Neighbors protest replacement of Eichler home

Appeals from Palo Alto residents prompt revisions for new Louis Road house

With their squat stature, glass walls and deliberately modest designs, Eichler-style houses look nothing like the opulent mansions often associated with wealth and booming real estate values.

So when a Palo Alto property owner decided to take down an Eichler home and replace it with a larger two-story residence, the plan touched off a storm of protest from neighbors of his Midtown block, who successfully argued that the contrast between the home proposed for 3558 Louis Road and the Eichlers around it is much too stark.

At the heart of the opposition is the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club, which was designed by A. Qunicy Jones and opened in 1958, with builder Joseph Eichler himself cutting the ribbon, according to the club. Earlier this month, the Louis Road club's board of governors alerted its members to the change and voted to send a letter to the city, urging that the design be reconsidered.

"We are not opposed to a larger home being built on that site, but we believe that the structure as currently planned is not in keeping with the midcentury modern aesthetic that Eichler homes and the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club represent," Harvey Schloss, president of the club's board of governance, wrote in a notice to the members. "The 300 member families of the club are its owners, and we believe as owners we have a stake in ensuring that the club does not become a curious anachronism in its own neighborhood."

Disputes over Eichler renovations and demolitions are far from new in Palo Alto. The philosophy behind the popular homes emphasizes open spaces and natural light, and residents who live in Eichlers have expressed concerns about the prospect of multi-story homes going up next door and potentially impacting their light, privacy and neighborhood character.

In the Palo Alto Eichler neighborhoods of Fairmeadow and Greenmeadow, certain areas have zoning restrictions that prohibit two-story homes. Midtown doesn't have such restrictions, so residents are instead relying on political pressure.

Opponents of the proposed home, a bulky structure with two tiers of gabled roofs, sent what project architect Andrew Young called a "flood of emails," arguing that the new building isn't consistent with the Eichler aesthetic. The swim club itself filed an official letter with the city's planning department, noting that it just completed its own renovation and "at every turn have taken care to retain or restore the original look of an Eichler building."

"We recognize that things change over time, and it is not uncommon for a homeowner to turn an historic Eichler into a two-story home," the letter from the Club states. "We note, however, that owners in our immediate neighborhood have successfully honored the midcentury modern architectural legacy even as they significantly increased the size of their homes."

"We are concerned that our club not become an anachronism, divorced from its architectural heritage as an integral part of a neighborhood. We urge you and the department to take that into consideration as you review this proposal and others in the area, with an eye toward preserving an important part of Palo Alto's history and legacy."

Ami Knoefler, a neighborhood resident and club member, told the Weekly she is one of many area residents who are concerned about new developments threatening their neighborhood character. She and her neighbors have argued that the proposal isn't compliant with the city's guidelines for single-family neighborhoods and that the building's proposed mass, height and scale contrast with the other homes on the street.

"In addition, architecturally and stylistically, it's inconsistent with the historical swim club and its associated features," Knoefler said.

Her concerns aren't limited to this single proposal. Palo Alto should do a better job in general in protecting Eichler homes, she said. To that effect, she is considering launching a petition to create a single-story overlay district in the Midtown section near the club. The city, she said, should be a national leader in protecting Eichlers.

"Palo Alto has the largest concentration of Eichler homes in the region, and they're very quickly being destroyed for new construction," Knoefler said.

While the proposed design for 3558 Louis Road is still slated to be two stories, the residents' concerns have already had an effect. City planners and architects have agreed to defer the decision on the project and to change the design.

City Planner Lee Mei notified residents of the change in an email on May 23.

"In response to neighbor concerns and general discussion of neighborhood issues with planning staff, the applicant (architect) is revising the building design and has requested the (Individual Review) be deferred until after revised drawings have been filed," Mei wrote.

Young, principal architect at local firm Young and Borlik Architects, said the firm plans to make dramatic changes to "meet the expectations of the neighborhood."

The massing in the new plans will be "changed dramatically to be more in line with the surroundings," he said. The gabled roofs will be removed from the first floor and there will be more horizontal roof plans. The second floor will also be set back farther.

"The horizontal nature of the house is much more in keeping with the Eichler neighborhood," Young told the Weekly.

He stressed, however, that the traditional Eichlers of the sort that went up in the neighborhood in the late 1950s are nearly impossible to replicate today. Modern building codes have more stringent standards about everything from seismic safety to insulation and attic space, he said.

"Eichlers are a great style, but you could not build a true Eichler today under current guidelines," he said.

Even so, the revised design will aim to make the house "more contextual in terms of the design guidelines of Palo Alto and compatibility."

"We're sensitive to what the neighbors have to say," Young said. "We're definitely trying to address their concerns."


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm

You cannot legislate taste.

Like it or not, there are existing private property rights and city codes.

There is an existing city code/process for property owners who wish to replace or modify a 1-story home and build a 2-story home. All the architect & property owner needs to do is follow the guidelines. If they follow the guidelines, then the neighbors can squawk all they want, but they cannot prevent the project from moving forward.

