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With new design, home on Eichler-style block in Palo Alto nears approval

Original post made on Jul 25, 2014

After an outpouring of criticism from neighbors and significant design revisions, a Louis Road property owner this week received the green light from the city to build a two-story home on a block dominated by Eichler-style houses. The approval will become officially effective in about two weeks unless the city receives a request for a hearing from an adjacent tenant or property owner.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 25, 2014, 9:46 AM

Comments (43)

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Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

The statement "The second story in the new design is set back from the street by 19 feet" has to be inaccurate. The front setback on Louis is 24 ft, which is where the first story begins. Otherwise, the new design is a great improvement!


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Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:42 am

can people afford this? other cities have similar home designs. this used to be unique. now it is downright expensive. please come back down to earth


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Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 25, 2014 at 11:12 am

muttiallen is a registered user.

Thanks to the owners for making these changes. The new design looks to be much more in keeping with the neighborhood style.


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Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2014 at 11:56 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

Thank you, Judith, for the great catch. The upper story is set back by 19 feet from the lower story, not from the street as I initially reported. I made the correction. Sorry for the error.

-Gennady


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Posted by Quercus
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I believe it is spelled "Prairie" as in the Prairie School, made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Web Link


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Posted by Bus
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Yes, it is "Prairie" and the pictured design says, "Frank Lloyd Wright" the moment you see it. I don't live there, but, I'd love to see it at completion.


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Posted by David
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Our Eichler cul-de-sac (Torreya Ct.) and adjacent stretch of Loma Verde are a mix of one and two story homes, and the mix is not a problem. I doubt if once built anyone will really notice the two-story aspect.


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Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Again in the interests of full disclosure, another former midtowner.

Just thinking...always a hue and cry to "Save the Eichlers"!....


...but is there a similar cry to save the "Mackey's" a similar style seen south of Louis in the old De Anza school area (Streets Stelling, David, opposite Piers Dairy ...)?

They are slowing being torn down and replaced with "McMansions" too...a shame...nice architechural style vanishing.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Surely you haven't looked at many Wright designs. He would never put that prominent awkward round-topped window in the front of a house. It (among other aspects) is totally at odds with 'horizontal lines.'


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Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 25, 2014 at 8:20 pm

@David: Torreya Ct. was a new Eichler division in 1974 when I moved in and one-story houses were about $65,000. The two story houses were accepted because they were part of the mix while this situation is a tear-down. Sometimes people in one-story houses don't want two-story houses looking down at them. The Eichler neighborhood I live in now (north of Oregon) does not allow two-story houses.


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Posted by Ego rules
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm

The ego of people with new money never fails to surprise me.
I want what I want and I don't care what anyone says.
So the neighbors won't like me, who cares, I'm rich. I'll give them an orchid (standard real estate gift) and they'll forgive me.
umm..No I won't.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Why is this particular house news? Don't we continually have old housing stock being bulldozed to make way for a much bigger one?


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Posted by NotEntitled
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

The new design is nice, but the old design was OK also. It is amazing that neighbors, let alone patrons of a nearby club, would feel entitled to meddle with the design decisions of this family, and it is outrageous that the city would allow such mischief.


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Posted by At least it's not 3 or 4 story, right?
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:09 am

Well, since it's in the news ...

The new design not only looks more compatible, it just plain looks better than the old. I don't live in the neighborhood. Hopefully everyone will be happier in the end.

It is possible to get a single-story overlay. Can someone please point out how? I'd frankly just like to get a two-story overlay for my neighborhood so the City Council stops trying to break the zoning (will that work?)


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:15 am

New money?

What is this? 1890?


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Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:23 am

I like FL Wright and designs inspired by his style. I think this design looks great, but I also realize it's non of my business.


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Posted by oh well
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:28 am


Sad, I liked the original design better.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2014 at 11:57 am

This new design is wonderfully better and is reasonably compatible. Thank you to those involved for coming up with a solution. What a relief. Regards from someone in another neighborhood, but someone who has owned and enjoyed Eichlers.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Isn't this a flood zone? Any new construction is going to be higher just to meet the new building code.


