Neighbors Pitch In As Covid Virus Reigns

Terra Linda gathering
Neighbors in the Alliance Homes tract in Terra Linda celebrate Mother's Day on Hibiscus Way while maintaining social distance. Photo by Kristi Fish

If shelter in place we must, an Eichler is a great place to do it.

The Eichler offers the best of both worlds. If you need privacy you can close the door to the room. It’s wonderful. Everybody can find their spot,” says Peter Paden, who lives with his wife and two children in the Rancho San Miguel Eichler development in Walnut Creek.

“But the house is also open. It’s not a prison. If I were in an apartment I would probably lose my mind. That’s the benefit of being in an Eichler. It’s not claustrophobic.”

Across the planet, from the East Bay to Kazakhstan, people are facing the Covid-19 virus. No one knows how long we will be locked down, but in several Eichler tracts people are doing their best for each other and themselves.

Renee and Ranger
Renee Hermosa has been sharing needed items with neighbors, and she and her husband have greeted neighbors from their driveway. Here, she spends time in her backyard with Ranger. Photo by Dennis Hermosa.

In Castro Valley’s Greenridge, Renee Hermosa describes how her neighbors are reacting.

“One neighbor is making masks for anyone who asked. When our mailman said the carriers had none, she donated 30 to our local post office. Several others are making them and sharing supplies,” she says.

“A neighbor on Highwood Road organized kids to reach out to vulnerable neighbors. Another neighbor in Greenridge rallied neighbors to run errands for those in need.

“When supplies of basic necessities are needed, neighbors have been quick to share, or pick up extra items for others, when they do venture out.”

“There was a drive-by birthday party for a five-year-old,” Renee says. “They stayed in the driveway, and quite a few people drove by and waved. It was a cool way for the kid to celebrate his fifth birthday.”

Neighbors enjoy a shelter-in-place innovation, a drive-by birthday party for a young girl in Greenridge. Photo courtesy of Renee Hermosa.

“Over on Cotton Court they’ve had a few happy hours,” she says. “They put out blue tape on the court so every family can have their own spot and stay in their box.”

In the past Renee and Dennis Hermosa put on house concerts in their Eichler home featuring top folk and Americana performers. However, they had to cancel a sold-out show by Jimbo Scott that had been set for March 15.

“We’ve put the house concerts on hold till next year. We’re just not comfortable having 50 people in this house, with two bathrooms, until there’s an antidote,” Dennis says.

Kristi Fish, husband Bill, and two daughters (one home now from grad school) live in a modern tract of Alliance homes in Terra Linda in San Rafael. She says people have been taking advantage of the hiatus in their lives by socializing – safely.

The ever-popular swim center that was built by Eichler at Rancho San Miguel remains closed to prevent spread of infection. Photo by Dave Weinstein, 2019.

“The beauty of the neighborhood is, it’s conducive to neighbors being out and enjoying each other’s company, and walking. There’s more of that,” she says. “There are more people out, more gatherings. Instead of gathering in somebody’s backyard, it’s in the street, with lawn chairs spaced six feet out. “

Peter Paden, who's been taking part in an effort to rename his neighborhood park 'Eichler Park,' keeps an eye on the place.

“There are those who follow the orders, and those who don’t,” he says, meaning masks and distancing. Paden’s twins, a boy and a girl, have been 'attending' Northgate High School via Google Classroom, sleeping in, emailing in their assignments circa 10 a.m. “Very few teachers actually ask for online real-time presence, but that occasionally happens,” Peter says.

“I think they’re happy. They miss their friends at times,” he says. “But they’re old enough to understand the importance of staying at home.”

Herb Fischgrund enjoyed spending time with neighbor Pradipta Ghosh before the coronavirus arrived. An original resident at Los Arboles Addition, he gets lonely during shelter in place but makes the best of it through social outreach, walks and writing. Photo by Sabrina Huang.

Herb Fischgrund has been a fixture in Eichler’s Los Arboles Addition in Palo Alto since 1974. His wife, Alice, died two years ago.

“It can be lonely. It’s made a big difference when my wife was around,” he says. But Herb knows neighbors, and has many friends, and makes the most of them – at the prescribed social distance.

“I have a couple of neighbors I go for walks with, at suitable distance,” he says. “At least three or four of them have brought me meals. Our Torreya Court book club is going to have our next discussion using Zoom. I go to cardiac exercise class using Zoom two or three times a week.”

“I used to be a docent at the Edgewood Nature Center, but two years ago I had a bypass so I haven’t been there. San Mateo just reopened its parks. I’m thinking of giving it a try tomorrow, and see if I can walk on some little hills, which I haven’t done in some time.”

Herb’s daughter lives not far away. “I saw my grandson. He stopped by to pick up some food my daughter had run out of, and I had extra. We had a chance to talk for a while,” Herb says.

He’s also looking forward to getting together with his lady friend, “who I hardly ever see.” Another friend who lives in a different Eichler tract is bringing her by, along with dinner to be enjoyed “at a suitable distance.”

“Alice and I started a book about the story of our lives,” Herb says. “I’ve continued writing it after she died.  It’ll never be finished.  There’s always more – after a lifetime of memories, and almost 60 years of being together with her, and world travels.”

About the pandemic, he adds, “I may have to add another story to my book.”

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