Nowhere in the guidelines does it say that the neighbors can dictate architectural style. Nor should there be such a clause.

Posted by "true Eichler?", a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2014 at 1:50 pm

That's interesting: " could not build a true Eichler today..."
For one thing, codes have changed, but it seems there have been some modern homes built that closely resemble Eichlers. It isn't to be casually discouraged. Occasionally one sees homes that appear to have something of the architectural style of Eichlers but are clearly new properties.
No, an "exact" Eichler with single paned glass and perhaps some of the post and beam construction and lack of insulation, etc. wouldn't comply. But the STYLE is appealing and some of the floorplans very successful with "inside-outside" living truly possible for those of us who have resided in good Eichlers.
Plunking something drastically different down in an Eichler neighborhood is jarring (I have seen this conflict MANY years ago near Homestead High School in Sunnyvale, for example, where there was indeed controversy and I think a second-story overlay ban was voted in by neighbors there) --
Eichlers are not, even so, all of one style, and even if you think you know one when you see one, some older homes out there are cheaper, less-stylish imitations, often poorly maintained and unappealing.
Still, a range of true Eichler neighborhoods remain to this day in a number of cities. Eichlers can be seen as the set in television ads occasionally as a cool back-drop. They are in LA and Marin County and over in Walnut Creek. I believe they are still up in San Mateo.
The new-ish real estate company (and builder?) has been in our local regional press purporting to re-build or build-new 'Eichlers' consistent to the name, with encouragement from Mr. Eichler's son (or grand-son).

Posted by Believe!, a resident of another community
on May 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Eichler owners are geeks about Eichlers just as some people are geeks about Volvos or Saabs. Now there is a non-believer in the club! A heretic! This must not be allowed!
Its kind of amusing because in the end, nobody gets hurt and we all still get to live in this wonderful area.

Posted by "true Eichler?", a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Well, I lived in two Eichler neighborhoods will several hundred homes and there were CC&Rs in those neighborhoods. I don't know about this Palo Alto neighborhood and whatever rules may apply there.

Posted by Robert West, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The new design is banal and fussy. [Portion removed.] Crescent Park has a number of these houses and they look remarkably like the model shown here..lots of rooms,little or no garden space,easy outside maintenence. we shall see, won't we?

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Wonder if this is not the future of South Palo Alto--the slow dismantling of the Eichlers until they are all gone.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm

The exact same replica was recently constructed on another street and immediately sold to a [portion removed] family that resides abroad and plans on sending their kids to high school in Palo Alto. They don't care about the impact on the neighborhood, as far as I know they have never even seen it, and this is a scenario that keeps occurring now at an ever accelerating pace.

Posted by Fact or,fiction, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Boscoli- where do you get your information from, I.e. identity of the buyer and their future plans?? And if what you are saying is true, which I have my doubts about, is there anything illegal in what they are doing?
BTW, I think the new house proposed looks very nice, a contrast to the substandard firetrap eichlers.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Louis Road has a lot of Kaufman and Brown homes. The street is a mixed bag. Kaufman and Brown homes do not wear well. Eichler homes have a huge construction group that can keep them up to date and looking good. Any home today has to be brought up to spec, typically with new flooring, carpeting, bathrooms, kitchen to compete in today's market.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm

The Young and Borlik sketch is very similar to example 3D in the Palo Alto Single Family Individual Review Guidelines. Web Link

Example 3D is labeled "Does NOT meet guideline"

Posted by BillT, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I think this is a worthwhile debate, but I do think people should refrain from speculating about "what kind of people" own the home. What's worse? People building an out of character house, or the neighborhood engaging in in prejudice against the folks that live there!

Aren't the zoning restrictions such that the size, home to lot size ratio and setbacks of the homes is what is consistent with the overall character? I tried to read what I could online, and for R-1, I couldn't see anything about any real aesthetic judgements. There's tons of regulations about all kinds of stuff, but nothing that seems to say, "you have to build something that looks like a mid-century modern."

Now, that being said...building a house that does compliment the existing houses is probably a way to make friends with the neighbors, and building one that looks way different may have the opposite effect!

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm

After the past year, I am all for neighborhoods ensuring the character of the neighborhood is respected. On my side of town, we're thinking about a two-story overlay even though the zoning limits things to two stories anyway, just so we don't have to keep fighting all the exceptions. It will be a two-fer since we can publicize it during the next election, hopefully getting some of these horrible development-crazed Councilmembers off the Council...

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm

@BillT - 2 story houses must also follow the Individual Review guidelines

Posted by Midtown resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Nobody is asking the owners to keep the Eichler or stick with one story. They are simply asking exactly what the Individual Review Guidelines require: that the new home be consistent with the surrounding homes in a number of specified ways including layout on the lot, rooflines, architectural details, massing, etc. The original proposed design violated nearly every guideline. There are good examples in the area of homes that fit in nicely with approximately the same square footage as the proposed home. The owners were right to reconsider, they will have an easier time getting approval and their home will be worth more in the end.