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Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm

This just goes to show the lunatic behaviour of palo altans. I'm all for taking into account a neighbor's privacy, daylight plane and to stay within the city rules, and I also do agree that having buildings in character with each other is visually pleasing but that should not be the homeowner's choice, not imposed by the neighbors.

To force the house has to have the same aesthetics as the neighborhood is ridiculous. Sorry but you do not have the right to dictate my tastes. If that is the case, the new homeowner should have the right to insist that none of the neighbors remodel their homes at all since his house had to conform to them. Very likely most of the Eichlers are going to be sold and remodeled anyway..


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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm

The first design was hideous and a joke for thinking it remotely fit into the neighborhood. Obviously the newer design is a thousand times better, but still ruins the uniformity of classic Eichler mid-century neighborhood. South Palo Alto in particular has seen block by block of terribly designed (rarely by architects) overly large stucco mini-mansions which made NO attempt to blend into the existing neighborhoods. How did those already built ones get approved, I'll never understand. Homes too big for the lots, with random mixtures of Spanish/Mediterranean or East Coast traditional, but with fake paned windows (on a SPANISH style house), maybe an elaborate giant door of a completely different style, some giant columns thrown in and exterior light fixtures usually Colonial style from Home Depot on a non-Colonial house. Some of the ugliest homes I've ever seen and they were somehow approved. California has an architectural tradition, ranch houses, Eichlers, Spanish revival etc. Why do people come here and ruin pleasant neighborhoods with designs that have no sense or respect of place?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Moira, I agree! Well said.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

@Moira
The houses got built because the City does not enforce the Single Family Individual Review guidelines for two story houses. The City has no
regard for the neighborhoods, the character and ambiance of the City.
It's not on the radar screen. The City is in a free fall.





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Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2014 at 5:25 pm

@moira, anonymous- while I agree with your comments and have similar taste in architecture, I still say its NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. You cannot dictate your sense of taste to someone or insist they busy their columns at some fancy place instead of home depot. [Portion removed.] Stick with enforcing daylight plane, privacy etc, not whether my house is Spanish or not. What makes you think you have better taste than your neighbor. I think most Eichlers are *hideous* and am glad to see them go.


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

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2014 at 5:42 pm

You cannot legislate taste in architecture.

And unless there are pre-existing CC&Rs, you cannot force an architectural style on a residential property owner.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

RoH: True that.

They can disagree all they want. However the law (as you obviously know already) would beg to differ with all of the PA residential wanna-be architectural style kings and queens.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2014 at 6:10 pm

The Single-Family Guidelines for 2-story houses and remodels pertain to:
1- Basic Site Planning;Placement of Driveway,Garage,and House
2- Neighborhood Compatibility for Height,Mass, and Scale
3- Resolution of Architectural Form,Massing and Roof Lines
4- Visual Character of Street Facing Facades and Entries
5- Placement of Second Story Windows and Decks for Privacy

Drive around Palo Alto and you will readily see that only Guideline 5
is enforced at all, which usually means a tweaking of the original design






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Posted by @notfanofeichler
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I don't live in the neighborhood and don't have strong opinion about the proposal. But, am I the only person who thinks Eichler-style houses are plain unattractive from outside! However, I do like the inside-out appearance inside the house.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm

@Ego Rules
"The ego of people with new money never fails to surprise me.
I want what I want and I don't care what anyone says."

Really. You don't see how ridiculous your statement is given that you're trying to impose your sense of aesthetics on the homeowner while berating him for his ego??

I'm totally with the homeowner. He should not care two hoots what you think about the architecture of his house anymore then he should dictate your clothing style.

Where did you folks get the impression that you have a right to tell others what style to build in? I'm flabbergasted. If Palo Alto has those ridiculous rules on the books I'm glad they're not enforced. Its time to get rid of them.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2014 at 1:35 am

Given how ugly many of the houses on Louis are, it boggles my mind that the current residents, oh, and the members of some stupid club, were shameless enough to impose their will on the home owner. At some point, these people will realize that they have become the crotchety old neighbors they hated when they were younger.


