says Nil Erdal, a Coldwell Banker broker who specializes in Eichler homes in the area, and has brought many new families to the neighborhood. "People bike ride, they stroll, they walk to the nearby shopping area. And they get together to talk, a lot. Everybody knows each other and are very friendly."
The neighborhood has always been desirable, but has gotten even more so, Erdal says. A decade ago, Eichler homes generally sold for less than neighboring homes. Today, she says, they sell for more. And the buyers, she says, invariably "want to do things in the right way. I never sold a property in that neighborhood to someone who bought it not appreciating the Eichlers."
Neighborhood parties still enliven the scene, particularly on the Sheas' stretch of Trenton Avenue. "People say, 'you guys on the other end of Trenton are the real party animals,'" Suzanne says, attributing their Christmas-time get-togethers and summer barbecues to traditions established years back by earlier residents.
J.P. Ahopelto, who moved to the neighborhood in 2005 with his wife, Nina Hutteger, says they fell in love with Eichler homes in 2000 and were determined to live in one. "We finally got our Eichler," he says. The couple, native to Finland who have two young sons, enjoy the neighborhood parties, including an annual barbecue.
Socializing can be a challenge, however, says Gunsu Temirer, who runs a software firm with her husband Metim Ozen. "For business purposes, we love the location," she says. "You're close to pretty much every big company you could want." But the culture of Silicon Valley enforces long hours, so the couple rarely hangs out with neighbors.
"To give you an example, when I was pregnant with my son, my next-door neighbor was also pregnant. We had our children three days apart," Temirer says. "But we only found out when our husbands were out pushing the strollers. 'When did you have a baby?' 'When did you have a baby?' "
As in many modern neighborhoods, folks often discuss their houses. Rancho Verde, built in 1961 and 1962, is a mix of low-gable and flat-roofed models, and a few A-frames, virtually all with atriums. The architects behind the designs are Claude Oakland and Jones & Emmons. The neighborhood is remarkably intact, at least from the street, with unruly replacement doors being about the worst changes that can be spotted, in Roberta Bernstein's eyes.
Only one house has added a second-story addition—the one overlooking Jack and Jeannine Worstel's. But Jack Worstel says the impact is minimal because the addition faces them with "basically a blank wall."
Unlike some subdivisions, Rancho Verde is not rife with Eichler purists, Anna Scicinska says—though many homes are remarkably intact inside and out. Instead, she says, owners make "a conscious effort to modernize while keeping it tasteful."
Parker and Esperanza's home, with its white beams and ceiling, sunny beige walls, slate tile floor, and minimal furnishings, exemplifies the trend. "We don't like clutter, as you can probably tell," Parker says. About the makeover, he says, "We do get good reviews."
But what makes neighbors happiest is the resurgence of young families—who seem to pore in from every corner of the globe.
"Just among neighbors we know best, there are people from Belgium, China, the Netherlands, India, Korea, the UK, Israel, Switzerland, the Philippines, Finland, Thailand, Turkey and of course several from California and other parts of the U.S.," Suzanne Shea says. "There is also a complete spectrum of age ranges, from original owners in their 70s to late 80s to young families with toddlers."
"Interestingly," she adds, "people here are diverse in just about everything but livelihood. Most people here are scientists, mathematicians, engineers, architects, technical managers, and technical entrepreneurs."
At a recent birthday party for her daughter, Tanya Nigam and Peter Peuman hosted mothers and fathers from Finland, Germany, and China. Almost all were from the immediate Eichler neighborhood. Tanya herself is from India. Gunsu Temirer and Metim Ozen are natives of Turkey.
Wieland Holfelder, who's from Germany, says it's challenging being a continent away from his family. But his neighbors help. "Chuck and Patty," he says of the Wards, "are like our children's grandparents."
Photos: David Toerge; vintage photo courtesy Chuck & Patty Ward
• Rancho Verde is bordered on three sides by Mary Avenue, Ticonderoga Drive, and Pome Avenue; and to the south by a commercial area, another residential development, and the new development that border Fremont Avenue.