The architects, on the other hand, should be ashamed that they did not better advise the owners in the first place.

Posted by I Own My Home, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm

The proposed house was clearly out of character for the site and neighborhood. Look at the amount of obfuscation on the part of the illustrator could mask the home's overwhelming proportions.

From the information obtained on the online documents, the primary design criteria was maximizing the total square footage of the home. Little if any apparent care was taken in considering the project site or neighborhood.

This is clearly a huge public design failure for the project Architect, Young and Borlik Architects. It would be interesting to hear what the Architect's design process was for the least give them a chance to defend their work.

BTW...the home owner's/developers have a record of flipping homes in Palo Alto. Not sure this is anything but a commercial venture given the inferno that is Palo Alto real estate. It's nice to see the neighborhood working together to preserve a sense of community.

Posted by anon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2014 at 4:42 pm

It's possible to add on to an Eichler in a way that complements the original design philosophy, adds a lot of square footage, and is graceful and beautiful to boot. Here's a good example, from a little-known Eichler pocket neighborhood in Redwood City. Very nicely done expansion that fits in beautifully with the neighborhood. Web Link

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I think Eichlers are ugly...a hangover from the post-WWII era, and they were ugly back then, too. I lived in one for a couple years...livable, but still ugly. If someone buys an Eichler, and wants to scrape it, and build something more tasteful, I am fully supportive.

Our tax base will improve, as more Eichlers disappear.

Posted by MD from Thousand Oaks, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 5:28 pm

If you drive around Old PA, you will find new/modern designed homes...nothing close to traditional or Monterey Colonial. I don't recall anyone throwing a fit over those homes.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Well Craig Laughton - I live in an Eichler and love all of the glass - it is like living outside. So you have now categorized yourself. Wow - that colors the other comments you make. There are a lot of Eichler homes all over California, including Palm Springs, Marin, etc.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 5:35 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2014 at 5:57 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Having rented for a time in this area, to me this seems problematic.
I can understand the desire to hold back time, and if people have
Eichlers to not want neighbors staring down into their properties
and windows, but those Eichlers are almost all wearing down and
falling apart.

The insufficient slabs of most of them are broken multiple places,
the radiant in-floor heating is problematic or does not work in many
of them. The walls of glass let heat right through and the floor plans
are inefficient to the value of the property and land.

All over Palo Alto everyone else has had to have these big McMansions
sitting next to them. Drive around our city and see. I don't see that
Eichler's are anything special, and restrictions on people's property
need to be properly and well thought out.

Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Craig Laughton, why the need to call someone else's house ugly?
[Portion removed.]

Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Bru is a registered user.

anon said:
> It's possible to add on to an Eichler in a way that complements the original design philosophy, adds a lot of square footage

Yes it is, but there are several Eichler expanded houses that seem to have kept the angles and the materials, but they look not so different from the bloated McMansions too. In fact a larger sized house designed from he get-go to be what it is ( I hate to say it ) looks at least slightly better than an artificial looking Eichler style that is not really an Eichler.

Some Eichlers are really nice, and some are a bit cookie-cutter economical. Like any style they can be done well or not so well. I just don't see that we can hold back the tide of change in Palo Alto, or that rather we should pick our battles and decide what is important. Perhaps some remodels should not be allowed because they impinge too much on their neighbors. Many Palo Alto lots ... particularly Eichler lots seem very small.

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

I see nothing wrong with maintaining an 'Eichlerish' look, while going to 2 stories. There is one in Barron Park and it does not look 'wrong' as some of the add-on to Eichlers do.

Eichlers are not my cupa, but that does not mean I am against keeping up a neighborhood 'style'. Flat roof, lotsa glass, lotsa flat wood sideing. Presyo

Posted by Yecccchhh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I grew up in an Eichler, and it was AWFUL. The single-wall construction made it cold in the winter, not in the summer, and the heating and cooling bills were enormous, almost as large as my parents' mortgage at the time. The heating in the floor stopped working the third year we lived there, and could not be fixed because it was embedded on the concrete foundation, so wall heaters had to be installed. We also lost a lot of heat through all the large windows.

The noise was awful through the thin walls, and when the wind blew, they rattled. After five years, the flat roof began to leak, and the roof had to be replaced so frequently that the roofer had to re-construct a pitched roof to avoid further problems.
basically, the only good thing was that it was built on a large lot.

Eichlers are so high maintenance, so energy-inefficient, and so unsafe that they SHOULD be torn down!

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

>Craig Laughton, why the need to call someone else's house ugly?

Because I think Eichlers are ugly. I see no reason to protect them. Nothing more.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm


I agree with you 100% However, I believe The zoning should be single story only.

Posted by Left of Boom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Left of Boom is a registered user.

There are lots of second story Eichlers which look like someone placed a box on the original structure. They look cheap and ugly. This "Tracy" house is a definite improvement on the usual second story Eichler.