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:28 am

Sparty is a registered user.

"Surely you haven't looked at many Wright designs. He would never put that prominent awkward round-topped window in the front of a house. It (among other aspects) is totally at odds with 'horizontal lines.' "

Isn't the OLD design the one with the round window?

Well we all know FLW would NEVER have anything other than straight lines in his work (*cough* Guggenheim *cough*

In any event, either design looks like it would fit in just fine in Oak Park, IL.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2014 at 5:45 am

Nicely played!

"Well we all know FLW would NEVER have anything other than straight lines in his work (*cough* Guggenheim *cough* "


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No backbone in Planning Dept.
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 29, 2014 at 6:14 am

Single Family Guidelines are not at all enforced. It is interesting that so many people had to complain about this one, just to get the 2nd story moved back a bit. My neighbors and I fought a McMansion that did not at all fit into the neighborhood, horrible sight lines, detached garage, unscrupulous builder, not at all energy efficient, but were completely ignored by Amy French and the planner assigned to the house. One neighbor had a personal lawyer to deal with fence issues. The planning process, if you can call it that, has no backbone and builders/architects have the inside track with the Planning Dept. Some of the planners I dealt with seemed to have no knowledge of the Single Family Guidelines and did not even go out to the site to examine the issues. Other friends of mine have given up with the Planning Dept. because it is so broken!! The Single Family Guidelines are a joke, unless you know someone personally in the Planning Dept., can hire an $$$ attorney or can get 49 of your neighbors to write letters. It is easy to write Guidelines, Comp. Plans, etc. but when it comes to enforcing them, nobody from the Planning Dept. will back the words up.


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

"No Backbone" has it exactly right. Guideline Two says a new 2 story house
"shall be consistent with the existing neighborhood pattern with special
attention to adopting to the height and massing of adjacent homes". This
didn't even enter into the discussion in my case, it was not on the table, and my single-story was massacred in terms of visual impact by a monster two-story. The same thing that is happening Downtown with under-parked
over-built office buildings is happening in the neighborhoods. It's a
developer/architect free-for-all. The FAR's are too high, the setbacks are
too small, the parking requirements inadequate. Then there is the dewatering
for basement construction. Look at the huge excavation/dewatering underway at corner of Newell and Northhampton.



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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 7:34 am

@No backbone is exactly right


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 7:49 am

I forgot to mention in above post- the new two story? It was a developer
spec house on fast track in City Hall. Resident has no chance, guidelines
have no meaning.


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Posted by Not my house
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:03 am

I personally prefer the original design over the revised design.

My reason is that it changes the appearance so it does not look like an Eichler. I think mixed architecture is good and characteristic of a mature neighborhood instead of an area of track housing.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:16 am

guide·line
ˈgīdˌlīn/
noun
noun: guideline; plural noun: guidelines

a general rule, principle, or piece of advice.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:29 am

From page 1 of the Palo Alto Single-Family Individual Review Guidelines under "How to use": "Each guideline has a criterion statement that must be met to obtain IR approval."


@CPD - does "must be met" sound advisory?

@No backbone is exactly right that planning staff do not take the "must be met" criteria seriously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Thank you "Anonymous" for filling out the details pertaining to
implementation of the "Single-Family Individual Review Guidelines" so those who condone the staff ignoring a "general rule, principle, or piece of advice" will find no loophole here. Again, @No Backbone is exactly right.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not your house
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2014 at 11:47 pm

@Moira It's ridiculous that you want to impose your sense of style and uniformity on other people's house. It's equivalent to dictating how other people on the street should dress to your taste of fashion.

@No backbone On what basis are you saying the guidelines are ignored? Guidelines are suggestions. So it's always open to subjective interpretations. You can disagree with the city's interpretation. But can't say the process is not followed. There will always be arguments unless the guidelines change to hard rules dictating styles, which some of the Eichler nuts probably want but just turns a living city into a dead museum.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

While I like mid-century modern and Eichlers, I'm not sure why everyone has to conform to what was essentially cheap tract-housing. And that's what Eichelers were.


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