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Along Mountain View’s streets of Monta Loma—where Eichlers spark a kinship with Likelers
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Not everyone likes that Monta Loma has been serving as a test track for Nuro and Waymo self-driving cars.

Over the years the neighborhood—which has included city council people like Jim Cochran, and members of the school board, including Joan MacDonald—got the city to build an underpass beneath rail tracks after one neighbor was killed at a nearby rail crossing, and turned out dozens of volunteers to convert a city-owned lot into a playground.

"The neighborhood built Thaddeus Park," Cochran says. For that 1972 project, a bare triangle of dirt that borders the neighborhood was turned into a playground with a grassy area, trees, and low berms.

Currently the association and residents are dickering with the school district to prevent the park at Monta Loma Elementary from being fenced off during school hours—or at least to ensure an attractive fence if their efforts fail.

But over the years no piece of dirt has presented more problems than a site at one corner of the neighborhood, where a series of proposed and sometimes completed developments have outraged, and pleased as well, residents since the mid-1960s. That's when Mayfield Mall arrived.

"Originally that area was a truck farm," says Marilyn Gildea. "And when it was turned into a shopping mall everyone said 'ohhh, this is going to be terrible.' And the shopping mall came in and people loved it.

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Longtime Eichler owner Alan Whitaker's living room and kitchen.

"And then it was going to be turned into HP [offices for Hewlett-Packard], and every one said 'ohhh, this is going to be terrible.'" HP did end up building a facility.

"'So when HP was going to move out, and [high-density housing] was going to move in," Marilyn continues, "'ohhh, this is going to be terrible.'"

The dense housing never was built.

"Then when Google was going to move in," she says, "everyone said 'ohhh, this is going to be terrible.' Same thing over and over again."

Google, which opened on the Mayfield Mall site five years ago, has proven on the whole to be a good neighbor. There is even a Monta Loman who serves as liaison, ferrying complaints if too many Googlers park on local streets.

The site is home to what Google calls X and what most call GoogleX, "where they do some of their more experimental stuff," Tom Purcell says. Google threw a celebration, inviting neighbors to test-drive their robot cars.

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Alan Whitaker (above) recalls when "there were a lot of protests in the neighborhood" when one family planned to remodel their Eichler as a two-story.
 

Waymo, like Google a subsidiary of Alphabet, uses neighborhood streets for test runs of the robot cars, always with a human aboard.

Heather Schoell says, "Some think self-driving cars are the wave of the future, and how cool is it to be part of it? And some people, it just drives them crazy to be a guinea pig at Google's mercy."

"They were literally filling the neighborhood with their self-driving cars," Sonya Rikhtverchik says. "If you were driving on San Antonio [Road] in the middle of the night when there were few other cars there, you were surrounded by self-driving cars!"

 

 

• Monta Loma is bordered by San Antonio Road to the west, West Middlefield Road to the north, Rengstorff Avenue to the east, and Central Express to the south.

Photography: Sabrina Huang, Dave Weinstein, Apollinaris Schoell