City on a Hill - Page 5

Joe Eichler’s tower and co-op at San Francisco’s Laguna Heights are holding up well 50 years after their debut as model neighborhoods
Forty-year resident Angela Little.

Though many people who live at the tower are part-time residents, most are permanent. And even the part-timers become part of the community, Normandy says.

Still, since the building lacks heavily used common spaces, people tend to build friendly, nodding acquaintances more than deep friendships, some say.

The tower has an outdoor deck, though it’s generally too windy to use. A large, ground-level outdoor area with basketball courts and play structures gets some use, mostly by the half dozen families with children in the building, says Aron Squires, who’s raising two daughters there with his wife.

When the elevators were improved and made speedier a few years back, people applauded, says Cheng. But it also cut into time people spent chatting. “It’s kind of taken away from the homey atmosphere of the building,” he says.

In the low-rises, many people know everyone who lives in their building, neighbors say. In the old days though, Damele says, things were looser. Thelma’s teenage daughter—and Thelma herself—would sunbathe in the communal courtyard, which was also the site of holiday parties and casual get-togethers.

“Parties in the courtyard, that was magic,” Mullins says. “I don’t know why we stopped doing it.”

When Flick arrived, she quickly learned that the Laguna low-rises were a friendly place. “You came to us,” Maxwell Gillette recalls, with a laugh, “‘Do you have any ice? I’m having martinis and I don’t have any ice.’” They soon became great friends.

Angela Little, who’s lived there since 1972 and is in her 90s, says she feels secure because her neighbors watch out for her. “People take care of each other,” she says.


Photos: David Toerge, Ernie Braun, Gordon Peters, Clement A. Mullins; and courtesy San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland + Imada, Colleen Mullins