Celebrating the Good Life at Age 50

A pink flamingo calls out to passersby, alerting them that this housse is open for visiting. Photo by Inge Maffeo

Pink flamingos marked homes open for visits and the gardens poured out their plentitude as a Southern California neighborhood of Eichler homes celebrated itself on its 50th birthday.

The tract, in Conejo Valley in the city of Thousand Oaks, has some of the best climate anywhere, residents say, and is ideal for growing – well, just about everything. The celebration, in October, focused in part of the neighborhood’s many expert gardeners as a way to play up what is special and unique about the neighborhood.

 “Thousand Oaks was founded as a rural-urban interface type place,” says Cassandra Auerbach, who proudly showed off her own garden as part of the home-and-garden tour, which was open to neighbors and friends.

Cassandra and Dan Auerbach enlivened the party by playing traditional Irish reels and jigs. Photo by Inge Maffeo

The approximately 100-home tract, one of only a handful of Eichler neighborhoods in Southern California and the only one in Ventura County, remains a rural-seeming area, she notes, with several neighborhoods (though not the Eichlers) zoned to allow horses, and with plentiful open space.

Citrus fruit and strawberries are still grown not far away.

“Thousand Oaks is very protective of its open space,” she says. “It has 26 miles of trails within city limits, and 20 to 30 percent of all city land is dedicated open space.” Backing up to the Eichler homes is a hillside that forms part of the Conejo Open Space.

Also nearby, she says, is “a botanic garden with nature trails and wildlife area, butterfly plantings, and rare fruit plantings because of us rare fruit people living here.”

“We have an organic garden with about 25 different kinds of fruiting trees and bushes, so we have fruit available from our yard 365 days a year,” Auerbach says.

Hills and public open space near the neighborhood provide a welcome sense of openness. Photo by Inge Maffeo

“I wanted to have fruit available 365 days a year so I couldn’t just grow apples and plums,” she says. “So I have 25 to 30 different kinds of fruit planted. I have Oregon grapes, they’re from the farthest north that are growing here, to tropical guava. I was just harvesting them yesterday and just made tropical guava sauce.”

Also in her orchard, she says, are chirimoya, macadamia nuts, persimmons, nectarines, three types of apples, grapefruit, and tangerines.

“Our neighbor, Bob Vieth, has an even larger collection of fruiting plants,” she says. “His garden was on the tour, also. It's quite impressive!”

A total of eight homes and gardens were on the tour, each marked out front by a pink flamingo. One garage was turned into a movie theater to show a film shot when the neighborhood was new, filmed from a nearby hillside looking down atthe houses.

“It was really interesting, especially for the newer people to see,” says Inge Maffeo, who helped organize the celebration with her partner in real estate and the lead organizer, Marcia Sheffield. “You got a good overview from it.”

Marcia Inge
Marcia Sheffield and Inge Maffeo display the 50th birthday cake. Photo by Gerald Maffeo

“There are only just over 100 Eichler Homes in Thousand Oaks, but the neighborhood has really crystallized into a special community,” Maffeo says. “The homes here sell at a premium to other more conventional homes in the vicinity, and there is a sense of being unique and special.”

Also on the planning committee for the party were Liz Doherty, original owner Kathy Vieth, Phyllis Rautenberg, Marcy Feldman and Terry Jones.

Neighbors gathered for food and drink on one of the cul-de-sacs, with traditional Irish music provided by Cassandra, who plays bodhran, and her husband, Dan Auerbach, who plays 13 instruments, including mandolin and four-string banjo.

“Our good friend down the block, Al Hansen, took up after us with flugelhorn music,” Cassandra adds.

Folks toured from house to house. Photo by Inge Maffeo

Maffeo said organizing the event wasn’t hard, because the neighborhood puts on an event much like it nearly every year. Past events have often featured jewelry and other crafts for sale that are created by neighbors. “There are lots of creative people here,” she says.

“The properties on tour varied from fairly original to highly remodeled homes,” Maffeo says. “It was a great opportunity to meet old and new neighbors and to share our interests in and love of Eichler homes.”

Among the homes on the tour was this stunner, the Doherty home. Photo by Liz Doherty

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