Building Community in a Peninsula Tract

Eichler dogs
Even the dogs are part of the neighborly vibe in the Mountain View Eichler neighborhood once known as Grandmeadow. Photo by Rory Earnshaw

“It is by far the friendliest neigh­borhood I’ve lived in,” Joyce Yin says of her compact neighborhood of Eichler homes that is a short walk from downtown Mountain View. The tract, called Grandmeadow when it opened in 1972, is worth a visit as you will discover by reading ‘Grand Stand in Googletown’ in the new, summer ‘22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

“As trite as it sounds,” Joyce continues, “aside from the many features of an Eichler house that I can’t imagine living without, it is the people we live side by side with that make this house our home.”

The compact tract, which gets along fine these days without a name, is an array of 53 homes on lazy, looping streets and a few courts. It is one of the few Eichler tracts with streets named for the builder: Eichler Street and Eichler Court.

Nice Eichler house
The homes in the neighborhood are almost uniformly well preserved, with a few modern touches, like a 21st century door here and there. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Homes were designed by Claude Oakland & Associates and include atrium and gallery models. One of the homes, on a large lot and built as a semi-custom for a friend of Joe Eichler’s, recently sold for more than $3 million.

Many Eichler, Streng, and other mid-century modern neighborhoods are known for their social cohesiveness, often abetted by a shared interest in the architecture and modern style. But in every neighborhood, sociability plays out a bit differently.

The layout of the Grandmeadow tract adds to its sociability, says Barbara Burbach, a resident since 1983 whose late husband was an original buyer. “It’s easier to get to know your neighbors because [the tract] is a U-shaped thing,” she says.

Neighbors also say much of the current friendliness is due to longtime owners Marc Shaw and Laura Ackerman-Shaw. (Laura happens to be the daughter of mid-century modern royalty; her parents were famed artists Jerry and Evelyn Ackerman.)

Marc and Laura
Marc Shaw and Laura Ackerman-Shaw, on the right, entertain neighbors Peter Stahl and Janet Sloan. The Shaws are known for helping organize social events. Photo by Rory Earnshaw

Marc and Laura do much to pull people together, through social events, an annual neighborhood gathering, managing the email tree, and even just walking their dogs. That pulls in other dog owners; so much so, Joyce Yin says, that neighborhood dogs regard themselves as a pack.

“Marc is just a pleasant, communicative guy,” says resident Frank Tripiano, whose father was a good friend of Joe’s. “He knows, if I may say, everybody and everything about what you need to know. And he keeps us all connected.”

The neighborhood has a tradition of neighbors knowing and looking out for each other that goes back to its earliest days.

Over the years, individuals have taken it upon themselves to act as handymen for neighbors, and even to advocate for privacy from large, new homes alongside the tract. To fend off crime, one woman even manned a watchtower.

 About the only noticeable ‘pop-up addition’ in the neighborhood is a square-ish attic on a high-gable model across from Barbara Burbach’s home.

An attractive Eichler
Another home in Gtandmeadow shows a distinctive, late Eichler profile. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Barbara reveals one purpose for that pop-up. Crime was hitting the neighborhood in the ‘80s, and the wife of the house ran a phone tree, in part to spread alerts. But more was needed, apparently.

“She literally would go up on the second floor to kind of watch what was going on in the neighborhood,” Barbara says.

“We also have an international flair,” Laura says, “France, Switzerland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Korea, India, Taiwan, Japan, you name it. Eichler would have approved of the diversity.”

CW Hobbs and Stephen Carney, who lived in Switzerland while working as computer scientists for CERN, are friends with other households that are either Swiss or whose members worked in Switzerland.

Party on court
During the pandemic, a new social tradition emerged on one of the courts – outdoor get-togethers. Photo by Rory Earnshaw

They get together for Swiss dinners. Hobbs says, “Swiss do lots of things with melted cheese.”

This is also one of Joe’s more walkable and bikable neighborhoods. Probably all of the newcomers – and there are many; often couples with young children – work in tech, and many for Google. Googleplex is a straight shot away, an easy bike ride.

Yaar Schnitman says there are at least seven households in Grandmeadow with people who work for Google, probably more. Those neighbors he knows love their Eichlers; they are buying here for more than the quick commute. When they remodel, they do so with care.

Eichlers with Mustang
When the neighborhood was new, a sharp-looking Mustang posed before new homes. Courtesy of Rick and Irm Ibara

All the Googlers, as they call them­selves, know each other, Yaar says, and some are close friends.

Newcomers and old-timers alike appreciate that Grandmeadow is an easy walk to Castro Street, in downtown Mountain View, which has perhaps the liveliest dining scene in the South Bay-Peninsula area.” It’s maybe 15 minutes to get to the closest restaurants, up to half an hour to get all the way to the other end of Castro,” Stephen Carney says. “You can have any cuisine you want.”

For more on the Eichler homes formerly known as Grandmeadow, check out ‘Grand Stand in Googletown,’ a sneak preview of the new, summer ‘22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

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