News

Palo Alto's Eichler uprising

City looks for ways to promote architectural — and neighborhood — harmony

The dust had barely settled from Frank Ingle's first architectural battle when the next one came knocking on his door.

Ingle owns a home on Richardson Court, an Eichler alcove in Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood that has all the defining characteristics of such communities: squat structures, low-pitched roofs, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a passionate opposition to newer, taller houses that loom over their neighbors and undermine the Eichler vibe.

Last year, Ingle and his neighbors in the Faircourt tract protested a two-story home slated to go up next to Ingle's Eichler, at 808 Richardson. At 27 feet, the new residence would be nearly three times as tall as Ingle's. And the new home's Mediterranean design, with a stucco exterior, gabled roof and columns in the front, was as unappealing to the neighbors as its size.

But while Ingle and his neighbors saw the new house as incompatible with their Eichler block, city planners rejected their appeal. The next step would be to file an appeal with the City Council, a long-shot that comes with a $400 application fee.

After calculating his odds, Ingle decided against it. To his knowledge, he told the Weekly, no individual-review appeal has ever been pulled for discussion from the council's consent calendar, a list of items that the council approves with a single vote and with no deliberation. Instead, Ingle reached a deal with the property owner next door, who agreed — among other things — to make a concession toward Ingle's privacy by making the upper windows of the new home opaque.

Then, just months after the 808 Richardson saga came to a grudging end, came 809 Richardson. The building's design included vertical columns, a pitched roof, and a height more than twice that of the neighboring homes. Once again, Ingle and his neighbors are upset and are asking the city to step in. In a letter to the council earlier this month, Ingle argued that the height alone violates the city's design guidelines for single-family homes and "would be immediately disallowed if (the guidelines) were followed."

Their feeling of upset is common these days in Palo Alto, where construction and political pendulums are swinging in opposite directions. With the real estate market surging and building on the rise, neighbors are increasingly challenging proposed developments that they believe degrade their neighborhood character, whether it's a three-story commercial development on University Avenue or a single-family home on an Eichler block. Appeals from citizens have become a staple of council meetings, as have debates about architectural styles, design guidelines and compatibility.

The council's slow-growth "residentialists," who succeeded last November in winning a bare majority on the nine-member body, are leading these conversations. Earlier this month, Mayor Karen Holman and Councilman Tom DuBois each referred to the city's existing process for reviewing the design of single-family homes as "broken." Both support exploring new laws to protect Eichler tracts and other aesthetically distinct communities from tall or stylistically dissonant intruders. Both voted in early May to halt a previously approved development at 429 University Ave. after hearing an appeal from a resident who claimed the building's mass and modernist design would overwhelm the modest Victorians around the corner, on narrow Kipling Street.

Holman told the Weekly that the council today has "more sensitivity to aesthetic and compatibility issues."

"Whether it's residential or commercial, this council is more attuned to these types of concerns," Holman said.

Such words give residents like Ingle hope that the story of 809 Richardson Court will end differently than that of 808 Richardson.

"Now that the residentialists have been elected and now that they are on board, in principle, they might straighten this thing out," Ingle told the Weekly.

Contacted about this article, the homeowner at 809 Richardson, Zhiqiang Guan, said that he has been working with neighbors to accommodate their wishes.

"We have changed the design many times to consider the neighborhood and to follow the building guidelines," Guan wrote to the Weekly. The architect for the project, Roger Kohler, who was also the architect for 808 Richardson, deferred comment to Guan.

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Ingle's concerns are by no means unique to Faircourt.

In April, Eichler owners from five different sections of Palo Alto launched a joint effort to secure protection from unwelcome newcomers, including in the form of a ban on two-story homes. They're hoping to join residents in sections of Charleston Meadows and Barron Park to the south and Channing Park to the north who, in the boom years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, successfully petitioned to institute these bans by adopting what is known as a "single-story overlay."

On Monday night, these residents could get a big lift when the council votes on waiving a city fee charged to neighborhoods that apply for these changes. The fee, which currently stands at about $8,000, is routinely cited by neighborhood leaders as the biggest barrier to adopting the protection that they say their tracts urgently need.

Ben Lerner, who lives on Janice Way in the Palo Verde neighborhood, was one of many residents to make this case recently. He called the fee a "significant impediment" to applying for a single-story overlay and argued that waiving the fee would actually save the city money because it would avert a long succession of individual appeals from residents challenging proposed two-story homes.

"As our Mid-century Modern neighborhoods are an important part of our city's heritage, preserving them is in the city's interest," Lerner wrote. "Thus, we would like to ask the city to either waive, or significantly reduce, the fees charged for a single-story overlay application."

The council briefly discussed the idea during its budget hearings on June 8 and 15. While the idea garnered some initial support, members decided not to move ahead with the waiver until they study the issue further. At the June 8 discussion, Councilman Pat Burt observed that while the city hasn't had any proposals for such protections in recent years, that could quickly change once the fee is waived.

"We can go from none to a small avalanche," Burt said.

He noted that the city had a series of proposals for single-story overlays in the late 1990s, when there was a "big escalation" in remodels and rebuilds. A similar climate exists today.

"They tend to come in waves and we're in a wave period right now," Burt said.

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The small-in-stature Eichler has always punched above its weight in Palo Alto.

Built to be affordable, it typically includes floor-to-ceiling windows in the rear that are intended to blur the line between indoors and outdoors. And because Eichlers and Eichler-like homes typically come in bunches — whether it's a block, a cul de sac or an entire neighborhood — they are unusually communal in spirit. You can find plenty of Victorians in University South or Colonials in Crescent Park, but Eichler is the only architecture style that is synonymous with community.

Many of these communities have been around since the early 1950s, when builder Joseph Eichler began developing his eponymous tracts in areas like Fairmeadow and Greenmeadow in south Palo Alto and in various sections of Midtown. (According to Ward Winslow's "Palo Alto: A Centennial History," the first local Eichlers actually appeared in 1949 in Barron Park, which was not part of Palo Alto at the time.) The last large-scale residential tract was Royal Manor, along Louis Road between Loma Verde Avenue and East Meadow Drive. Construction began in 1957, with homes selling for $21,000 to $24,000. Today, Eichlers typically list for more than $2 million and, occasionally, for more than $4 million.

