Marin Tract Pays Heed to Newcomers

Bike Night
Bike Night on Juniperberry Drive became a tradition, pulling together both grown-ups and their children. Courtesy of Chantal Valentine.

For a time, longtime neighbors recall, Lower Lucas Valley seemed faded, unkempt in spots. Today it’s one of the friendliest Eichler neighborhoods around, with neighbors who appreciate their homes and each other, as revealed in ‘Bringing Back the Berries,’ in the new winter ‘21 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

“People buying here feel there is a renewed interest in the homes, and they like to talk about them,” says David Paoli, an architect who bought a home in Lucas Valley in 1967 with his family.  Over the years, he recalled, the quality of home maintenance had dropped. But no longer.

“It feels like everyone purchasing in the neighborhood has been making tasteful improvements to improve the overall feel of the neighborhood,” says regional realtor Renee Adelman. “People that move into the neighborhood love the Eichler homes and seem to try and maintain the style quite well, which helps the overall appearance of the neighborhood.”

In part, the spirit of neighborliness is due to neighbors who strive to maintain that spirit as homes change hands.

  Kids play
Heath and wife Mariah Caceres play indoors with their two children, Ava and Chloe. Photo by Sabrina Huang

Dot Burton and her husband, Shep, have lived for many years in a very special Eichler home – the one Joe Eichler’s architect Claude Oakland designed for himself. Dot says longtime neighbors on Huckleberry Road encourage locals who are selling their homes to consider the impact of newcomers on the sense of community.

About one family who were getting ready to sell, Dot says, “There was a lot of pressure on them to maintain things,” by selling not necessarily for the highest price, but to a family that would add as much to the neighborhood as they themselves had.

“They had a high bar to clear,” Dot adds.

Similar pressure was applied to another neighbor who was selling on the same block.

In both cases the newcomers have added much to the social mix. “It worked,” Dot says.

Kids on bikes
Gerrin and Kristen Graham await a drive-by by their kids, Gemma and Mable. Photo by Sabrina Huang

Drive through the 'Berries,' as Lower Lucas Valley is often known because street names end in 'berry,' and you are apt to spot folks on bikes, neighbors chatting (distanced, during the pandemic), and kids tossing basketballs against hoops.

Unlike its neighboring tract, Upper Lucas Valley, homeowners in the 375-home Lower Lucas do not have a homeowners association enforcing strict rules on architecture and other matters – including fences and basketball hoops.

'Lower' Lucas, which completed construction by 1961, was originally simply called Lucas Valley, but 'lower' got added after 'upper' was built in 1961.

“There is one lady that gets a bee in her bonnet at being called ‘Lower Lucas Valley’ versus Lucas Valley,” says Adelman, who owns Bay Area Modern Real Estate in Marin. “But it is only a regional description. She feels it is a class description.”

Nice house
Most Eichlers in Lucas valley are well preserved and tended. That's a skate ramp in the foreground. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Because there is no association enforcing rules, over the years about 17 second stories have been added to homes – though none in decades.

It’s also why basketball hoops can be seen alongside some streets even though, as longtime resident Sigrid Painter points out, the unenforced CCRs would ban them.

Ah, but don’t they add some fun for young people, including those who throw  regular bike night that brings young and old together to socialize?

“I think there is a lot of tolerance for stuff,” neighbor John Klima says. “A lot of people park their RVs behind a gate or in driveway. There are not many people complaining about it. And of course if it’s an Airstream, no one complains at all.”

Open Space
Public open space provides a backdrop for Upper and Lower Lucas Valley, offering trails and wildlife. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“The only thing you hear people complaining about is if a fence in the front yard is higher than a neighbor likes,” he says.

One of the appeals of the neighborhood is the out of doors. Marinwood Park, with trails, tennis, and a pool, is a major attraction.

Lucas Valley is surrounded by public open space and parks, and several public walkways wind through the neighborhood. Many streets dead end against the Lucas valley Open Space, which provides miles of trails for walkers and bicyclists

Heath Caceres, who grew up not far away in rural West Marin, says of Lucas Valley: “This is the best valley in Marin. There’s a ton of wildlife, it's super accessible to the bay, and you can drive really quickly and get to redwoods in just a couple of miles.”

For more about Lucas Valley, read ‘Bringing Back the Berries,’ a sneak preview of the new winter ‘21 issue of CA-Modern.

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