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Neighbors on Eichler block won't appeal new house

Original post made on Aug 4, 2014

Despite major reservations about a new two-story home that will soon go up on their Eichler-style block, residents of Richardson Court have withdrawn their appeal of the project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 4, 2014, 12:09 PM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Please let supply & Demand work and home ownership prevail as long as no code or zoning violation! Homeowner usually is not stupid they won't build anything bad unless they plan to keep it forever!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I already expressed support and sympathy to Mr. Ingle on a previous thread. This could happen to any of us and his concerns were legitimate. I was sorry to hear of this applicant with an unsuitable project.
By the way, it is humorous to see these looming, hulking new properties with...ONE car garages. Very unappealing and out of scale. Taste IS a matter of opinion, but there need to be some guidelines.
I happen to be a previous owner of two Eichler homes and these were in attractive developments (not in Palo Alto); this discussion about taste and suitability in a neighborhood with mostly uniform style shouldn't be limited to pro-eEchler or anti-Eichler. That really isn't the main point. I personally would not install an eichler-type home in a neighborhood filled with predominately Tudor style homes (such as in a nice area of my childhood back East). I also would not overbuild on a lot so that I was clearly invading the privacy of my neighbors.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm

The big question is how much input should neighbors have on a project that is withing the guidelines of what can be built? And which neighbors should have that input-- the neighbors next door? The neighbors down the block?
I wonder what happened with the document ingle found that stated that 3 dead people had to sign off on the project. Was it real?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I assume what you are referring to are neighborhood CC&Rs covenants, clauses and restrictions or some such.
In past, as recent as 10 yrs ago about when we sold our prior home, an Eichler in another city, one had to disclose these at time of sale.
It has nothing to do with getting the signatures of 3 dead people.
When we sold both our Eichlers, in two different cities by the way, the title company or real estate agent or us drudged up a faded photocopy of the CC&Rs and these included various guidelines about the neighborhood. In the case of Eichler, fortunately these did not include racism, which used to be in some neighborhood CC&Rs in olden days well before I was born. In the case of Eichler neighborhood, as I said, I am out of date, but I believe it stated rules about one story being the norm and other similar guidelines or rules.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Anonymous-- yes, I meant the CC&R that ingle.purportedly dug up. I asked in the other thread if the buyer had been informed of them before he bought the home. In the other story, it stated the 3 people who,had to make the decision- they are dead. So who gets the final word now. Also,there was mention that an appeal had to be filed within 30 days- that was not the case.
,ay be this CC&R is no longer binding.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Not sure about Palo Alto. However, when we purchased our first Eichler (in an Eichler neighborhood in Cupertino/W San Jose) and sold it in early 90s; purchased another Eichler in another city (in a known Eichler neighborhood with a club and pool) then and sold it in early 2000's, in each case the selling agent made sure the CC&Rs were printed off and disclosed to us as buyers and to our buyers, too. They were hard to read, as I recall, but had a bit of info in them...might have had stuff about square footage permitted to be built on a lot? or restriction to one-story?! There was no angle about original founders of a development needing to sign off on anything, though.
I haven't lived in any other CC&R neighborhoods, but I thought they exist around this country and sometimes have a variety of rules and restrictions.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Sorry, meant to include that the first Eichler was purchased by us in the 80s and sold in 90s; second purchased in 90s and sold in 2000s. I wanted to convey these were several Eichler transactions in known Eichler neighborhoods over a period of time (but not back in "ancient times").


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Could be that the CC&R was lost in the sands of time. Sounds like it from the original story:

Web Link
"But Ingle questions Yuan's legal rights. In researching the history of the property, he has found a covenant restricting construction of new houses in the subdivision until plans for these houses get approved by an architectural-control committee. The 1956 document, a photocopy of which was provided to the Weekly, names as the three members of the committee Joseph Eichler and his sons, Edward and Richard Eichler.

The covenant states that "no building shall be erected, altered, placed or permitted to remain on any lot other than one detached single-family dwelling, not to exceed one story in height and a private garage for not more than two cars."

The document also states, however, that if the committee or its designated representative fails to approve or disapprove the plans within 30 days of submission and if no suit has been commenced in that time frame, approval will not be required."

Could be that the buyer was never notified of it. There are no,living committee members. 30 days have passes and the plans were not approved or objected to.


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Posted by on Richardson Court
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

The problem is that they ARE bad.

Perhaps local norms shouldn't be important when neighborhoods are filled with mixed styles or nondescript cookie-cutter architecture. Most of us live in Eichler neighborhoods because we love the design. I know we didn't seriously consider any other type of house when we bought here 27 years ago.

I'm glad this controversy has been settled by mutual consent, but I mourn for the architectural integrity of my neighborhood.


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Posted by on Richardson Court
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 4, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I meant I mourn for the LOSS of architectural integrity.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Loss of architectural integrity? What does that even mean in this context?