The single-story overlay made its debut in July 1992 in the Walnut Grove neighborhood next to Greenmeadow near Palo Alto's southern border. According to Bob Moss, a long-time land-use watchdog who has researched the topic in recent months, neighbors rallied against a two-story, 4,000-square-foot home that was slated to go up in their midst and that they believed would destroy their backyard privacy. Because the new home would have violated a restriction of the development's covenant, the homeowners association sued to stop the project, Moss wrote in his report on overlays. Then they took things a step further and requested an overlay.

"They were upset at the costs of the lawsuit and wanted city enforcement of the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) by applying an overlay single-family zone so that they wouldn't have to pay for a lawsuit," Moss wrote.

Other neighborhoods followed suit. Greenmeadow I and II adopted the city's largest single-story-overlay zone in 1993, covering 249 lots. The 27-lot tract Greenmeadow III immediately followed. Over the next decade, single-story overlays were adopted for two sections of Charleston Meadows, a neighborhood along Charleston Road between El Camino Real and Alma Street; a 16-lot tract called Blossom Park (the city's smallest single-story-overlay zone), just west of Charleston Meadows; a small section of Barron Park, west of El Camino; Meadow Park, bounded by East Meadow Drive, Fabian Way and Middlefield Road; Greer Park along U.S. Highway 101; Garland in central Palo Alto; and Channing Park, a subset of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood.

The city last approved a single-story overlay in October 2004, for Midtown's Allen Court. Following a familiar script, a neighbor learned that the house next door was to be replaced with a two-story home. Anxiety followed, as did a threat of a lawsuit. Yet victory in this case had to be eked out. Of the 22 homes on the Allen Court tract, only 12 favored the zone change.

The council was similarly divided and struggled to find the right balance between protecting the neighborhood's character and protecting the property rights of its residents. While then-Councilman Jack Morton argued in favor of preservation, then-Councilwoman Judy Kleinberg warned that in lieu of overwhelming neighborhood support, the council is "close to the bone on interfering with people's property rights." The council voted to approve the overlay 5-4.

At the time, Palo Alto didn't have a clear standard for gauging neighborhood support for a single-story overlay. That changed in 2005, when the city revised its zoning ordinance and specified that single-story-overlay requests must have the support of 70 percent of the property owners in the district (the threshold is only 60 percent where properties are restricted by deeds). The 70 percent threshold would also apply to requests that an existing overlay be removed.

According to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment, the city has adopted 12 single-story-overlay zones. The only application ever shot down was the potential 13th, on Star Circle in the the Fairmeadow neighborhood. The Planning and Transportation Commission decided in 2010 not to move the application along after city-administered surveys showed inadequate levels of support for the change.

Anne Knight, a resident who circulated a petition to ban two-story buildings, argued in front of the commission that such buildings run counter to the Eichler philosophy and urged the city to "think what's best for the whole community." Another resident, Anna Thayer, said she wants new families who move into the community to "have a choice" when it comes to their properties.

"When they buy their home for a million dollars, they should have the right to do what they want to do with that home," Thayer told the planning commission, which voted not to recommend the zone change.

After the Fairmeadow application was shot down, the movement to ban two-story buildings went on a five-year hiatus. Then, in April, a letter began circulating in various parts of Midtown urging residents to "HELP PRESERVE OUR EICHLER NEIGHBORHOOD CHARACTER." Eichler homes, the letter noted, were "designed to create a neighborhood with community feeling and backyard privacy."

"Through our front doors we have easy access to our neighbors, while our backyards are a private extension of our indoor living space," the letter stated. "The intense development pressures facing Palo Alto put these aspects of our neighborhood at risk. A single-story overlay will help to protect the privacy and neighborhood character that we have today."

Lynn Drake, one of six homeowners who co-signed the letter, has firsthand experience with the development pressures. A resident of Royal Manor and a board member at the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club, she and her neighbors were aghast last year when they learned about a two-story mansion planned for 3558 Louis Road, across the street from the club. Club officers submitted a letter in opposition, stating that members are "concerned that our club not become an anachronism, divorced from its architectural heritage as an integral part of a neighborhood."

After much back and forth with the applicant, the project architect made a few concessions, replacing a gabled roof with a flat one and creating a larger setback for the second story. Even so, the size of the new house still makes it look "imposing," Drake told the Weekly. This project, she said, is part of a citywide trend in which Eichlers are being replaced.

"Because of the economic times, people are really taking advantage of the hot real estate market, and they seem to have no trouble knocking down a house and putting up a massive house in its place," Drake said.

Aesthetics and privacy aren't the only concerns; so is a loss of community. Neighbors say they are worried that some of these houses are being purchased and flipped by applicants who never intend to be part of the community.

"There is concern that there will be people coming in who don't really care about the neighborhood and that's part of the issue," Drake said. "Will they be renting them out? We already have Airbnb issues."

Drake said many of her neighbors support adopting a single-story overlay and she expects Royal Manor to clear the 70 percent threshold for approval that the city requires to grant the zone change. So far, 53 percent of the residents have signed on to support the overlay. And in going door to door, around 80 percent have informally said that they favor the restriction, Drake said — some just haven't submitted a written response yet.

But while the zone change is popular, the fee associated with the zone change is another story. It's tough for small neighborhoods to raise $8,000, she said.

Similar sentiments stir in Los Arboles, an Eichler enclave in the Palo Verde neighborhood. Gilbert Chu, a Los Arboles resident who teaches medicine and biochemistry at the Stanford University Medical Center, wrote in a June 8 letter to the council that he has seen developers "buy houses in other parts of Palo Alto for the land, tear down the existing structure, and then construct the largest possible structure."

"It was obvious that the developers had no interest in the integrity of the neighborhood, or the impact their structure had on the property values or the privacy of the adjacent homes," Chu wrote.

Los Arboles resident Rebecca Thompson told the City Council on June 1 that support for the single-story overlay in Los Arboles is expected to easily clear 70 percent. The fee, however, presents a barrier.

"Many of our residents are the original Eichler owners, they have lived here since the 1960s, they are on fixed incomes and they feel the fee is burdensome," Thompson said. "Asking them to pay has become a very uncomfortable topic among our neighborhoods. In a sense, the fee is the only barrier to us moving forward" with the single-story overlay.

