Real Estate

Neighborhood profile: Eastern Varsity Park

Mountain View neighborhood boasts fruit trees, updated homes and neighbors who watch out for one another

You can't help but be impressed with the caliber of street names in and around Eastern Varsity Park. Tulane wraps around Cornell and Duke, while Fordham Way parallels Lee. The streets embrace the tiny actual Varsity Park, a perfect neighborhood space with a well-maintained basketball court, several modern play structures and swings. Lush grass and shady trees bound the playground's sand, bouncy rubber mats and concrete surfaces, with pleasant-to-watch-the-grandkids-play benches scattered throughout.

Ashley Richards brings her niece and young nephew to the park almost daily in the summer.

"Daytime is very quiet here," she confirmed, "but around noon nannies and toddlers arrives, and at 4 p.m. the older kids show up to play.

"It feels so safe here, and much easier to manage than Cuesta Park," she added. "The neighbors keeps an eye on each other."

The tract was built in 1962, likely on a former orchard, and is often referred to as part of the Blossom Valley area. Mountain View renamed neighborhood associations a few years ago, and Eastern Varsity Park is once again described by the original development outlines.

Longtime local Doug Pearson helpfully points to the original parcel map from the tax assessor's office. Blossom Valley is now Springer Meadows, Eastern Varsity Park, Blossom Valley Estates and Gest Ranch.

Upscale modernist remodels of homes boasting Sunset-magazine worthy xeriscaping abut traditional original facades with well-established suburban landscaping. Local real estate agent and resident Eric Fischer-Colbrie says half of the homes on Cornell and three-quarters of the homes on Tulane have been remodeled, as the footprints are easily expandable.

Tulane Drive boasts a veritable orchard of fruit trees, with ripening apples, guavas, lemons and carefully pruned figs and persimmon happily hearkening back to the era of shared front-yard bounty. A few blocks over on Columbia, a front-yard farm hosts a summertime farm stand with truly local produce for neighbors.

Tulane resident Katie Cowley has been part of the area for 10 years, purchasing a fixer-upper with her husband.

"We bought this house by mistake," she laughed. "We wanted to be in the Cuesta Park (area)."

She said the neighborhood turned out to be a wonderful place for their three children, who became part of the bike-to-school culture. Their handsome home is in the Springer Elementary district, which feeds into Mountain View High School. School access is a strong topic in the neighborhood, with district lines running through Eastern Varsity Park. Residents with those addresses attend Springer Elementary and Blach Middle School in Los Altos, followed by Mountain View High School, which has been ranked in the top 1 percent of schools nationally.

Cowley said the original homes contribute to the closeness of the neighborhood. "The original walls are like cardboard, and you know everything about everyone! Nearly everyone in the neighborhood has remodeled. We share architects and contractors, and tour each other's homes to see what's been done."

The Cowleys added a second story six years after moving after an original "quickie" makeover.

The first wave of sales by original home owners began about 15 years ago, according to Cowley, and now rising prices have created more turn over. Some homes are rented, but Cowley said that renters with children have become integral parts of the neighborhood.

During summers, "Happy Hour" potluck happens on Tulane, and over a dozen families congregate on the street to visit and catch up on news.

"We watch out for each other," said Cowley, who jumped up while talking when she saw an elderly neighbor teeter a bit in her garden.

Weekday mornings, the neighborhood sees joggers, kids rushing to school and parents heading off to tech jobs. During the daytime, little traffic passes through. That changes on the weekend mornings and evenings, when families hang out and chat, and dog-walking locals and scooter-pushing kids fill the streets. Cowley also noted that proximity to local shopping and central location make Eastern Varsity Park an ideal location. Safeway and CVS anchor Blossom Valley Shopping Center, while Rancho offers upscale local Andronico's. Grant Park Plaza boasts 99 Ranch, a great spot for Asian groceries.

On a warm afternoon, a Google self-driving car glided down Slatdky, the southeast border to the tract, past a vintage Chevy up on blocks -- an auto-emblematic reflection of the changes in the Eastern Varsity Park neighborhood.

Ruth Handel is a local freelance writer.

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