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Posted by Bye,bye Eichlers
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:16 am

I completely agree with Mr. Ingle about changes needed in the approval process of homes, especially where modest homes are replaced by Monster Homes. In my experience, City Planners basically approve everything the developer wants. The City should uphold their Single Family Guidelines especially when there is such a blatant disregard for homes fitting in the neighborhood. Mr. Ingle had to fight to try to stop what was basically a "done deal". The neighborhoods that are protected like Greenmeadow are the only areas in Palo Alto where you are assured that your home will not be taken over by a Huge Home maximizing square footage and huge 2nd stories overlooking your home. The same planner that approved this Monster Home on Richardson Court approved an unsightly 3,000+ foot home which has large (not opaque) windows looking down into our backyard and kitchen windows. When I finally spoke to the Planner, he said"oh I was wondering when you were going to call". I am guilty of not knowing how terribly unrepresented homeowners are from the Planning Dept. It should not be the job of every homeowner to have to fight the Planning Dept. We pay their salaries!! The character of Palo Alto is changing quickly when house flippers, inept City Planners and absent homeowners become the norm.


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Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

What a conundrum. On the one hand, if someone owns a piece of property and wants to expand, I suppose they should have the right to. On the other hand, having lived in an Eichler neighborhood, the proposed Mediterranean monster in its midst would have been jarring.


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Posted by JCC member
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Carol--you are correct, a conundrum. And as long as the property owner is following the rules, I do not see how he can prevented from building his new home. And of course, one person's "monster home" is another person's palace!!
Perhaps Mr. Ingle should have dug up that CC&R earlier in the game (like before the home was sold)


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I am in total agreement with "Bye, bye Eichlers. Our neighborhood of Coastwise homes is also under siege with "McMediterraneans" being built. Although I believe people should be able to build 2-story homes, it should be up to the Planning Dept. to follow the IR guidelines and make sure new homes are compatible with existing neighborhoods. How can they think that a "McMansion", built out on every single available piece of land, is compatible with one-story Eichler's or Coastwise homes? To me it means they are NOT doing their jobs. The guidelines are very clear - it's just that the Planning Dept does not follow them! I agree that it is not OUR job to have to fight every time a home is built.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm

@Bye Bye Eichlers and @Sharon are exactly right.

The planning department needs to follow the IR process. It's not the neighbors' responsibility to do basic IR analysis.

Anyone seen any numbers on how many plans have flunked IR in the last ten years?


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Posted by Past Eichler Owner
a resident of Duveneck School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The current residences of any Eichler or Suburban Single Story neighborhood can apply for the community to create a height limit and privacy constraints to their neighborhood. There is such a document for the Greenmeadow Community and the Elsinore Drive, El Cajon Way, El Cajon Court Community. The owners of the homes in the stated communities voted; not unanimously, to have such a doctrine. It does not depend upon the initial Eichler Developer's approval.

Every REALTOR in PALO ALTO and in any city, knows the appropriate papers needed for the sellers and the buyers to read and sign. The City of Palo Alto Building Department is influenced by the REALTORS, DEVELOPERS, & BOARD MEMBERS. All Palo Alto Home Owners need to be involved in property decisions to make sure their rights and interests are being represented.


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Posted by Mixed Style Neighborhood Dweller hood
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I have seen a few very tasteful Eichler or modern style homes in Eichler neighborhoods that fit in quite nicely so I am wondering why these folks have to build these unattractive McMediterraneans or McTacoBells or in general McMansions that don't suit the neighborhood. I would think that the family in question here would rather have neighbors who feel good about what they construct rather than just have their own way. We have a huge and unattractive home on our block that it is poorly positioned on the lot and hardscaped to the max in the front but there is nothing anyone can do about this once it is up. The design review process is just what it is and if things don't always look that good there is nothing that can be done about it after the fact. I don't think that their are rules about the landscaping and if you want to put concrete everywhere you probably can.


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Posted by Past Eichler Owner
a resident of Duveneck School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

As soon as a For Sale Sign is put up on a piece of property all surrounding home owners (even the owners living behind the selling home on a parallel street), if concerned about the possibility of the property being scraped and a new structure built; should speak directly to the Realtor who is representing the property and find out if there is a Single Story Overlay Restraint.

The only other way for the surrounding homeowners to assit the PA Building Department is to review the drawings and make recommendations to the height, design, windows, doors, materials being used as to their appropriateness for the neighborhood.

As everyone knows, Palo Alto is going through a huge development phase, where some Realtors are keen on broadcasting to the world that Palo Alto is a great place to live (for many reasons - the best high schools in CA) and selling to the highest bidder for cash. As we can expect, being a home owner, most everyone wants their investment and property to be their dream home; some want it to be a leasted property/investment; and others are planning for the future of their children and grandchildren to be able to live in Palo Alto when old enough.

I think this discussion needs to be continued with the Entire Community, City of Palo Alto, the Realtors, the Developers. What do the citizens of Palo Alto want for themselves, their neighborhoods, their schools and lifestyle? I hope the new candidates for the City of Palo Alto will address all of the above including the onslaught of scraping the old architectural structures in downtown Palo Alto, the development of California Avenue, and what's planned for El Camino and high speed train rail areas and the surrounding neighborhoods of the high speed train.