Richard Willits, a Greer Road resident and one of the co-signers of the April letter, characterized the fee as a "poll tax." The fee would make sense, he said, if a single individual or company benefited from the zone change. In this case, the application comes from a neighborhood that has already invested time and effort in organizing and polling its members. The groups are calling for the zone change because they "feel threatened," Willits said.

David Hammond, who lives in the Greer Park neighborhood, also used the word "threatened" to describe his block's reaction to a two-story house that the city approved last year at 1066 Metro Circle, next door to his home. Last December, he and and his neighbors beseeched the council to halt the project, which they said was too large for the Eichler-style block.

"We have to consider what will happen to a neighborhood if the scale of the house becomes so big," resident Annette Isaacson told the council on Dec. 1, just before the council voted to schedule a full hearing on the resident's appeal for February.

Property owner Jean Wong countered at the December meeting that her proposal had already received at least three different approvals from the city for what she characterized as a "small house." Wong told the council she had already made a series of concessions to the neighbors, including making the house smaller, removing windows and expanding the distance from neighboring properties.

"All we're trying to do is build a house that we're legally allowed to do," Wong said.

The February hearing never took place. Hammond told the council earlier this month that the Wongs decided to "become better neighbors and redesign the house as one story." But as a result of this experience, he said, his neighborhood has joined four others to pursue single-story overlays. He asked the council to waive the fee.

"You might say that fees for zoning change are normal," Hammond said. "They're normal for individual developers who can factor them into their budget, but for us, it's really an unpredictable fee."

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The fee is actually a combination of different fees that collectively total $7,930 and that could be raised even further. This includes an initial deposit of $5,905, against which city staff time is charged, and a legal-review fee of $1,352 that the city charges for noticing, record management and records retention, according to a report from the planning department. If a request proves particularly complex or controversial and requires more time, the applicant can be billed for additional time to recover costs.

Yet the fee has one unusual attribute: It has never been collected. In all 12 successful applications for single-story overlays, no fee was charged. Though the zone changes were requested by neighborhoods, they were officially initiated by the city's Planning and Transportation Commission at no charge to the neighborhoods. This surprising fact first came to light in Moss' report on the overlay districts and was later confirmed in the report from the planning department.

Thus, in addition to political momentum, the Eichler groups launching the revolt against two-story residences have precedent on their side.

On June 8 and 15, Councilman Tom DuBois made a case for either capping the fee or scrapping it altogether. Processing zone changes that protect neighborhoods should not be based on cost recovery, DuBois said, but should be "almost a fundamental act that the city should be handling."

The city's individual-review process for new homes isn't working, he said, and as a result the council has to deal with a rash of costly and time-consuming appeals. And when it comes to a single-story overlay, which can fix some of these problems, "We're asking citizens to jump through a bunch of hoops," he said.

"There are policy issues that we should think about, but I think we're also in a heated real estate market and we can't afford to take a year," DuBois said. "People are asking for this now. There are groups going through all the steps and are ready to apply and are asking for help in the waiving of the fee."

DuBois made the proposal again on June 15. This time, Councilwoman Liz Kniss joined him in advocating for the waiver. Though the council refrained from deciding then and there because the topic wasn't on its agenda, Kniss made it clear that when the time comes, she'll vote to eliminate the fee and "have it be an even playing field for everyone in the community."

"I quite honestly think that if they qualify with the 60 or 70 percent rule, I think we should continue our policy from the past," Kniss said.

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In deploring the mansion next door, Eichler owners typically start with size before moving on to style. It's not just second stories that are stirring anxieties; it's also gabled roofs, stucco walls, columns, arches and other design elements that butt up awkwardly against an Eichler's sleeker aesthetic.

In that sense, a single-story overlay is a limited tool. It takes care of the height issue but does little to ensure architectural "compatibility," which is an overarching goal of the City Council's residentialist majority. The current push to enable single-story overlay districts is thus just the first battle in the council's broader effort to contain the style skirmishes taking place throughout the city.

One month after the council voted 5-4 to shoot down the modernist building at 429 University because it wasn't compatible with its Victorian neighbors (with the residentialist faction supplying the five votes), DuBois and Holman began calling for the council to go beyond single-story overlays and consider other types of restrictions. Chief among these are conservation (or preservation) overlays, which would apply to architecturally distinct neighborhoods and would require new homes to share the defining characteristics of their blocks.

"A single-story overlay keeps two-story homes from intruding into an Eichler neighborhood, but it does not preclude a Colonial Revival or Tuscan single-family home from coming into the neighborhood," Holman told the Weekly. "What a conservation district would do that is more specific than a single-story overlay is that it would identify the particular characteristics of a neighborhood ... and further protect the neighborhood from change in character."

Such districts are far from new on the Peninsula. Sunnyvale and Cupertino each have specific design guidelines for new homes going up in Eichler tracts, including requirements that two-story homes must meet to minimize privacy concerns (these include a greater setback for second stories and glazed windows). Cupertino adopted its standards in 2001 upon request from the Fairgrove neighborhood, where residents were concerned about the changing character of their Eichler development. Sunnyvale adopted its Eichler Design Guidelines in 2009. They apply to all homes built by Eichler after 1950 and to all non-Eichler homes in designated neighborhoods that have a distinct Eichler vibe.

Palo Alto may soon follow suit. During the June 8 discussion of single-story-overlay districts, DuBois and Holman urged their colleagues to consider other design guidelines that would provide neighborhood protection. Some on the council, including Greg Scharff, Liz Kniss and Marc Berman, felt this would be going too far too fast. They pointed to the planning department's already massive workload and said the additional restrictions should be deferred until later.

"I think we've already bitten off more than we can chew as a council and staff," Berman said. "If we don't prioritize anything, we're not going to get anything done."

The new report from the planning department backs up this concern. It emphasized that staff already has "more than a full load" on its plate for the coming year, with a giant slate of parking and traffic initiatives now preparing to roll out. This workload would only increase if the department is inundated with zone-change requests. City Manager James Keene warned the council on June 8 that implementing these requests could take significant time and effort, particularly if they are controversial. And if the fee is waived for single-story overlays, the number of these requests could shoot up.

"Fees don't only exist as cost recovery, they are also used as a method to ration demand," Keene said.

