Traditions Help Fuel Neighborhood Unity

Eichler with trees
The Palo Verde Eichler neighborhood of Palo Alto retains much of its looks and many traditions dating back decades. Photo by Dave Weinstein

When Shekhar and Swati Kapoor and their son, Shaan, first visited the Eichler they would soon buy in 2011, they encountered a block party in full swing. Right away they sensed their new neighborhood was special. Learn more about the Eichlers of Palo Verde in ‘Family Tradition, ’in the spring ‘21 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

“It was, like, amazing. We immediately met some of the neighbors,” says Shek­har, an engineer like many in the Palo Alto tract, which borders the well-known Eichler Swim and Tennis Club on Louis Road.

The 202-home neighborhood, built by Joe Eichler in 1957 and 1958, doesn’t have an official neighborhood association. But it is held together by traditions, ongoing events, and tales of historical figures who lived in the neighborhood and helped give it life.

  Katie and doog
Longtime Palo Verde resident Katie Renati, seen with her dog, is among the residents who keep the neighborhood friendly and active. Photo by Sabrina Huang
 

One is a gentleman who helped create personal computing as we know it today. His home has even become a bit of a shrine.

Another is a man who convinced Joe that an empty plot of land next to the new houses really could use a pool and tennis club.

Although Palo Alto’s official Eichler map calls the enclave 'Royal Manor,' the term is not in common use today. Indeed, many residents say they never heard of it. Most people say they live in 'Palo Verde,' which is the name of a nearby school.

Whatever you call it, this little tract is a fine place to live, in part because of such community volunteers as Renati, who has been helping put on a block party for a decade. “We’ve been souping it up every year,” she says.

  Reklis
Palo Verde Eichler owner Diane Reklis has greeted newcomers for many years. Photo by Dave Weinstein
 

And when newcomers buy into the neighborhood, they are greeted by Katie and neighbors Heather MacDonald and Diane Reklis, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1979.

The neighborhood has several neighborhood watch groups. Patti Regehr, who serves as block preparedness coordinator for one, also serves as the 'zero waste coordinator,' a Palo Alto program that provides neighbors with plates, napkins, bowls, and cups of durable and reusable plastic, ”all of which can be cleaned and reused—so there is no point in buying,” she says.

Her husband, tech writer Larry Magid, is one of the stars of the neighborhood, appearing on TV internationally.

Renati, an emergency coordinator, says “Every block has a coordinator to gather information about people in each house and their pets, in case of a quake. We help each other at the block level.”

House
There are only a few atrium models in the Palo Verde neighborhood. This is one of them. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“I like the diversity of the people,” Katie says. “It’s a family-oriented neighborhood. People support each other. During Covid people volunteered to help each other. ‘What can we do?’”

The neighborhood is so tightly knit in so many ways. However, it was a bit surprising that 'Royal Manor,' as city officials were calling it, hit the Eichler news a few years back when an effort to prevent second-story additions and other two-story homes hit a roadblock.

After several neighbors who had signed on in favor of the move changed their minds and decided to oppose restrictions, city planners not only halted efforts to impose new zoning guidelines on Royal Manor, they also halted the process citywide.

To that point, several Eichler neighborhoods had won such protections.

Instead, the planners began a process, which has since been completed, to create voluntary Eichler design guidelines that would be used citywide.

  Map
The name 'Royal Manor' was shown on an early map of the subdivision, but Eichler called the neighborhood 'Faircourt.'
 

Diane Reklis, who favored the 'overlay zone' to prevent two-story homes, is sorry compromise could not have been reached. There was opposition on streets that face out of the neighborhood, where there are already some two-story homes, and where ensuring neighbor privacy would have been less of an issue.

“If there had been exclusion for the people on the rim, it would have made all the difference in the world,” she says.

The dispute did get heated, neighbors say, but friendships and shared experiences have prevented bad feelings from lingering.

“Working on the overlay was great,” says Renati, who also favored the move. “I got to know many more people, and not just on our street.”

For more about the Palo Verde Eichlers, read ‘Family Tradition,’ a sneak preview of the new spring ‘21 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

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