Eichler Tract is Built on a Creekside Trail

Creekside living
Phiroze and Goolcher Wadia are among Eichler homeowners whose homes are alongside a free-running creek in Marin County. The creek is an amenity but, if not cared for, could become a menace. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Few Eichler neighborhoods are as ensconced in nature as Sleepy Hollow. During wet weather, Sleepy Hollow Creek rushes past the 15 homes. A charming woodland trail built by Joe Eichler at the request of homeowners lets walkers and bicyclists enjoy the spectacle – and ties into a wider network of trails that continues for miles.

“We are out on the trails a lot,” neighbor Soo-Ah Landa says.

“You can go all the way around to Fairfax,” she says. “You can hop over to Terra Linda and San Rafael. You can literally loop all the way across Oak Springs. There’s a pretty significant network [of trails].”

The neighborhood, one of Joe’s smallest and among his last, built in 1972 and 1973, is in unincorporated Marin County, north of San Anselmo. It is part of the 700-home Sleepy Hollow community, homes on semi-rural streets arrayed along Butterfield Road.

Exterior view
The Landa house is immersed in nature, with glass opening to a large yard and to a creek.

So-Ah and her husband, David Landa, moved here eight years ago and have two teenage sons. The natural aspects attracted them.

“When we bought the house, we considered the creek a big draw for us,” she says. “My husband grew up in Connecticut, so he loved the woods, and it was a big plus for us to have a creek.”

“It’s nice to see the creek flowing here, and to listen to it,” she says. “And then the bullfrogs. I mean, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve heard those frogs, because it’s been dry. But for years, when we first moved here, that was awesome. My kids loved it. You could see the bullfrogs and that was so much kind of a fun part of living here.”

Soo-Ah finds enjoyable that you can see neighbors walking the trail, and be seen. The Landa house has tremendous privacy from neighboring houses. But it looks across the creek at the trail.

  Eichler on creek
Here you can see an Eichler home from across the creek while walking on the trail..

“You’ll see often 20, 30 times a day, people hiking, biking, doing whatever from this trail,” she says. “So when I’m in the hot tub, which isn’t that often, there’s a really good chance I’m going to see somebody I know.’ I’ll be like, ‘Hi.’”

According to Goolcher Wadia, who has lived in an Eichler on Catskill Court since 1974, it was a neighbor, Connie Berto, who in the early days persuaded Eichler to build a trail along his section of the creek.

Berto, who lived in a non-Eichler home on nearby Crane Way, “was a force of nature,” Goolcher says, and acted as though “she was in charge of the entire Sleepy Hollow” area.

Years ago, interviewed by the Eichler Network, Berto said:  "Working directly with him [Joe] was very easy. Eichler gave us the delightful little path we wanted without any problems at all. It was used mostly by school children then, and now by hikers, bicyclists, and horsemen. And we were just absolutely delighted to be given that gift.”

Ironically, since homeowners today enjoy the trail, some tried to stop it back in the beginning.

  Creek walk
The trail that winds through the Eichler neighborhod is just one of many in the area, providing a range of walking and biking opportunities.

“The homeowners who bought the land with the trail did try to shut it down,” Berto said. “They didn’t want people going by their backyards. However, they were told by the county that this is the way it was, and they could absolutely not block or fence off that trail, nor could they use it as their dumping grounds.”

The area where Eichler built his homes had originally housed a stable, which he removed. It also served as a place for kids to hang out and get high, the late Catherine Munson, a top Eichler salesperson, told the Eichler Network.

Sleepy Hollow Creek is a tributary to San Anselmo Creek, which is a lovely amenity in downtown San Anselmo – except during heavy rains when, in years past, it has flooded streets and businesses.

One house in the Eichler tract flooded years ago, but generally, Goolcher says, homes are far enough way, or on higher ground, to avoid danger.

Trees form a canopy over a section of the trail.

“Most of the time it’s an amenity, but if people up creek don’t take care of cleaning out their junk...,” Goolcher says, allowing the listener to imagine what could happen. “For example, this house [Soo-Ah’s] in the 1980s was totally flooded.”

In the eight years Soo-Ah has lived in the home, she says, she has seen the creek reach “the very, very, very top” of its banks, but has never experienced flooding.

The Sleepy Hollow Homes Association organizes work parties to keep the creek flowing by removing debris and downed limbs.

“Every year, the homeowners association walks the creek,” Goolcher says. “Then, if they feel that you haven’t cleaned up [debris in the creek] sufficiently, they will tell you that your area is looking pretty overgrown. And can you take care of it?”

This post is one of several about the hidden Eichlers of Sleepy Hollow.

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