Ultimately, the council agreed by a 5-1 vote, with Kniss dissenting, to take a closer look at conservation and preservation districts (Councilman Eric Filseth was absent, while Vice Mayor Greg Schmid and Councilman Cory Wolbach both recused themselves from the discussion because they live in Palo Verde and can be affected by a single-story overlay). Currently, Palo Alto's zoning code doesn't include any language for neighborhoods looking to establish conservation districts or other zoning designation aimed at preserving their distinct architectural styles. That could change in the next year or two.

The reforms still face plenty of challenges. Just as in the past, any proposal to restrict architecture styles is likely to confront opposition from advocates of property rights and architectural diversity.

Despite these concerns, the council is likely to hand the Eichler coalition a victory on June 29, when it considers waiving the fee for single-story overlays. The topic of conservation districts will likely resurface after the council's July recess, either at a committee level or as part of the city's broader effort to upgrade its land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan. For the council's staunchest residentialists, the conversation can't come soon enough.

"Our committee agenda is pretty full, but it gets to the real issue, which is that the residential review process is broken," DuBois said on June 8.

Holman agreed. The city's Comprehensive Plan, she said, "talks pretty explicitly and fairly frequently about the importance of recognizing individual neighborhoods that have individual characteristics.

"I think it's incumbent for the council to support that and to support the members of the community who want to support that," Holman said.

Comments

44 people like this
Posted by Qwerty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 8:41 am

PA's ever-expanding rules and restrictions concerning homes make for more discord than harmony.


85 people like this
Posted by Stop the Insanity
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2015 at 8:54 am

Waive the fee or lower it by 90%. It is absurdly high.

I personally do not care for Eichlers, but if homeowners want to keep their neighborhoods intact, let them. No one should have a two or three story house imposed on them and violating the privacy of their own home.


35 people like this
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:01 am

"In April, Eichler owners from five different sections of Palo Alto launched a joint effort to secure protection from unwelcome newcomers"
What a nasty, rude and uncalled for comment (but not surprising given the source). Did the neighbors actually say this or is this pot stirring by the weekly.
What the reporter fails (or deliberately omits) is that the owner at 808 had followed all the rules and was within his rights to build. Is that what makes him and others "unwelcome".
Do the neighbors have the chutzpah to believe that they can control property they do not own? What gives them the right to label a person as "unwelcome".
This to me is more of the usual selfish behavior by some palo alto residents. I am sure they feel emboldened now by the fact that holman, dubois and filseth have their ear. As usual, holman is out of touch and clueless as to the rules. Do we really want holman deciding what is "aesthetically pleasing"???
And the weekly can do much better in it's writings without casting aspersions on new neighbors.


48 people like this
Posted by save Eichlers
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:38 am

I think Eichlers are great and feel for this community. It's so annoying to spend so much money on a house in Palo Alto, only to have your property and light blocked from someone elses construction. I think it's time for the existing Palo Alto community to have their rights reserved. Newcomers are welcome, but not if they keep tearing down the old Palo Alto (and trees) and cover it up. Enough is enough.


40 people like this
Posted by Pamom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:42 am

I have been noticing this trend in a lot of neighborhoods where old structures are being replaced by newer ones. I don't see it as a problem except when the house next to mine looms over my backyard. Also a lot of these homes seem to be flips, an investor buys it flips it and sells it for way more than homes in the neighborhood. We are back to a speculative trend here which is good for all our home values but is more concerning in the longer term if families that will enrich Palo Alto's character get priced out and homes that are aging get purchased by investors who sell it only to an all cash paying buyer . That is a more bothersome trend to me.


5 people like this
Posted by shallow alto
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:55 am

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:58 am

One problem is that it's hard to architect a 2-story Eichler remodel. There are a few but most architects seem to have studied in Tracy and are putting up these ugly pseudo-Mediterranean houses. If you are remodeling an Eichler, try to hire an architect who has a proven record of quality Eichler style remodels.


75 people like this
Posted by Rachel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

I think this is a wake up call to the City of Palo Alto. Stop allowing Eichler homes to be torn down and replaced with McMansions. The City needs to enforce their Design Guidelines which clearly require new homes to be compatible with existing neighborhoods.


6 people like this
Posted by shallow alto
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:06 am

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

What are the legal rights for a homeowner who buys a property with zoning rights to build a second story, and later the zoning is changed to ban second stories? Are there any vested rights?

When government uses eminent domain to take a property for "public benefit" the owner is supposed to be paid fair market value to the land.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What are the legal rights for a homeowner who buys a property with zoning rights to build a second story, and later the zoning is changed to ban second stories? Are there any vested rights? "

The home owner only has vested rights if a permit has been issued for new construction - prior to that time the city can make whatever changes it wants, using its zoning process, to the current zoning.

"When government uses eminent domain to take a property for "public benefit" the owner is supposed to be paid fair market value to the land."

Rezoning is generally not considered to be a "taking" and hence eminent domain does not apply.

Here is a great article on the subject:
Web Link


"In a zoning case, the most common challenge is to the constitutionality of the existing zoning classification under a takings analysis. DeKalb County v. Dobson, 267 Ga. 624, 482 S.E.2d 239 (1997). The government has the benefit of the doubt. The zoning ordinance is presumptively valid. Id., 267 Ga. at 626; Gradous v. Bd. of Commr’s of Richmond County, 256 Ga. 469, 471, 349 S.e.2d 707 (1986). If the validity of a zoning ordinance is “fairly debatable,” the governmental judgment will control. Id.

“The presumption that a governmental zoning decision is valid can be overcome only by a plaintiff landowner’s showing by clear and convincing evidence that the zoning classification is a significant detriment to him, and is insubstantially related to the public health, safety, morality and welfare. Only after both of these showings are made is a governing authority required to come forward with evidence to justify a zoning ordinance as reasonably related to the public interest. If a plaintiff landowner fails to make a showing by clear and convincing evidence of a significant detriment and an insubstantial relationship to the public welfare, the landowner’s challenge to the zoning ordinance fails.” Id.

That is a tough burden for the landowner plaintiff to overcome. In fact, many cases, such as DeKalb Co. v. Dobson, supra, have fallen because the landowner could not even show a significant detriment. If a significant detriment cannot be shown, the analysis goes no further. See, Gwinnett Co. v. Davis, 271 Ga. 158, 517 S.E.2d 324 (1999)(evidence that landowner would suffer economic loss without rezoning was insufficient to show substantial detriment). If the plaintiff cannot show a significant detriment, the analysis need go no further.