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Posted by my experience
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I actually found the City to be very responsive to requests by neighbors. The City sends postcards to nearby neighbors when a new home is being built. There is a LONG time where neighbors can go to the Planning Department, view the proposed plans and send comments to a City Planner. When a two story home was planned to replace a one story home next door, we asked for a few windows to be moved, screening to be added to some second story porches and landscaping to be added, all for privacy purposes. The City complied with ALL our requests as did the new homeowner. That and a few extra plants maintained our relatively private back yard. Don't underestimate the value of a few trees in providing privacy!


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Posted by Eichler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Glad to hear that the owner followed the rules and is getting to build the house that he wants.and he is ridding the city of a McDump eyesore ( in keeping with the tradition of labeling the homes you do not like with a derogatory name) aka an Eichler.
Neighbors should have minimal input,as long as the owner follows the roles. Time for these greedy neighbors to think of others, besides themselves.


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Posted by 37 year Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:10 pm

37 year PA resident:

This may be one of the incidents you are referring to:

Web Link

"The debate became rancorous: The Wongs received a threatening letter and were subject to racially motivated barbs during the application process."

BTW, according to the leading local newspaper, the daily post, ingles and the neighbors invited the Yuans to a BBQ and Offered him a chance to compromise ( I find that part amusing). Glad, thought, they were able to reach an agreement. Though, in the future, as long as a homeowner follows the rules, neighbor input should be limited.


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Posted by 37 year Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm

To Rupert:

I certainly do remember this incident and there have been others, not as publicized. Thanks.


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Posted by Lucie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 5, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Mr. Ingle had an out, why didn't that neighborhood collect the signatures from 80 percent of the residents and apply for single story overlay like several other Eichler neighborhoods in south Palo Alto, then he wouldn't be having this problem. Of course a "single story overlay" designation which only permits you to build a single story house, hurts your property values but maybe Mr. Ingle doesn't care.


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Posted by Shellie sanchez
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I find it painful to witness the disappearance of palo Altos's modern architecture in favor of oversized, architecturally uninteresting homes. It is a shame that this historical Eichler directly across from the swim club could not be saved. It will break my heart to see it go..


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Posted by Lucie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm

An agreement between Mr. Ingle and the new owners of the property next door indicates that the windows on the side of the house overlooking his property will be opaque and high enough up so they will not overlook neighboring properties. This is written into the building code anyway. Look at all new and remodeled houses their side windows are high up and opaque. This change in the code dates back almost 10 years. I suggest Mr. Ingle do his homework first before making a big fuss about being overlooked.


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Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Kerry55 is a registered user.

Dear Lucie:
I think your comment about the building code requiring new houses to have their side windows high up and opaque may not be the case. Or perhaps it is in the building code, but not actually enforced. The (6 year old) McMansion overlooking both my backyard and neighbor's side yard are not high up nor are they opaque! I actually went to the Planning Commission and had a letter from the builder submitted to the Planning Dept., Planning Director and Transp. and Planning Dept. , the builder refused and did not put in opaque windows! I did sit down after the windows were in to try to get the builder to comply with his letter. The Planning Dept. couldn't find the original letter which was submitted during a PTC meeting and handed out to 1 Planner at the meeting.
My friends who sold their Coastland Home in January were also affected by a McMansion that completely covered the footprint of the lot next door. The windows might have been opaque, but it really looked down on them and took away the privacy they had enjoyed for years!..By the way, she's happy living in Santa Clara where these are non-issues!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm

@Lucie, you appear to reprimand Mr. Ingle for not collecting signatures from neighbors and getting a single story overlay for the neighborhood. That's off base and not the point, though there may be some interest from some neighborhoods in pursuing this route if there are enough misguided proposals nearby. Be advised, as far as I know from residing in a neighboring city where this took place, this took a lot of time. Cities are bureaucracies...this case here is an individual case where the next-door homeowner had very legitimate concerns for his own home, property value, and the neighborhood owing to a teardown proposal by a next-door new neighbor. In many similar cases it isn't just not wanting a 2nd floor, it's more about massive out of place homes that ALSO loom over and look into existing neighboring yards and homes.


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Posted by Eichlers aren't special
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

@Lucie had it exactly right. If Mr. Ingle opposes two story building in a neighborhood where city zoning code allows, he should go to the route of trying to get a one story overlay. If there is such rule in a neighborhood, homeowners want to tear down for 2 story would stay way and everyone will be happy.

Appealing it on the bases of two story/mass/scale in this case is ridiculous. The owner has met all the rules in this case. The house to the right is already a two story. By the way, it is much less elegant than the proposed new design. Some of those holier-than-though Eichler owners are the problem. These are cheap tract houses from 60 years ago. It's fine for them to like and live in these houses. But it's laughable for them to act as style police and force other people to perpetually dwell in them. No wonder this appeal is going no where.


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Posted by No, they are awful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Our first house was an Eichler. It was a nightmare of noise and energy waste: single-wall construction, rattly in the wind, heat
lost through the thin walls, large windows, thin roof. Freezing in the winter, broiling in the summer, flimsy and cheesy. It took over $100,000 to bring it up to 1994 standards. And yet was difficult to unload!

Never again--yuck! Obviously not built for any permanence--double yuck!


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