Getting Neighborly in Cyberspace

Lucas Valley
Lucas Valley boasts a perfect setting, open hillsides providing a backdrop for stunningly well-preserved houses. Photo by David Toerge

Over the years, the Eichler Network has visited dozens of neighborhoods of mid-century modern homes by Joe Eichler, the Streng Brothers, architects Palmer & Krisel, and others. We have met hundreds of neighbors and been welcomed into dozens of homes.

The sense of community within these neighborhoods is usually strong, often palpable. People get together casually, while walking their dogs, at neighborhood barbecues around the pool, at holiday parties, and at spontaneous gatherings.

A shared interest in the architecture of their homes adds to a sense of belonging to a special club with specialized interests.

Does the same sense of community exist in cyberspace? The question arose as we arrived at the helm of The CA Modernist. How easy would it be to check out doings in California’s dozens of cool modern neighborhoods without leaving the comfort of our home office?

Scouring cyberspace led to any number of neighborhood websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. But some haven’t been updated in years or rarely get new posts, others were closed to non-residents, and others were simply, well, not much fun nor very useful.

But there are treasures to be found. One is run by the Evergreen Commons Association in Sacramento, a community of Streng homes built around a lovely park and pool. Another lively site is maintained by the Greenmeadow Community Association in Palo Alto, paying particular attention to the community’s swimming events, and with lots of photos.

The Eichler neighborhoods of Orange County share a lively, and open to all, Facebook group.

No doubt we have missed some other excellent websites, blogs, or online social settings. Does your neighborhood host one? Please let us know by commenting below or emailing dave@eichlernetwork.com.

One of the best sites is Lucas Valley Online, run by the Lucas Valley Homeowners Association in Marin County. In this San Rafael community of 538 homes, the association’ business manager Janice Cunningham handles both the website and the hard-copy newsletter 'Valley Vibration,' which comes out monthly.

Cunningham
Janice Cunningham, right, poses with Marye Lenoff and Janice Warren at the Lucas Valley Community Center pool. Photo courtesy of Janice Cunningham

Cunningham, who lives in the community, has been editing the newsletter for 17 years and the website for about ten.

Over the years, the publications have provided hard news (for example, following the travails of George Lucas as he unsuccessfully tried to develop a film studio and later housing just up Lucas Valley Road from the neighborhood), ultra-local news (attracting people to recent meetings about redoing the grounds of the neighborhood’s community center and pool), and providing neighborly services.

These have included the Let’s Go Green column, where residents offer Eichler house parts for free – including a recent offer of “screen doors for tall Eichler slid­ing doors.”

 “Any of the Eichler items, door knobs, lights, people really want them,” Cunningham says.

The website also makes her job much easier, Cunningham says. Rather than people coming in to pick up forms or information, it’s all on the website – color charts showing acceptable exterior colors, design guidelines for remodels, bylaws, applications to join committees.

On top of the public neighborhood website, neighbors have created a neighbor-only site on BigTent, a social network service. Cunningham appreciates the degree of privacy it provides. She no longer mentions the occasional neighborhood burglary on Lucas Valley Online – not since an out-of-towner saw such a post and got the impression this bucolic neighborhood was rough and tumble.

“I thought we might be losing [home)] sales,” Cunningham says.

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