To show a significant detriment requires more than just showing that the property would be more valuable if rezoned or it would be difficult to develop as zoned: “a significant detriment to the landowner is not shown by the fact that the property would be more valuable if rezoned, or by the fact that it would be more difficult to develop the property as zoned than if rezoned.” DeKalb v. Dobson, 267 Ga. at 626. Delta Cascade Partners, II v. Fulton Co., 260 Ga. 99, 100, 390 S.E.2d 45 (1990). “[E]vidence only that it would be 2007 – Issue 2

difficult to develop the property under its existing zoning or that the owner will suffer an economic loss unless the property is rezoned is not sufficient to support the legal conclusion that the owner suffers a significant detriment.” Gwinnett Co. v. Davis, 268 Ga. 653, 654, 492 S.E.2d 523 (1997); see, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Inc. v. Clayton Co., 257 Ga. 21, 23, 354 S.E.2d 151 (1987)."


70 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:49 am

We live in an Eichler, and having a McMansion next door would be absolutely an infringement upon our privacy.

But do you know what's more appalling? That this City is allowing these "newcomers" to build BASEMENTS...cutting into aquifers and draining water out to the bay. Millions of gallons of water that could be reclaimed, WASTED.

Newcomers who think you need a basement: We came from NY...and yes, at first, we wondered how we would live without a basement or gasp! a second story, but guess what? We figured it out and 41 years later, have NO regrets that we didn't change a thing! WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA LIVING...if you want basements and tall houses, there are other places to go.


43 people like this
Posted by My2cents
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:17 am

This goes for traditional style neighborhoods as well. 'Eichler-like' homes stand out and do not blend in with traditional residential neighborhoods. Palo Alto Planning guidelines used to require new construction to have the same look and feel as the existing homes.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

This situation is a mess. I sympathize with both sides. I would not want my bought and paid for life changed by having giant mansions sprouting up all around my house looking down at me, nor would I want to be denied the value of my property that would come from selling it to someone who wants to make better use of the crowded super-valuable real estate that Palo Alto has turned into.

Much of this seems just totally political. Reading about all the restrictions that went through and then those that didn't also ... how is that fair?

I used to rent a house in one of the areas that was written about here. Right next to it was a remodeled Eichler, in Eichler style, 2 story, a kind of behemoth. It had windows looking right down into the backyard and rooms of our rental. There are several upward remodels in the Eichler style that don't look any better than the Mediterranean style rebuilds to my eye. It is not the style so much as the height to me.

These kinds of decisions out of the hands of logic and consistency had to have had an affect on the market value of my rental home's owner, not that it bothered me, but how is it fair or sensible, how it is due process to allow some of these and disallow others?

The answer is, it's not fair, but I suspect what happens is that some people get what they want and some people don't, and it has to do with money and political connectedness. I always thought our country, state and city was about the exact opposite, making consistent rules and regulations for everyone. "All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others" to quote George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

What would the fair thing to do here be? I have to think that making a best effort to ensure new houses built are sensible within their own design and just telling people do what they want with their own property ... but even that leaves the well meaning long time Palo Alto residents who just want to live out their lives without having huge new houses sprouting up around them. Can't blame them for that, but their kids would be happier if the property values would rise.


32 people like this
Posted by Eichler Fan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:40 am

The real barrier to single story overlay is not the $8,000 fee. It's the required neighborhood resident super majority to get it approved. It can be done, but it takes a LOT of work and neighborhood resident support as Greenmeadow learned.

The single story overlay was one of many good things Greenmeadow has done as a community. It preserved the beautiful, modern architectural integrity of our neighborhood and supported the existing CC&Rs attached to our deeds, enabling our neighborhood to achieve national historic place status.

Personally, I'm glad that the privacy of my "fishbowl" living room and master bedroom is preserved. I love stepping out to my patio "outdoor living room" for coffee in the morning sun and watching the sun set from my living room in the evening. I'm glad my neighborhood did this. I realize Eichler living is not for everyone, but most people who choose our neighborhood value it. We are an Eichler neighborhood dedicated to preserving the Eichler aesthetic and a strong neighborhood community--and proud of it.


8 people like this
Posted by useless guidelines
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

The article is very insightful into how broken the guidelines have become. "wimpy suggestions you should dismiss if you don't like them". Anyone thinking they are protected from having a monstrous, privacy and sunlight-compromising house built six feet from your side yard should take a copy of the "guidelines" and stroll past the proposed house on Richardson Court. It violates many of the so-called guidelines.

Also wanted to state that the "newcomer" comment looks like an attempt by the Weekly to stir the pot. No homeowner said that. I know for a fact that the neighborhoods working on this are drawing broad support that spans generations, backgrounds, and from long time owners as well as new owners.


15 people like this
Posted by only in palo alto
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:47 am

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:53 am

It seems like the original story had a happy ending - the neighbor agreed to make his second story windows opaque but still got the 1000+ sq ft of living space from his second story. Why not a "no overlook" overlay rather than a single story overlay?

In 15 years, Palo Alto will be even more grating than it is today, and lots of elderly homeowners will be looking for support. I know many people in their late 20s and 30s who live with their parents as a way of both saving on rent and looking after sick or unsteady parents. I can imagine that, as one parent passes away, it may make sense for them to start a family in their childhood home while their remaining parent lives with them. I know that I foresee having one of my or my wife's parents moving in with us in 10-15 years.

Those multi-generational households will need more space. Let's plan for the needs of tomorrow, not today.


11 people like this
Posted by MD from TO
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:29 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


31 people like this
Posted by Carol Giilbert
a resident of University South
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I have previously lived in an Eichler and introducing second stories or Mediterrainman Mc Mansions into the mix is a horrible idea. If I were still in mine, I would be there objecting too. Much of the style is in the glass and open feeling. To have people above now able to see in would be horrible.


13 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I find it ludicrous that in this day and age anyone wanting to rebuild their house cannot build a two story home, this is not unreasonable Most houses in the Western world are two stories but only in America where there is so much unused land can you put a restriction on allowing two stories to be built.


