Eichlers in Bloom

Clusters of tall trees and extensive trails define the peaceful 34-home enclave known as Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
In front of longtime owner Bob Deutscher's Eichler stands a magnificent Camphor tree, just one of the many towering trees found in Walnut Grove.
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
At home with Dan and Tami Sonnier, who've lived in their Eichler for nearly 30 years. Above: Out on a nearby trail with Dan and Tami.

If you're looking for an Eichler neighborhood that exemplifies togetherness, that exudes that 'Rah Rah, We Love Eichlers' spirit, the development once known as Walnut Grove is not it.

In fact, the name 'Walnut Grove'—reflecting the tract's pastoral roots in the East Bay suburb of Walnut Creek—has long been forgotten, even by folks who have lived there since it was nearly new.

On top of that, one of the streets that makes up the neighborhood is separated by a block from the other four, providing a challenge to neighborhood cohesiveness.

Joe Eichler encountered challenges too when he built Walnut Grove's 34 homes—one of his smallest and later tracts—just as the 1960s turned into the 1970s. "Eighty-six houses are now planned for or under construction on 10,000 sq. ft. or larger lots," the Walnut Grove brochure stated, calling the tract "the culmination of twenty years of extraordinary achievement in residential construction."

"It didn't turn out to be the big neighborhood that Eichler wanted," says Bob Deutscher, who's lived there since 1971.

The development, which folks today simply call "the Northgate Eichlers," after the name of the neighborhood that includes Northgate Park and Northgate High, is remarkable in many ways that have nothing to do with the missing 52 houses.

For one, virtually every house remains essentially intact from the outside, though a few show a tall protrusion here or there.

The tract possesses a lovely, peaceful outdoorsy feeling—though it's only two blocks from a busy commuter route, Ygnacio Valley Road—thanks to its tree canopy, most noticeably dozens of tall redwoods.

Many of the redwoods were planted early on by a landscape architect who lived in one of the Eichlers, Tom Baak. There are impressive groves on Clyde Drive, where Baak lived, and redwoods can be seen elsewhere, thanks to Baak's proselytizing. "He loved redwood trees," Deutscher says.

Deutscher says Baak gave him some landscaping advice, and it led Deutscher to planting a couple of redwoods in his own yard.

A few blocks away, another set of redwood trees was planted by an architect who lived in one of the Eichlers, says Audrey Gee, who grew up on the street and is now raising a family in her girlhood home. Audrey's parents planted the redwoods on her lot.

Mike Carthage and Joe Garcia, who have lived in the neighborhood six years, love seeing the redwoods from inside their atrium and appreciate their cooling shade during the summer.

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