Posted by Ben, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I would not want the proposed new home next to me either, it's a conglomeration of architectural cliches. Where are the Corinthian columns and the turret?

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm

2 story houses in a neighborhood of 1 story houses are lame. It ruins privacy, it blocks light, it can block views. Architectural consistency helps define neighborhoods.

Posted by pa, a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2014 at 9:54 pm

From the energy efficiency standpoint, the Eichler home has the lowest points. So why bother in the Greenest town of USA.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The architect/property owner/City staff did not follow the guideines
under the Single-Family Individual Review process which covers two-story
houses. This happens all the time but the neighbors organized and provided strong opposition in this case with some effectiveness. One stories even in an Eichler overlay zone do not have any design restrictions in PA, just height limit. Also the FAR's and minimal setbacks and allowing basements with dewatering outside the flood zone not under FEMA restrictions are all producing many bad outcomes in the neighborhoods just like in the commercial areas in PA. It's all consistent.

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 28, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Hey Rupert, Yecch and Mr. Craig-
Just think if you owned an Eichler home now, it would be worth at least $1.5 mil - in an "as is" condition. How much would your stucco box sell for in the Bay Area-why not Google "Eichler Homes"? You may learn some facts. And Mr. Yecch-just think if you maintained your Eichler and made some upgrades and repairs, the house would sell for at least $2 mil-then you could retire and go live in your "stucco box".

Posted by Guidelines are not Ordinances, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Folks, the City of Palo Alto Planning department doesn't care about "guidelines," those are just "suggestions."

The Architecture Review Board does not care about a proposed home being "clearly out of character for the site and neighborhood." One need look no farther than the "home" that was recently completed at the corner of Mayview and Ross to see a dwelling that has absolutely nothing in common with the rest of the neighborhood character. Even my nine year-old commented as we passed it on bikes, "Is that a doctor's office? It looks like an office building."

While I wish the PA planning department and the ARB actually did their jobs, and protected our neighborhoods from inappropriate things happening and forced compliance with ordinance and zoning rules, they are really more rubber stamp orgs. It really just comes down to how many people know about a proposal and complain.

While I believe the proposed new home at 3558 Louis needs some changes, I am appalled by the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club's Board for the letter they sent and the opposition they promoted within the club membership. The decision to send a letter, and the letter content, was determined solely by the 5-7 person "Board of governors," and not voted upon by the general membership. Instead, the general membership was notified AFTER the letter had been sent, and were encouraged to white their own letters/emails of protest because the Board of Governors had deemed that the best course of action.

As an Eichler member, I am very disappointed that the club Board decided to take such a strong stance against the neighbor directly across the street, who puts up with a great deal of noise and parked cars in front of their home due to the Eichler club. My experience with "the Board" is that they do not represent the interests of all the members, but primarily their own. The Board is made up of exclusively (or almost exclusively) of swim team parents/grandparents and as such the swim team receives ridiculous advantage. If you are not on the swim team do not plan to use the pool M-F during the spring and summer weekday afternoon/evening (you know, like after work when you might want to take a swim and relax with your family) - the ENTIRE pool and BBQ area is taken over by the swim team. Seriously, you will actually be kicked out of your table space if it is deemed needed for the "teen dinners."

[Portion removed.]You are cutting off our noises to spite our faces. We should be doing things to support our Club's neighbors, not politicking against them for selfish reasons. A two-story home there will not hurt the club - it will increase the property value. Also, your argument that all Eichler members are "owners" is BS. The Eichler members are not "owners" and do not benefit from any increase in value of the club membership. We do not own "shares" of the Eichler property, we just pay to use it. It seems the value of the property has increased dramatically over the last 50 years, and yet current members are having to pay for the deck and pool maintenance that should have been covered by our fees. Why did the Eichler Board not plan for the maintenance costs and accumulate the funds over time, rather than "socking it to" the current members? We are not only paying for ALL of the maintenance costs accumulated over the last 50 years, we also lost access to our club for 6 months, and it's still a mess even though we can finally use the pool (oh wait, swim team is in full session so we have very limited access to the pool).

And, just because your grandchildren are big swimmers does not mean you should ignore your responsibility to represent the best interests of ALL Eichler members. Why do we need a three year waiting list just to load up an already ridiculously over-sized and unsafe swim team?

There are many things I love about Eichler, but the priorities and decisions of the Board are not among them. I' sure the original intent of this club was not to cater only to the swim team. Since the Eichler Board seems so caught up in the "original design" perhaps they should also consider the "original intent."

Posted by live modestly, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2014 at 11:27 pm

There are meany areas, Greenmeadow included, where Eichlers have been well maintained and/or restored. Easy to add insulation to walls, a foam roof and double pane glass. The greenest house is the one already there.