23 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

I live in an Eichler and completely support the idea of protecting Mid Century neighborhoods from inappropriate new development.
A couple of points.
The average home size on Metro Circle is probably a little under 2,000 sq ft. Ms. Wong in describing her planned home as "small" is being disingenuous at best as it was planned to be 4,500 sq ft! Small? The good news there is that the new owners have said they will redesign their planned home to fit in with the neighborhood.
An SSO has advantages and disadvantages for both the new homeowner and the neighborhood as it focuses on scale and not aesthetics. An SSO is easier to explain, to gain support for and makes clear what the height restriction will be. Don't forget that many of these areas in a the floodplain so the overall height attained is higher than in a non floodplain area.
With an SSO, other than restricting height, there are no other factors the neighborhood can apply. As long as its within City guidelines it can be whatever design the new homeowner wants.
As for the fee, it has never been charged so rather than leave it out there as a potential requirement, let's get rid of it and move on.
Finally the fact that various neighborhoods are applying for an SSO is good for Palo Alto. It shows that people care about their communities and want to maintain them. The Eichler Mid Century architecture is a part of Palo Alto's legacy and where appropriate is worth saving.


32 people like this
Posted by S grossman
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 26, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Last week I received a solicitation letter from Bay One Real Estate, Elaine Liu, looking to buy my home for a client of hers. I live in an Eichler and I love it. The offer was for up to $9,000,00 for a turn-key property or up to $5,000,000 for a tear-down on a lot larger than 7500 square feet. My lot is, I believe, 7700 square feet. My immediate reaction was, boy, I could take the money and run, but to where.

Obviously like the other homes in my area, not the Eichlers, small houses have been torn down and then, after paying astronomical prices for small lots, building huge THREE story homes ( including walk-out basements) to get their money's worth. Why else would someone offer me up to $5,000,000 for my home and the tear it down..

I think this is insanity. People are pumping out the ground water, shutting out light, crowding our streets. There is nothing that says a city needs to grow and grow and grow. Only the developers believe that. Thank goodness for the Residentialists that we elected to the City Council. Therein lies our only hope.


4 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 3:06 pm

"To-"only in Palo Alto"
"Eichlers are ugly.........." Certainly a very uninformed comment.
BTW-how's that Stucco Box house working for you?"

MD from TO-- its called an opinion. You do not have to agree with it, but why the snarky comments?


6 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:27 pm

I belong to the Eichler Club and think the house across the street is very nice looking. Much nicer than the houses next to it which are in various states of disrepair. I feel sorry for all of the Eichler neighbors who have to put up with the noise and parking. To me, that is much worse than a nice, new house!


22 people like this
Posted by Happening elsewhere
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:40 pm

I can relate. I'm in the Cuesta Park area of Mtn View. It's a cute small home, small lot neighborhood, but once in a while, someone decides he/she needs to build a McMansion on their lot, creating a hulking mess that sticks out lick a sore thumb and seems to lurch out onto the street and into neighboring homes. There are a few on each street in the area and a couple more currently in the works. The only thing they bring to the neighborhood is eyesore-ness

I can't the imagine the look of the area if it continues. Soul-less comes to mind.


22 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:48 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

I love Eichlers, but I'm growing to not like the self-important NIMBYs who live in them.


26 people like this
Posted by new in town
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 26, 2015 at 5:01 pm

@PAModerate

I kinda think cramming a 4500 sf house between two 1800 houses on the same size lot is the definition of "Self Important". Neighborhood quality of life be damned, as long as I get my dream home.


6 people like this
Posted by Eileen Wright
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm

"I love Eichlers, but I'm growing to not like the self-important NIMBYs who live in them."

Yes, and I'm tired of this rampant class warfare. The people who can afford to build larger homes are obviously in a higher socio-economic class than the people who do not, and they deserve some deference. [Portion removed.] If the neighbors don't like it, too bad.


28 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2015 at 6:34 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I'm neutral about Eichlers, but I'm growing to really, I mean really not like the I- know -that price -of -everything -by value -of -nothing growthers who have no respect for the history and values of Palo Alto, wishing to turn it into another character-less dreary depressing Americana town, hopelessly polluted, with people living on top of each other.


5 people like this
Posted by does it matter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2015 at 6:55 pm

You'll have a right to complain about privacy when your single family homes are replaced by multi-story stack and pack high density housing.


25 people like this
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I do not live in an Eichler but I have the same exposure to a potential
second story house next door due to a large amount of glass and patio. The Single-Family Individual Review Guidelines which establish criteria for
new two-story houses or remodels do not provide the intended protection because the staff largely, or almost entirely, ignores them in favor of spec builders and new buyers.That's one problem and that's where the new
Council needs to start if they want to clean up the mess in Palo Alto.

The next step is to reduce FAR's and increase set-back requirements and
parking requirements, and stop dewatering for basements which can create
subsidence and affect landscaping of adjacent properties, as well as waste
ground water which is not reused.

We are in a crisis of government in Palo Alto, a failure of control and enforcement, and the new Council needs to step-up and fill the void and act decisively and quickly.


4 people like this
Posted by NeutralOnEichlers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by @sandy
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 27, 2015 at 12:15 am

We should not impose a certain architecture in a neighborhood. However, it makes sense to require a harmonious neighborhood. Tall and short buildings can mix and be harmonious. What can be offensive to the eyes are completely different styles of architecture. For instance, a heavy roof, or colonial may not match an eichler, or a round style may not go very well with an edgy style, and so on. There is a good guideline document for city of palo alto new houses. The city engineers should consult that document when considering a new proposal.


26 people like this
Posted by Cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2015 at 1:18 pm

We are well over 50 years into the Eichlers and the design and aesthetic are still relevant and a focal point of conversation. Will the build to the margins, McMansions of today be able to claim that in 2070?

The very things that made Palo Alto so appealing in the past: quaint neighborhoods, sense of community, block parties, etc are slowly going by the wayside in this relentless march towards these gaudy monstrosities. This conspicuous consumption will in the end destroy that which made Palo Alto so special. thank god some neighborhoods are protected. Ours is not so lucky.....


11 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

@Gethin touched on something that is often overlooked. Because of floodplain issues new homes are often built with higher foundations. That new single story house will often have a floor level that allows people to easily see over a 6' fence and OMG see what you are doing in your back yard.

