Cozy, Cordial & Cooperative - Page 3

Palo Alto’s Meadowcreek Eichler condos—where tight quarters make for a tight-knit community vibe
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Tom Spahn counters noise by installing new insulation as his neighbors look on curiously.

Maybe the friendliness that one finds in Meadowcreek is a virtue-out-of-necessity thing. Maybe it's become a tight-knit community because the homes are squeezed in so tightly, as though some giant reached down from the sky, grabbed a bunch of standalone Eichlers, and squeezed them all together. Maybe people act friendly just so they won't fight.

It is, after all, easier to excuse a little noise, Susan says, when you know and like the noisemaker.

But it hasn't always been such an easygoing spot. In the past, Jim remembers, "We had three or four owners who objected to everything…It was a knock-down, drag-out fight."

"One woman, no matter what anybody wanted to do, was against it," he said.

"One woman," Sharon says, "she moved in and told us right away from the beginning, you're not going to like me."

"I had to kick one person out of a meeting. That's not like me," Sharon says. "He was out of line."

But the neighborhood, and most of the neighbors, survived. Meadowcreek today remains "tucked away and cozy," in Rania's words, hidden from a busy Alma Street thoroughfare, by a fence and shrubbery.

The interface with Alma presents Meadowcreek with its biggest problems. Besides the traffic, which residents can avoid by using what Vijnan calls "an escape route" through Greenmeadow, there is noise.

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Meadowcreek has some concerns over noise, including what comes from nearby Caltrain.

"The biggest joke right now is the arguing teenage couple behind our house walking by on Alma," Jenny says.

And just past Alma is Caltrain—nice because you can walk to the station in a few minutes, but noisy for those units that back onto Alma.

It may get worse. Plans call for the California High-Speed Rail project to run along those tracks. Running it through a trench would be fine, Jim suggests, but not running atop a berm.

"I don't think it will ever be built," Tom suggests. Rania sees the benefits. "We should have one," she says of a high-speed route. "It's a crime we don't have one in this country."

Alma is a bother in another way. "Since 1973, we have been after the city to landscape the dirt strip along Alma," Sharon says. Nancy has called many times, getting promises and excuses. "This is the entrance to Palo Alto," Sharon adds. "We volunteered to do the landscaping if they put water in."

If the city took a closer look at Meadowcreek, they might take Sharon up on the offer. Much of the neighborhood's beauty is due to her and Nancy's handiwork.

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Meadowcreek is a fun place for kids, as (L-R) Gemma Shastri, Corbin Platti, Miles Adle, and Maura Quigley agree.

"I think it's the trees for me. The greenery," Rania says, explaining the appeal of the neighborhood. "It just draws you in."

Sharon, who is known for quick work with her pruning shears, thinned out Meadowcreek's olive trees, which had been sculpted into artistic shapes. "They looked so dated."

Since then, she's spurred a resurgence in maples. "If somebody asks, I'll say, let's do a maple tree, Japanese maple," she says. "There are so many varieties—nice red ones, big leaf, small leaf. Maybe I spent too many years in Japan."

Just over a decade ago, when it was time to refresh the facades, the neighbors replaced the entire front fencing using select heart redwood, and put in red metal front doors.

The association's attention to appearance was brought home to Vijnan and Rania shortly after they arrived and parked their bikes in their carport—despite a rule that says nothing goes into carports but cars.

"We were reminded of the rules in a polite way," Rania says.