I believe neighborhoods with predominantly single story Eichler homes are commanding a premium in today's market. Eichlers (with appropriate upgrades) are very much coveted by today's generation for their intelligent aesthetic. Not only for style, but for the neighborhood where one can still see blue sky and trees from their backyard and living room.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Yecccchhh ... I think you grew up in an Eichler knock-off, not a real Eichler. Eichlers have pitched roofs, at least most of them did. The houses you see in Palo Alto with flat roofs are "fake" Eichlers. But, all the problems you mentioned are valid there are fixes for all of them and most people have updated their Eichlers, or Eichler-style houses and they are pretty comfortable. If you have a nice yard Eichlers are pretty nice. They let in a lot of light, and most of the houses built at the same time in Palo Alto have their own problems that were as bad or worse. A lot of old houses had asbestos or lead paint. Heat in a lot of old houses was radiators or in-floor gas burners.

Over the decades most houses in Palo Alto have now been updated. This is a change from when I first moved here. I do have to say that I am really surprised at the problems and inefficiencies still in houses today. I don't think they have gotten a lot better. Now it is common for many houses to be these huge boxes where the two or more floors are open so all the heat rises right up to the top of the open ceiling. The space is used inefficiently.

Anyway, trying to update and Eichler to be Eichler-like is problematic. I see many of them around town and I've never really seen one that does not stand out. There is one around the corner of Greer and Oregon, a two-story that is about the best attempt, but it still just looks out of place. Add to that all over Palo Alto there has been no real attempt to maintain a style, and now the majority of houses are like that.

I don't really care so much about this, but why try to save this Eichler aesthetic what are the plusses and minuses. I like the Eichler-look and if I bought one I'd try to make it as nice as possible, but they do have a certain style that does not really fit what some people want in a house.

I think it would be better if the city would concentrate of forcing houses to conform to a code, and that code should mostly have to conform about parking. If you have a 4-5 bedroom house with a two car garage you are asking for trouble. I'd prefer the city to prioritize these problems rather than try to micromanage how every house looks, but there are some people with particularly bad taste who would build a Borg cube if they could get away with it, so theres has to be some kind of design aesthetic - it's just that the city is so bad about making these kinds of decisions, especially if money or power is pushing them to go along.

Posted by NorCal Appraiser, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 29, 2014 at 2:28 am

As an appraiser, its clear to me that neither the architect nor the homeowner have considered conformity and its effect on the value of the home itself. No matter what is built in place of the Eichler, when the home is valued for resale or refinance, conformity will be an issue and contributory factor to value. Homes that due not conform adversely affect the lender's risk analysis. This home is not suited for a tract community, but I guess they'll learn the hard way.

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 3:09 am

Eichlers are not worth 1.2 million, but the land is. I own 4 properties in Palo Alto. It's obscene what they are now worth. But I am under no illusion. It's not the structure, it's the location. And if I sold any of these homes, I could not blame the buyers to want to knock them down and build new two story homes that are far more energy efficient and maximize living space within code. Part of the reason some homeowners don't upgrade eichlers is they can not afford to, especially if they bought in from the late 80s to present. Just staying up with property taxes can be enough. I am so proud of my WWII generation fathers. However, eichlers have more than served their time. They still remind me of living on a military base. The sooner they go, the better. However, for those that want to live In them until they die, I understand. Your kids or the realtor will likely sell, cash out, and the next buyer should have more than the right to build a new home- NOT condos or apartments. The last thing we need is dense housing and the crowds that come from it. With respect to foreign investors, I wish we could have a law prohibiting non-citizens from buying homes. However, I am sure one of the most powerful lobby groups in Washington (real estate ) would be near impossible to over come without massive campaign finance reform. Too much money at stake. America is for sale to the highest bidder by fellow Americans.

Posted by In the shadow of Frys, a resident of University South
on May 29, 2014 at 6:45 am

Note to "Guidelines are not Ordinances"

While I don't live in the neighborhood and am not a member of the Eichler Club...I do find it interesting that you use this forum to complain about the Eichler governance.

That's an issue you should take up with your club. Its very cowardly for you to attack the club anonymously. Is it because you are already frequently ignored by the club and its members.

I just drove by the club and saw the proposed replacement home location. I'm not sure the Club was too far out of line.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2014 at 6:52 am

@PA Native, many states do have rules against non-resident aliens purchasing real estate, particularly agricultural land.

Posted by what?, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

"Guidelines are not Ordinances" what are you talking about? I don't get how this article is related to any internal swim team issues... looking at your comment it feels like someone had to let of some steam - don't you have board meetings at Eichler where you should bring up those concerns? But please spare the rest of us with your anonymous accusations that are obviously unrelated to this article.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2014 at 7:46 am

The Individual Review Guidelines are requirements for second story development under 18.12.110 of the municipal code.

It often appears that staff is either not interested or doesn't have the time to analyze new 2 story house applications for conformance to the guidelines. Unless neighbors weigh in, staff will generally approve applications. Staff routinely approves buildings that are similar to the DO NOT examples in the guidelines.

Several spec developers (Atlanta comes to mind) repeatedly build houses that closely resemble the DO NOTs in the guidelines.