Huge disparate houses crammed next to each other are rarely appealing. The "seven sisters / painted ladies" in SF is a well known example of tightly packed houses being very attractive.

An SSO is like doing surgery with an axe. Bigger houses and higher density will come. Providing a understandable set of rules and examples will provide the best solution. Maybe stricter daylight planes applied to all neighborhoods would be a start. If you absolutely have to have back yard privacy, plant a 15' high hedge along the property line.

Unfortunately it is easy to tell someone else they can't do what the zoning allows them to do because their plans detract from your life. There doesn't seem to be much interest in working out good restrictions. Add in the past city council which waived restrictions for "connected" developers and the process was/is a mess.

Maybe a "Survey Monkey" building would fit in the middle of an Eichler neighborhood ... and wouldn't have to meet any parking requirements. The developer could call it a Gateway to the neighborhood. It is so beautiful...


18 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Dutch saying: "It is better to have a good neighbor than a far friend."

I did some research on what makes a great neighborhood, and I really liked the following statement:

"A great neighborhood has its own special character. All neighborhoods are shaped by their physical setting, streets, buildings, open spaces, history, culture and the people who live in them. In great neighborhoods these attributes combine in unique and memorable ways."

The Eichler community in Palo Alto is definitely a historic neighborhood with its own very special character, more so than any other neighborhood in Palo Alto. I am sure that most if not all of the people who live there now (either for a long time or more recently), chose their Eichler home because they loved the home and/or the historic character of the neighborhood.

Even though I am rationally not opposed to having different kinds of homes in a neighborhood, I can emotionally understand why the existing Eichler community of neighbors is upset about the new, large, intrusive, and very out of character house that is presently being constructed in their beloved neighborhood. I believe that in an established and historic neighborhood such as the Eichler community, it would be better for all, if new constructions were to complement the existing ones.





19 people like this
Posted by So grateful for SSO
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm

I absolutely love the fact that we live in a single-story overlay. We will always be able to see the sky, have views of trees and not houses outside our windows, etc. I am so grateful to the residents who worked hard to get this passed. For those who think this decreases property values, think again. We could have bought a house anywhere, and we bought specifically in a single-story overlay neighborhood, having seen far too many shaded, tunnel-like lots.


10 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:53 pm

@six of one wrote:

"What a nasty, rude and uncalled for comment (but not surprising given the source). Did the neighbors actually say this or is this pot stirring by the weekly."

How was that comment nasty, rude or uncalled for? If newcomers roll on in, are disruptive, and try to change things for the worse, they will be considered undesirable elements and encouraged to leave. That is true in nearly any residential neighborhood, not only those in Palo Alto. Those moving into a neighborhood have an obligation to be good neighbors, and to expect the same in return and to be welcomed into the community.


11 people like this
Posted by useless guidelines
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm

@Anneke - Beautifully said! Thank you.

@Sandy - the guidelines are very loosely followed and full of loop holes. If one were to put the guidelines side by side with the proposed house on Richardson, you will see what a joke they have become.


17 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2015 at 5:39 pm

"If newcomers roll on in, are disruptive, and try to change things for the worse, they will be considered undesirable elements and encouraged to leave. T"
Who decides of things are changing for the " worse"? What is " disruptive"? Wanting to build a home that follows the guidelines, but the neighbors object to? Is that " disruptive? I do not that no you can consider people who are trying to,develop THEIR property according to,guidelines as " undesirable" . And who will encourage them to leave? How many years do you have to live in. Palo Alto before you can ask " undesirable neighbors" to leave.
I think that many long time residents of Palo Alto expect to have too much input in what their neighbors do. You own your property, not the property next door


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

... but you can park in front of it.


5 people like this
Posted by McMansion
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2015 at 7:37 am

What hope is there. Dubois lives in a McMansion


11 people like this
Posted by Marroll
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 28, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Property owner rights should be the first priority. Assuming that a home is built to code no one other than the owner should dictate its architectural design. I happen to think that Eichler homes are dated and unattractive, but I would never suggest much less demand that their owners make changes. If you don't like it, don't look. You wouldn't want anyone telling you what to do with your property, so don't do it to others. Another example of tolerant and understanding just so long as it's convenient and you happen to agree with it.


9 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 28, 2015 at 10:03 pm

It is time for a single story overlay for the Eichler's on Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:45 pm

@Agenda wrote:

"Who decides of things are changing for the " worse"? What is " disruptive"? Wanting to build a home that follows the guidelines, but the neighbors object to? Is that " disruptive?"

Those things are generally determined by neighborhood consensus, custome and tradition, and typically comprises both written (building code) and unwritten rules.

"I do not that no you can consider people who are trying to,develop THEIR property according to,guidelines as " undesirable" ."

I didn't say that, and never said that I consider people who want to develop their property, whether legally or illegally, to automatically be undesirable. My only claim was that moving into an area and pissing off the neighbors usually has negative consequences. How negative depends on the particular neighborhood in question.

"And who will encourage them to leave?"

Typically it is the neighborhood as a whole. Endless battles with the rest of the neighborhood are often far more trouble than they are worth.

"How many years do you have to live in. Palo Alto before you can ask " undesirable neighbors" to leave."

Now you are trying to make it a newcomers vs. old timers thing. I *never* made that claim at all. From what I have seen, people objecting to unwelcome changes or behaviors is not related to their length of residence. I have seen folks live in a house two years go ape @&*# crazy because their neighbors, who had lived there seven years, wanted to expand a second story.

"I think that many long time residents of Palo Alto expect to have too much input in what their neighbors do."

It is not just Palo Alto. Pitched battles over the issue are going on all over the Bay Area. Similar battles are going on in some Chicago suburbsFor all I know, it is happening all over the rest of the country, too.

"You own your property, not the property next door"

True, but if what one does has a detrimental effect on the neighborhood, there is almost always going to be trouble. People are way too much in each others' faces and far too inconsiderate these days for it to be otherwise. If you think you can do whatever you want on your own property, try putting a rooster or two in the back yard. Painting your house day-glo orange is another option.

My take is that all of the above should be codified rather than unwritten. There is no substitute for rules being clear and straightforward.


