Neighbors are Friends in Bayside Eichlers

Strawberry view
Views of San Francisco and Richardson bays, the city, and Sausalito are stupendous, but it is the friendships among neighbors that truly make Strawberry special. This is a view from a resident's backyard. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“It’s sort of beautiful. It’s magnificent,” Avril Couris says of the Eichler homes on Strawberry Point, near Mill Valley, the only tract Joe Eichler ever built directly on the water. But it’s not the views that make the place special, as you will learn from the ‘Eichlers of Shangri-La,’ in the new, spring ‘22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

It’s the people.

“Susan’s fantastic, Ave [Avril] is fantastic. Philip at [age] 99 is wonder­ful,” original owner Betty Toole says of her neighbors. “I mean, everyone is so amazing. Accomplished, intelli­gent, good, caring.”

Harbor Point, as Joe Eichler called the development he had planned for Strawberry Point, in Marin County, promised a “community of premium homes, flanking public marina and docking facilities,” with “hill lots extending to one-half acre in area,” according to his brochure.

He promised to build 99 homes back in 1966 but, due to his company’s bankruptcy, built only 13. They are among his more remarkable homes -- spacious, some with steep gables; and several are original two-story Eichlers. Due to the configuration of the lots and trees, privacy is not a problem. Each model is different.

  Toole house
Betty Toole's Eichler is a highly unusual model, even for a two-story home, providing expansive interior space. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Several of the lots extend into Rich­ardson Bay, and some homes have steep walkways that lead to a small beach that is exposed at low tide.

The architects were Claude Oakland, and Jones & Emmons. Homes are on Starboard Court and Great Circle Drive.

It’s notable that the homes of some original and early buyers, including Avril, Betty, and Phillip Perloff, are almost entirely intact, complete with paneled walls and original kitchens.

"Why would anyone change these homes?" Avril wonders. She and her former husband bought the home not long after it was built, from the first owners.

“We told them how much we loved the house, which we did,” Avril recalls. “We couldn’t find anything wrong. You know, people go into houses and they say, 'How big are the closets and stuff like that?' We didn’t care. We just loved every part.”

The Parker family
Stephanie Parker, her husband Sam, and their children have found all their neighbors great, both the younger ones and the elders, who have proven to be inspirational, Stephanie says. Photo by Rory Earnshaw.

Living on the Bay is certainly a draw. “We are trying to become birdwatchers,” says Stephanie Parker.

“Henry [her son] actually volunteers with the Audubon Society that’s based in Tiburon, and they will come out and do beach cleanups along the coast here as a means of bringing back the natural habitat for the birds," she says. "Being here, you’re very aware of the pelicans coming in. You know who’s migrating -- the geese, the herons or the egrets.”

There is also a harbor seal colony nearby. “We hear them mating during mating season,” neighbor Susan Kolb says.

But it is the friendliness of the place that stands out more than the birds or the bay or the pinnipeds.

“Here, everybody goes and checks on their neighbors and brings food and little gifts,” Stephanie says. “There’s a lot of community within the court.”

Families with kids on one end of Starboard Court have brought new life to the neighborhood, people say. These are Seran and Scott's boys. Photo by Rory Earnshaw

The Parkers met their older neigh­bors right away when they arrived in 2004. “They hosted a party for us in our house before we moved in,” Stephanie says. “Judy [Barr] got all the neighbors and brought some champagne, and we had not yet moved in.” The Parkers are one of three younger families who occupy the eastern end of the court.

Because the homes are so few, and most owners stay and stay and stay, these homes don't hit the market often. Seran Kim, who lives on Starboard Court with her husband and three sons, recalled how they lucked out – and shows that it never hurts to ask.

She and her husband, Scott Wong, really wanted to live in an Eichler, and “it had always been our dream to live in Strawberry,” she says.

“We happened to be driving by, and there were a ton of boxes out front [of an Eichler on Starboard].”

Kim Eichler
Seran Kim first entered the Eichler she and her husband now own when she met the prior owner while driving by. Speaking to the then-owner proved to be a wise move. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

“You’ll never know unless you ask,” she told Scott. “And so I actually knocked on the door and said, are you selling your house?”

No, just cleaning the garage. the owner replied. But the owner asked: "Would you like to see the house?" Like Seran, the owners were both physicians.

“I got a full tour of the house, and at the end of the conversation, she said to me, ‘You know, this house is perfect for you guys.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that is so harsh.’ They’re not selling the house.

“But in the end, I think it was a year-and-a-half later, they contacted us and said, ‘We want to sell the house off market.' ”

For more on this magical enclave of Eichler homes, peruse in ‘the ‘Eichlers of Shangri-La,’ in the new, spring ‘22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

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