18.12.110 Single Family Individual Review
(a) Purpose
The goals and purposes of this chapter are to:
(1) Preserve the unique character of Palo Alto neighborhoods;
(2) Promote new construction that is compatible with existing residential neighborhoods;
(3) Encourage respect for the surrounding context in which residential construction and alteration takes place;
(4) Foster consideration of neighbors' concerns with respect to privacy, scale and massing, and streetscape; and
(5) Enable the emergence of new neighborhood design patterns that reflect awareness of each property's effect upon neighboring properties.
This program is intended only to mitigate the effects of second story construction on neighboring homes, and should not be construed to prohibit second story construction when this title would otherwise permit it.

Posted by pares, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2014 at 8:30 am

@Crescentparkanon -- your statement "I think it would be better if the city would concentrate of forcing houses to conform to a code, and that code should mostly have to conform about parking. If you have a 4-5 bedroom house with a two car garage you are asking for trouble."

You are so right. We have a neighbor with a seven bedroom house who now rents out to 16 people with about just as many cars. It does create problems for our street parking. There should be a limit to how many cars each house can have, based on how many parking spaces that house can provide.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2014 at 8:57 am

Palo Alto is run by and for developers. Only the spectacularly bad
grand scale projects get broad attention. It's the culture of City Hall,
it's the focus, it's the mindset. Drive around PA and you can see the
result. At the same time that this is happening to the physical environment,
and the growing congestion,overbuilding, the natural environment is deteriorating as many trees, especially magnolias,are dying. The Downtown mega office projects with deep excavations underway are apparently not hitting water which may be another indication of a dropping water table and the effects of severe drought. Water is not even considered as a growth constraint in the City Hall mindset along with street system,parking,
neighborhood character, safety, etc.

Posted by Walt, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

In my Midtown neighborhood, most of the houses are sort of traditional style. As the older houses are torn down and replaced with huge two-story houses, some of the new ones are ugly "Spanish" style, and some are ugly bare box style. People have different tastes. Why should some neighborhoods get to stop a home from being built because they don't like the design? Also, with the cost of real estate today, building a small one-story house isn't a realistic demand.

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2014 at 9:11 am

Mr. Palo Alto Native-
I suppose if I owned "4 properties in Palo Alto" - that tearing down an Eichler would be appealing and re-building especially if it was a "McMansion". Or, you could build a "super-Eichler" and not incur the wrath of your neighbors-but I suppose you would prefer living in a "stucco box" since "living on a military base" is beneath you. You need room for your BMW and Mercedes and Eichler garages are "just too small". BTW-when was the last time you have seen military housing? Your comment about the housing for families is pretty insulting to our military folks. Very telling-you might want to educate yourself on architecture and how it contributes to living environments.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2014 at 9:20 am

"with the cost of real estate today, building a small one-story house isn't a realistic demand."

Fear not. Real estate prices will drop as Palo Alto morphs into McTackyMansionville, the children of the McTackyMansion builders go to college, and the McTackyMansion builders move away to a more appealing townscape.

Posted by Fact or fiction, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 9:41 am

"Fear not. Real estate prices will drop as Palo Alto morphs into McTackyMansionville, the children of the McTackyMansion builders go to college, and the McTackyMansion builders move away to a more appealing townscape."

You are probably wrong about real estate prices, but McTackyMansionviLle is a huge improvement over brokendownEichlerville and decrepitProfessorville

MD from TO seems to have issues with those that do not worship eichlers

Posted by Berry, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

You can do whatever you want with your home especially in Palo Alto. When my neighbors remodeled their home the city barely reviewed the proposed plans and when construction began I just about had a heart attack. Giant windows were peering down into my backyard! This was obviously a huge code violation. When I complained to the city all I got was a bunch flack and they really were not cooperative. Good luck with any of this.

Posted by Not Boscoli, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2014 at 10:15 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2014 at 10:27 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 10:47 am

>if the property is paid for with cash loaned by the Chinese government, does that now make the property a little colony owned by the Chinese government? The mere thought is disturbing.

Well, if you get a loan, backed by Fannie or Freddie, does that make PA an exclusive American colony? If the homes bought by foreign Chinese remain part of an open market, where supply and demand determine the price, I don't see an issue. It would become an issue if properties are not put on the open market, when they are re-sold (but only sold to Chinese buyers approved for loans from China).

If I put my house on the market, I want to get the most money possible, in an open market. I don't care what the ethnicity of the buyer is. Also, as long as basic zoning rules are followed (daylight plane, FAR, etc.), it is nobody's business what type of house goes onto my property, even an Eichler (gawd forbid!).

Posted by Fact or fiction, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 10:49 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 11:01 am

ChrisC is a registered user.

As someone mentioned, there is someone designing new Eichlers, meaning sticking to the design principles, not 1950s materials. Why is there so much debate about the materials? nobody has said they have to recreate an Eichler. They need to get the other architect, and I'm going to find the name and pass it to the swim club.

Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 11:23 am

(former 38 yr resident) I just saw an episode of "House Hunters" about a week or 2 ago and the people were moving into Palo Alto/Los Altos area from S.F. They were looking for an Eichler. I know there are Eichlers which have had 2nd floors added and if that's designed by a good architect it can be quite good but done by people who just plop a box on top of a box, it isn't always so attractive. True, you can't legislate taste but to see all the variety of charming houses of all kinds be replaced with these McMansions, all of which have the same look to them, has been very depressing. But it reflects the change in the type of people in the town and it's definitely been a change for the worst. They are they McMansion types. Soon P.A. will be a sea of them, pretentious and yet cheap looking, so similar that evidently there isn't much individuality left in people, they just want what's "in" as being a status symbol at the time, regardless of how appropriate or tasteful it is. Palo Alto has become the Kimye wedding of towns.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 11:28 am

Eichler did oversee the design and building of 2 story homes up in the Highlands of San Mateo.

Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 11:45 am

I still have the receipt for our Eichler on Amarillo, from 1951. I think my Dad paid between $15,000 and $25,000 for it. So ridiculously low compared to what's happening now that it fried my brain, and I can't remember. We loved our house, but the Marines transferred us back to D.C.

I also swam at the Eichler club in the mid-fifties, when we came back. It would be a shame to change the flavor of that neighborhood. Just saying...

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 11:50 am

> They are they McMansion types. Soon P.A. will be a sea of them, pretentious and yet cheap looking, so similar that evidently there isn't much individuality left in people

Where have you been. Have you driven though Palo Alto lately ... it seems to me that maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of the homes in Palo Alto have been torn down and replaced, most completely rebuilt.

But you know a lot of people really forget what most of the homes in Palo Alto were like. Though many were charming but most were very small and with one bathroom - they served a good purpose there were a lot or really weird and dysfunctional homes. I remember when I was house hunting seeing houses with chained bedrooms where you had to walk through on bedroom to get to another. Some houses had brick planters built right into the living room. There were some really weird houses in Palo Alto, most with no insulation and wasteful heating systems because energy was cheap back then. Many were really really old, say back to the 30's. Lots of lead and asbestos too.

Old wiring, old plumbing, there are a lot of weird new and old houses. It's funny that you talk about individuality, when most of the new houses are individually designed and most of the old houses were tract housing cookie-cutter designs. Drive through some of the Eichler areas and you will see a few of the same the same house design over and over and over. They look different now - 40 years later, probably so will most of the McMansions if they last that long.

Though I like Eichlers, many of them at least, the land here costs so much, and the houses so limited, why wouldn't people want to maximize their investment? It would be great if the city government could do something in a fair, balanced, reasonable way, but look at what else they have done - I'm not very impressed. We just seem to have to trust these decisions to the neighbors complaining if something really bothers them, but at some point most houses will come up for sale and people will want to get the biggest price for their property, and with severe, incoherent restrictions on them that is not going to happen. Somehow we have to move into the future. How do we do that?

One other thing no one is talking about here, the South Bay and Peninsula have really done a lot to clean up and improve the quality of life. The air is clean, cars are cleaner, but we still have the train that goes right through the middle of multi-million dollar properties, and we still have more airplanes than ever flying over us making more noise. We need some kind of coherent process to make things better, not just more profitable. I really pity Palo Altans who have to spend so much money only to be a block or two away from the train.

Posted by Boomer P, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

This is happening ALL OVER PALO ALTO, FAMILIES WHO LIVE ABROAD, ESPECIALLY IN ASIA are buying homes in Palo Alto to take advantage of the excellent school system and then to go the UC system.

what is the residency requirement to attend PA schools??

Boomer p

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Mr. Fact or Fiction-
For someone that claims to know about Eichlers, I think you overlooked the tracts in Thousand Oaks, City of Orange and Granada Hills. Even in "tacky" SoCal, 2 story "stucco boxes" have not been approved in these neighborhoods. Guessing that you own stock in Home Depot. After observing the drama going on in Palo Alto, I'm happy to be living in Thousand Oaks-which is in Ventura County, BTW. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Family needs change, 3 bed, 1 bath and living room was OK. Today people want space, tastes are different, those McManison are large and ugly. We need space for every gizmo, gadget and 48 rolls of toliet paper. Wine cellar, 80 inch TV, 2 cars and garage filled with stuff.

The average American Home has grown in square foot but the size of the family has gotten smaller.

Posted by Fact or fiction, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 12:40 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I really like the new house on Ross and Mayview. It's an example of a modern style done well. Sure better than pink stucco mcmansion across the street

Posted by Carol Gilbert, a resident of University South
on May 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Lived in an Eichler in Walnut Creek and loved it. I would have considered it a hideous intrusion to have someone try to put up the proposed home seen here in the midst of our neighborhood. Quite honestly, expansion on them should be kept to single story additions.

Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm

@boomer p - to attend PAUSD you need either a tax bill with a homeowners exemption( shows you actually live here and yes, they really check that) or a signed lease AND 3 months of pa utility bills or a drivers license with a pa address.

