The Storybook Eichlers of Primewood - Sunnyvale - Page 2

Tight-knit families and a picturesque air bring new life to Sunnyvale's 35-home Primewood development

"The people are very kind," says Barbara Papamarcos, who moved to the neighborhood with her husband in 1997. They were the first of what has become a neighborhood within a neighborhood of families with young children. "I had the only baby on the block, and she was treated like a princess. Whenever I took her out, everybody would stop."

primewood dad fixing bike with kids and wife

Christine Falsetti, who arrived with her husband John Diffenderfer a year later, immediately felt welcomed. "Everybody kind of adopts you," she says. Christine gave birth to her first child, Ben, just as they closed escrow. "All the women were so excited," she recalls of her new neighbors. "They called everyone up and said, 'Oh, come see the new baby!'"

Like many neighborhoods, Primewood had aged. The original families, Gary and Jean Bronstein, Don and Dorothy Christman, Dick and Jean Heinz, Margaret and Stig Lundh, had gotten older. Those who'd raised children, and most did, saw them move away. But many original owners have remained—perhaps a half dozen today.

The Bronsteins, the first to arrive, along with their neighbors the Christmans, remember the new homes gradually filling in an apricot orchard. Primewood was the last undeveloped spot in a neighborhood of traditional ranch homes. Primewood attracted mostly professionals in their late 20s, Gary Bronstein says. He and Jean paid $44,500. "For Sunnyvale, it was pretty expensive," Gary says. "My father had a fit that we would spend that much money."

Joe Eichler himself manned the sales office in the model home. "He was like a salesperson," remembers Stig Lundh, an engineer from Norway. But unlike most salespersons, Joe did not agree that the customer is always right.

inside a primewood living room

"I told my wife, there isn't much insulation in walls or roof," Lundh remembers. "Joe Eichler was right there and heard my comments. He said, 'My engineers tell me that's the optimal insulation.' Well, it was optimal as far as the builder, but not for us."

A lot of insulating and double-paning has taken place in Primewood in recent years. Lundh is one of the few to add air-conditioning, hiding the ducts in interior soffits to avoid disfiguring his roof.

view of several primewood houses

Lundh's concern for his home's looks is widely shared. Exteriors are almost entirely intact. Most even have their original garage doors. "No bad second stories," says John Diffenderfer, an architect. "No pink palaces."

The biggest threat to the neighborhood, the Christmans remember, came about a decade ago when the owners of a ranch home next to their neighbor's Eichler sought to add a second story. The folks in the Eichler worried about a loss of privacy both in their backyard and their atrium. Primewood neighbors protested at city meetings, but lost. "Oh, no, it's legal," they were told, Don says. "He can do whatever he wants."

dad and daughter at a swing

The city of Sunnyvale recently issued guidelines for Eichler neighborhoods that, among other things, make it harder for second-story additions, even in non-Eichler homes that border Eichlers. Don Christman attended a hearing or two on the subject, he says, but few neighbors from Primewood got involved.

Primewood has no official neighborhood association and adheres to no design guidelines. Instead, this neighborhood, which is served by superb schools, has been tied together by its children.

The Christmans, who live in one of Primewood's only non-atrium models, raised a boy and a girl here and say their children ran through the neighborhood unattended. "We just never worried about them," Dorothy says.

"Everyone knew everyone in the beginning," Jean Heinz says, recalling volleyball games, picnics, and a neighborhood New Year's party. On July 4th, Lundh remembers, folks held a parade led by kids on tricycles.

"That dissipated as the kids grew older," Jean Bronstein says of all the socializing. "It served its purpose when I was pushing babies around and needed a circle of friends for my kids."

But social life began picking up with the arrival of the younger families. On Lennox and Beaverton courts, life once again centers on children, who race from house to house, and cavort in the Moores' spacious backyard. About two-dozen children call Primewood home.