7 people like this
Posted by Need enforcement not guidelines
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:08 am

The Individual Review Guidelines are not rules or laws, just suggestions. So people who are building million dollar homes who have no history with this community have no interest in them.
The development of the Guidelines was led by an architect. They were useless from day one because they were just suggestions. Aggressive builders don't even abide by the zoning, they get exceptions and variances from the Architectural Board, no problem.

Asking the architect who created them to work on the new rules is counter productive.


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 6:19 am

The guidelines were developed by the city planning department, not a single architect.

The guidelines and any other residential building code restrictions and/or waivers are managed by the planning department, not the "architecture board" or ARB.


5 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:47 pm

"It is time for a single story overlay for the Eichler's on Palo Alto."

So why the focus on Eichler neighborhoods? Wouldn't the same notions apply to other neighborhoods with vintage housing?


9 people like this
Posted by useless guidelines
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 30, 2015 at 1:28 pm

The guidelines are not code and should not be confused as code.

It has been said in several recent city council meetings, by councilmembers, that the guidelines are broken and not doing what they were intended to do.

Any single story neighborhood (i think it's 80%) can apply for the protection if they have the support. It just happens that the recent active neighborhoods are Eichler, mostly likely because they are more affected by these developments due to their back walls all being windows.


Like this comment
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2015 at 7:20 am

At Monday's Council meeting Holman rightfully raised the issue about how the IR Guidelines to protect single family neighborhoods and properties
were enforced and implemented. After a little discussion with the
staff and Manager Keene, it was decided that this issue would not be addressed separately now but rolled into the Comp Plan process. The staff is overloaded and there were just a handful of cases last year where it couldn't be worked out in the neighborhoods. At the end of the meeting, going into the summer break, Kniss said half-joking that at the top of her wish list was that the lights at T&C get fixed.Manager Keene asked her, half-joking, when she was coming back and some laughs were heard. And we all know, it's not really that bad- it doesn't affect everybody, and I myself go through there just a handful of times every week.


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Any neighborhood can apply for an overlay, and it doesn't have to be a single-story overlay. Other types of overlays are possible.


8 people like this
Posted by Think Twice
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Please be advised that the single story overlay will decrease the house value significantly in the neighborhood that involves. When you sell the house, most of the buyers will pay higher if they can build their dream houses in the future.


8 people like this
Posted by Ken again
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Careful of the single story. The rules allow more square footage, less setback and still substantial height with no design rules. Actually with a basement the single story allows more square footage and volume than a two story.

For Eichler neighborhoods where design is a major factor - maybe more than height - a better approach would be to have a design competition to develop architectural prototypes for new and remodeled homes compatible with existing designs then adopt them as the criteria.


10 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:19 am

Imposing architectural styles would require historical district designation. Except for portions of the Professorville neighborhood, historical districts have been voted down in PA.


23 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 2, 2015 at 3:55 pm

There are many residents who love living in their California style Eichler homes, and intend to stay in them until they die. The single story is easy to maintain and easy for them to get around. They are worried about their homes being devalued and damaged from monster homes, and groundwater pumping which could crack their slab foundations.

I have lived here 57 years and can't believe the level of deconstruction all over our city.

It is damaging not only adjacent homes, but entire communities.




5 people like this
Posted by Grace
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:59 pm

my neighborhood most certainly doesn't have a restriction. one of my neighbors has a two story house but not the one immediately behind me. Thank goodness for trees. Less privacy in the winter time. It was an invasion of privacy when I was in my backyard and a trampoline was installed next to the fence. All of a sudden my backyard was no longer private as I was looking into the eyes of a teen jumping on the trampoline. Eichler neighborhoods are designed to be single storied. I would support a single story overlay in my neighborhood. That Louis road house that was supposedly 'modified" is a monstrosity and it stares in the face of the lovely swim and tennis club. Palo Alto is special, but not for long unless those who want mansions are shunted to other neighborhoods.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2015 at 5:15 pm

"Thank goodness for trees."

Timber bamboo works well, too.


Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Eichler's are post and lintel construction, if memory serves, with some glass walls and open interiors. It's past overdue for earthquake inspections and suggested or mandatory revisions. Revisions are surely possible and not hugely expensive. Without reinforcement, the houses should have much lower valuation and be a risk to their present inhabitants. Of course, "soft-story" multifamily buildings have priority, but it's past time to stop fooling around and being in denial regarding major earthquakes. It's always better to prevent a lot of damage rather than have mass funerals and maybe rebuild. Eichler's have to be addressed.

Developing neighborhoods normally go through something like a forest progression. Single family houses, McMansions whose eventual future is to be apartments small offices or BNB's, then maybe a stage of townhouses, then 4 and 5 story residence buildings if the area keeps developing.

Building condo associations, especially with a lot of retired people, can degenerate into bitterly contending factions that pass rules to inconvenience one another and so on. Such an atmosphere reduces the desirability of living in or even near such a building. I hope Eichler partisans don't fall into that trap. They would need full disclosure regarding their situation should they ever wish to sell in any case.

It's only the rampant growth in this area over the last few decades that makes an Eichler "movement" possible at all. Eichler's, of course, were part of it. In the '60's and '70's Palo Alto must have had well under 10% US immigrants. Well, that has changed. Indeed, most PA public school students now must realize that they will not be able to live in PA as adults.


2 people like this
Posted by TheRealSlimK
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:46 am

I've never in my life heard or even read about some town that hated when others--not them, mind you, but others, built two story houses (with their own money, going through all the legal hurdles and city permit red-tape). To me, these would-be, self-appointed vigilante "city planners" are embarrassingly un-American and self-entitled. They are archaic Gladys Gravitzes staring out through their curtains with horror at someone who is different--and in general I think it is fair to say, they essentially resent others who work harder than they do. Yes, they can criticize progress, rather like the flat-earthers did, but in return, THEY should be criticized in return.


Like this comment
Posted by TheRealSlimK
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:54 am

I would also like to respond to Kazu's charge that as a city, the citizens of Palo Alto are already 'too much in each other's faces'. Really? Does anyone really think that? I don't. I would think more the opposite is accurate: Palo Alto as a whole only minimally even acknowledges neighbors.


Like this comment
Posted by Hadleyburg
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:06 pm

I guess the 2014 plants to renovate 808 Richardson Court were not implemented, hence the protest against 809 Richard Court plans.

Web Link

The 808 plans look strangley similar to the 2015 plans for 809 Rchardson.

Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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