As far as renovating houses, the house at forest and Lincoln is being ripped apart for the 3rd or 4th time in recent years and it started out as beautiful old house with period details. Looks like they are ripping out all the character not to mention that the poor neighbors have been subjected to and inconvenienced by construction for much of the past 10 years.

At least most new construction takes 1year instead of 10.

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Fact or fiction, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

The "yuppiefication" of Palo Alto begins with McMansions in the Eichler neighborhoods.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

We have friends who remodeled their Eichler and added on a new garage that has a loft. The garage has more of a boxy look but definitely falls into the modern category. They changed the siding on the house and gave height and depth to the roof line.

Apparently the neighbors across the street sent them a letter telling them that they had ruined the neighborhood. Of course the neighbors across the street live in a ranch house styled home. Go figure. The irony of someone who doesn't own an Eichler telling an Eichler homeowner that they've ruined the neighborhood is priceless.

But the best part of the story is that our friends tell us that almost anytime they are outside, people who walk by are always giving compliments and have questions about design, etc. They have had total strangers knock on their doors asking for references, as well as asking if there was any way that they could take a look at the house and garden.

You can tell that house has Eichler roots. But frankly looks way better than any of the Eichlers in the area. It has been updated and looks like a home that could be built today.

Posted by paloaltonative, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm

paloaltonative is a registered user.

@musical: great to hear some states have rules against non-resident aliens purchasing real estate particularly agricultural land. This provides some hope (and precedent). I want our country to give Americans exclusive buying options, not sell to the highest bidder. Moreover, although more commercial development in Palo Alto would continue to boost my personal income as a consequence of housing demand, I do not want any more people moving or working in Palo Alto. It has severely affected the quality of life for my tenants and myself.

@MD from TO: first, I do not live in South Palo Alto so no wrath would incur from Eichler neighbors. Am not putting down the people who live there, just the house design. I get it: most are just up to their debt limit and a few pay checks away from foreclosure if one or the other professional looses their jobs. However, as you have noted, since you live in Thousand Oaks in Ventura County (been there), I am not surprised you are not up on our town. And, as you have also noted, I am happy you are living there, too. Second, to identify your misconceptions, I do not own a BMW or Mercedes. I own an all-electric Smart Car. I could afford the former(s) and I admire the German engineering, but I find both to be bulky and poor gas millage. Next, I am a US Armed Forces Veteran; and so were my fathers/Uncles all the way back to the fourth degree (Korea, WWII, WWI, War Between the States). Did you have the honor of serving our country, too? Military housing of the 1950s is what Eichler's remind me of. I am thankful there has been some improvement in military housing standards. Moreover, I would personally double the salary for all military personnel and teachers, too. Both professions, in my view, are sorely underpaid and not honored by society if using income as a primary indicator. As both a veteran and educator, I could be deemed bias on this point.

Last, if upgrading homes away from Eichler's is your definition of yuppification, then I guess am guilty. Eichler's served a great role in providing modest first-time buyers on the GI Bill an opportunity to reward those survivors of the war (my dad screamed from nightmares well into his 80s) with their first home. Remember, America before that was primarily a rural or urban setting.

Here's one you might enjoy: I am not sure what MD from TO represents? If it's Maryland to Thousand Oaks I can tell you this – I'd rather live in an Eicher in South Palo Alto than a mansion along the Chesapeake, any day! When I lived there for a short military assignment, that whole state has only what I call "four weeks a year of Palo Alto weather!" Good old MD is too darn hot and humid for this West Coast native. I'd then make plans to either build a new house or sell the Eichler and move to another house design. Enjoy Thousand Oaks!

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm

rick is a registered user.

I assume MD has a medical degree. I also assume a Smart Car is a Mercedes.
I never lived in an Eichler but many of my PAUSD classmates did, and we have fond memories of the good old days. Has anyone studied the correlation of childhood mental health among children brought up in an Eichler vs a McMansion? (Good luck controlling for other variables.)

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2014 at 11:35 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

I don't have a strong stake in this debate, but I do find it HILARIOUS when one poster calls out another for posting anonymously, when they themselves are posting anonymously. Can you spell, "hypocrite?"

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 1:03 am

MD from TO is a registered user.


Quite a rambling message-
my history is below
1. US Army vet with 24 years of service
2. Purchased my current home in Thousand Oaks with VA assistance-BTW it's an Eichler (2800 square feet) built in 1967-doesn't remind me of a barracks either.
3. Spouse is from PA-grew up in an Eichler-Greenmeadow tract.
4. Vehicles are a BMW x3 and Mercedes E class - no oversized SUVs that "yummie mommies" haul kids in.
5. No yuppiefication here due to our tract being a Historical Preservation Zone-Palo Alto Eichler folks should do this to keep out McMansions.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2014 at 11:04 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Dad - I know the house you are talking about (and the owners). The garage looks great, the house is greatly improved. I wish more Eichler owners would follow in their footstep! I'm personally not a big fan of most Eichlers, especially the ones that people have tried to turn into traditional homes or cottages.

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