Events Help Greenridge Return to Life

Block party
In Castro Valley’s Greenridge, events like the spring block party successfully build community. How successfully? “It feels like everybody we’ve met here never plans to leave,” newcomer Mariah Terhaar says, “and we never plan to leave.” Photo courtesy of Lauren Mitchell

The community of Greenridge has “always been a social neighborhood, and there have been some neighborhood traditions,” says Cynthia Troetschler, who grew up in the neighborhood when it was new, and lives there now with her husband.

But socializing isn’t always easy, especially during a pandemic, and traditions can disappear. New people come, old people move or pass away. Greenridge, which once had an official homeowners association, no longer does.

Who’s to say the annual summer potluck barbecue, the Halloween get-together, or the annual Christmas party will last forever?

Well, people like Cynthia, Lauren Mitchell, and Mariah Terhaar, just to name a few.

Lauren has helped reestablish some of the traditional events, now that the pandemic seems to be easing. She says it has been relatively easy, citing several reasons: existing traditions, the presence of what she terms “the older generation” of homeowners; the enthusiasm of some of the newest generation; and young people who have arrived during the pandemic, when turnover was surprisingly high.

Best neighborhood ever is more than a boast. It's what people believe at Greenridge. This is the spring block party cake. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mitchell

“We’ve been here seven years, and we think of ourselves as the newcomers, but are kind of becoming the old guard, which is crazy,” Lauren says. She and her husband have a nine-year-old daughter. “We’re in our 40s. The old guard is turning over and leaving.”

“And we’re seeing the new people who are engaging and waking ourselves up again,” she says.

“There have been a lot of new people in the last year and a half, young people with younger kids. We’re in the middle in terms of kids’ ages.”

Among the new people are Mariah Terhaar, her husband Warren, and son Kelley, who was born a few months after the family arrived a year ago.

“It’s one of those neighborhoods of the type you think don’t exist anymore,” Mariah says. “You know your neighbors and help them. We moved in and people came over and introduced themselves and welcomed us.”

Mariah has gotten involved with neighborhood social events, helping publicize the recent Cotton Court block party. She is also getting together with other young parents. One mother “organized a moms’ get-together,” Mariah says, involving seven or eight mothers.

Eichler house
Greenridge is a well-preserved community of 185 Eichlers built between 1960 and 1965. Photo by Dave Weinstein

During the pandemic, the summer potluck took a hiatus. So did a tradition that started about five years ago, the Cotton Court party, an event on the large and relatively flat Cotton Court. (Greenridge has an unusual layout for an Eichler tract, one long street climbing steeply uphill, ending at a cul-de-sac and park, with a side street and several courts.)

Our neighborhood is one long street, so you see people walking all the time,” Cynthia says. “Kids often go to the same schools. It’s a pretty tight-knit little community.”

Mariah refers to the tradition as “neighborhood happy hour, because people are walking and you catch up and hear people’s news.”

But, Lauren says, “In 2020, ‘21, we didn’t have any of that. “It used to be you would walk through the neighborhood and see two or three people out talking. One person would see two people talking, and join them. There was none of that for at least a year, even more. We’d pass each other on the street and wave.”

A clown entertained children at the block party. Photo courtesy of Lauren Miller

The Halloween party, where parents and kids meet at the top of Greenridge Road for a meal preceding trick or treating, did take place during the height of the pandemic, but with reduced participation. Cynthia and her husband, who live at the top of the road, have shepherded that event. Mariah and family attended.

This last May, though, the neighborhood returned to celebrating the Cotton Court party. “I suggested we try it again this year,” Cynthia says. “A lot of homes sold this year so we got a lot of new neighbors. This would give them a chance to see how much fun the neighborhood is.”

Lauren, lead organizer for the spring party, says attendance was high. “We had enough food for 70 people, and we ran out. And with babies, there must have been 100.”

The former home association, which also took in some non-Eichlers, has dissolved, so now there is no formal organization. But Greenridge manages to put things together even without an association, including its own Facebook page.

Still, getting out news about events and neighborhood happenings can be tricky. “We post on a bulletin board but not everyone looks at it,” Lauren says.

“I’m encouraged,” she says. “It seems like the new people are excited about the block party. People are interested in helping.

“Many of them are tired of the pandemic.

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