Bike Town Charm: University Estates - Davis - Page 3

Attention to function, not fashion, helps to preserve the Davis neighborhood's 400 Strengs

Rik Keller, a city planner, and Valerie Calegari, who helps the Sacramento Valley Conservancy preserve open space, painted the wall between their kitchen and living area—the wall that so many remove—a deep red, plan to replace an inappropriate door, but otherwise plan no significant changes to the architecture.

They're design savvy but, like the folks who first moved into the neighborhood in the 1960s and '70s, the architecture was not their first consideration.

Like so many newcomers, Rik and Valerie have young children, Rowan and Una, and were attracted by the schools. The local schools have some of the best scores in a city that itself has some of the best scores in the state.

As in many mid-century neighborhoods that have seen first-generation owners grow gray, University Estates is again filling with basketball hoops and kiddie pools.

views of university estates families enjoying the out of doors

Rik knew the neighborhood from his childhood because his father moved the family to town briefly while pursuing academic research. Last year, looking to move back, they wanted to find a kid-friendly neighborhood. "We were driving around, trying to find where the kids were in Davis," Rik says. "I thought I was going to be arrested for stalking."

Still, buying modern was a major consideration, Rik says. Newer neighborhoods had more children than University Estates. "But that was not what we wanted," Rick says. "We wanted an older neighborhood with a modern house that had some kids around."

Fordham and Notre Dame, both U-shaped courtyards, are again abuzz with children. On Fordham children play outside without fear of traffic. "We're a quiet street off a quiet connector off a quiet connector," Wild says.

A handful of long-timers adds to Fordham's cohesiveness. Is there a neighborhood association? Yes there is, Marilyn Herrmann pipes up, "The Hacketts." She means Wes and Ida Hackett, who first moved to Fordham when the homes were new. Ida explains what makes the neighborhood work: "We feel an affinity for each other."

On Fordham, Ida keeps updating her neighborhood map, showing who lives in what house, and tries to get to know everybody. Wes, a retired professor of horticulture, has turned his large backyard into an urban farm—complete with chickens. A recent weekend saw his canning 14 quarts of tomatoes.

On Notre Dame neighbors throw a block party every year, and enjoy la vie Parisienne in Jeanie Sherwood's carport, thanks to a mural by local artist Morgan Wright. "I invited everybody to come to the Cafí Splendide," Sherwood says. "It's a great party spot."

Melody Matthews and her husband Nathan Goedde, who have two daughters, say the court fills up with young and old in the cool of the evening, when the Delta breezes waft through. Kids bike and skate and play while parents relax. "We go out in the evening and have some drinks and talk, and the big kids will take care of the little kids," she says. "It's a little village here."

university estates family

"There aren't that many cars on the street, and there are a bunch of kids around," their daughter Kelly says, "so you always have somebody to play with." Not surprisingly, many people in the neighborhood work for the university. In the old days, it was almost everyone.

That makes for some interesting neighbors, including Jim Snyder and Wendy Jones, denizens of Notre Dame, whose modern living room is furnished with antiques, including a chair that started life in a French monastery. An immense two-handled saw attached to the chimney attests to Jim's days as a National Parks trail crew leader and historian.

Both Jim and Wendy love books. Jim's collections of memoirs, geological and botanical tomes, and planning documents about the Sierra Nevada, piled high, would rival Half Dome. Wendy, a book conservator at the university library, prefers 'Pride and Prejudice,' which she owns in every language and in classics comics form.

And, true to the city's logo, University Estates is also a neighborhood of bicyclists, with many residents biking to the university or downtown. Leonard Herrmann, a professor of civil engineering and an original owner from 1966, says he's logged 66,000 miles on his bike, mostly commuting. Wild says he's put in 4,000 miles on his bike in the past two-and-a-half years.

four university estates scenes

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