Family-First Fairhaven - San Jose - Page 2

Newcomers to the tiny, obscure San Jose Eichler neighborhood aren't just welcomed—they're adopted

It is, in fact, human action that turned this neighborhood into the family place it's become—and much of that action was performed by a handful of young families who'd arrived in the mid-1970s: the Kings, Thompsons, Stevens, Smalls, among others. Most had kids and several played trombones. As America's Bicentennial approached, they thought—a July 4th celebration!

woman with stick

Ivy, who was five that first fourth-of-July festivity and has attended dozens since, describes three-legged races and a balloon toss, a softball game, a talent show, fireworks in the early years, and a parade featuring a trombone-laden band playing 'The Saints' while circling Mossbrook. "And somebody always dresses up like the Statue of Liberty," she adds.

"It's pretty darn amazing," Christine Bumgarner says of July 4th. It's inspirational too. Christine and her husband Bill, who are newcomers, have started a neighborly tradition of their own—the February 'Crab-tacular,' featuring 240 pounds of crab, 50 pounds of pulled pork—and plenty of tequila.

Other community-building activities don't include quite so much tequila. One of the most important, folks says, is the 'Book Club,' which is made up entirely of women ("though we would accept a guy," Diana Lubliner says) that spends some time talking literature, sure, but goes well beyond. They also discuss remodeling and family and community affairs. "The book club is probably the biggest reason this neighborhood has such cohesion," Lubliner says. "It keeps people talking to each other a lot."

fairhaven san jose resident walking dogs

Although Fairhaven has always been a special place, it has been undergoing resurgence as young couples, families, and individuals move in and restore homes that had faded.

Today Fairhaven is a marvelous mix of young and old. "I've never had so many people I would call friends who are retired," Steve Dreyer says.

What's remarkable about the newcomers is how similar they are to the old-timers. Fairhaven has always been a high-tech sort of place. Back in the '60s, engineers filled the neighborhood, along with educators and other professionals.

Dick King, one of the founders of the fourth-of-July party (and one of the trombonists), said high prices had kept younger families out of the area for some time. But four or five years ago, he noticed, "a dramatic influx of young families, all high-tech," moving in. "We have one or two Google families, a couple of biotech families." There are also contingents from Apple, HP, and Netflix.

The newcomers also resemble the past generations in another way. Many plan to stay. Diana and Josh Lubliner, software engineers who have two young daughters, say they were willing to pay a premium for their home for that reason. "This is our final resting place," Diana says.

Lubliner spends much of her free time beautifying her garden. The neighborhood, with its awning of camphor trees and a spectacular, 50-foot Queen palm that resident Dave Winn planted 20 years ago as a sprout, clearly has fecund soil. Suzanne and Tom Regul, who arrived in 1966, have one of the larger backyards, which they filled with an orange tree as big as a valley oak, along with banana, fig, persimmon, cherry, plum, avocado, and apricot.

fairhaven san jose children at play

Newcomers are undoing the relatively minor unsympathetic changes that have occurred over the years—a garage door with a fanlight window and a French-style lighting fixture are being replaced with more appropriate devices.

Indoors, too, changes are underway. This is not, overall, a purist neighborhood, although many homes retain their original mahogany walls and fixtures. Few have original kitchen cabinets.

But most residents understand the modern aesthetic and many are recreating it. "We've been on a painstaking journey to bring it back the way we remembered it," Kyle Chesser says of his and Ivy's home, which still has its original ceiling stain, though a previous owner painted the beams white. The couple restored some of their mahogany walls. Kyle, a commercial photographer, sometimes uses the home as a setting for shoots.

atrium man with palm

Despite the residents' love for their architecture, the neighborhood has neither design guidelines nor any city ordinances preserving the architecture.