The City is in the process of developing architectural design guidelines for Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods that were developed by Eichler Homes following World War II. The guidelines will include compatibility criteria for remodels, additions, and new construction within the City’s Eichler neighborhoods. The illustrated guidelines will provide advice and direction for undertaking work in ways that retain the architectural character of the neighborhoods. The guidelines will address common scopes of work such as new building additions, façade changes, moving/lifting buildings on lots, and new construction on developable sites.
PROJECT BACKGROUND The effort to develop the Eichler Neighborhood Design Guidelines was initiated in 2016, when the City Council directed staff to work with the community to develop the guidelines following a series of Single Story Overlay rezoning requests. A report providing further background is viewable here. The City has contracted with the historic architecture firm of Page & Turnbull to prepare the final guidelines for public review and adoption.
Real estate developer Joseph Eichler established Eichler Homes in the late 1940s, a period of economic prosperity when many Americans sought new homes and comfortable lifestyles in suburban subdivisions. Eichler Homes is noted for hiring distinguished California architects of the postwar period—including Anshen & Allen, Jones & Emmons, and Claude Oakland—to design affordable homes that were accessible to the middle class. While relatively modest in scale, Eichler residences feature a modern architectural style, which conveys the company’s belief that modern home design improved residents’ quality of life. Eichler homes are identifiable by their post-and-beam construction, striking roof forms with broad eaves, and simple material palette of wood and concrete block. The use of internal courtyards and full-height glazing at the rear helped to integrate homes’ interior and exterior spaces, taking full advantage of their California setting. Map of Eichler Neighborhoods. Of the more than 11,000 residences constructed by the company throughout California, well over 2,000 are located in Palo Alto. Two of Palo Alto’s Eichler neighborhoods, Green Gables and Greenmeadow, are historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Back to Top
Eichler Memory Event The City of Palo Alto and Page & Turnbull hosted a celebration of Eichlers on August 15 from 6:00 to 9:00 in the Embarcadero Room at the Rinconada Library (1213 Newell Road). This time was dedicated to sharing memories and showcasing these unique modern homes. The event was open to the public and we encouraged anyone with an interest in modern architecture and Palo Alto's history to attend. The evening started off with craft activities for the kids where they built their own modern home and colored Eichler coloring sheets. Page & Turnbull lead a discussion on Eichlers and provided an update on the Eichler Design Guidelines project. Monique Lombardelli gave a short presentation before the showing of her documentary, "People in Glass Houses: the Legacy of Joseph Eichler." Light, mid-century refreshments were also available.
Summary of National Register District Workshop Residents of Greenmeadow and Green Gables, which are historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places, were invited to attend a workshop on May 3, 2017 to discuss issues that are specific to these neighborhoods. Approximately 25 residents attended the meeting. Staff members of the City and Page & Turnbull gave a presentation that included background information on the Eichler Neighborhood Design Guidelines project, as well as provided additional details on National Register historic districts. Topics of the presentation included the National Register designation criteria, historic district contributors versus non-contributors, and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The meeting included a round-table discussion with attendees on topics related to the two National Register districts, such as the neighborhoods’ existing Controls, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).
Summary of Community Workshop #1 Approximately 65 community members attended Community Workshop #1 on April 11, 2017. City staff and the project consultant, Page & Turnbull, began the workshop with a presentation that introduced the Eichler Neighborhood Design Guidelines project, provided background information about the development and architecture of Palo Alto’s Eichler neighborhoods, and outlined the project schedule. A series of activities, facilitated by Page & Turnbull, encouraged attendees to express what they value about Eichler residences and neighborhoods, and to share the types of changes they do or do not want to see in Eicher neighborhoods in the future. The workshop ended with a summary of attendees’ responses that were gathered during the activities. PDF file of the workshop presentation is available to download using this link. In addition, the workshop was videotaped, and can be viewed at the website of the Midpen Media Center. The display boards used during the interactive activities can be downloaded here. Additional workshops will be scheduled in the future when a public review draft of the guidelines document is completed. In the meantime, we are excited to meet with community members and learn more about Palo Alto’s Eichler neighborhoods through walking tours or other fun activities. More details on these efforts will be forthcoming. Back to Top
SCHEDULE Community input is important during the development of the Eichler Neighborhood Design Guidelines. There will be several opportunities for homeowners, residents, and the general public to provide input during the preparation of the draft guidelines, including at community workshops, through review of the draft document, and at public hearings of the Historic Resources Board (HRB), Planning and Transportation Commission, and City Council. The proposed guidelines will be subject to a minimum 60-day public review period before being considered for adoption. The following is a tentative project schedule (subject to change):
Historic Resource Board Public Hearing - Information Presentation
Planning and Transportation Commission - Recommendation to the City Council
Council Public Hearing - Consider Adoption of Guidelines
Contact Info - Get Involved! Additional information and announcements will be uploaded to this webpage in the future. If you wish to receive an email alerting you when additional information is uploaded to this webpage, you may submit a request to Eichler@cityofpaloalto.org. For those who did not attend the first community workshop, an online survey is now available containing the questions that were posed to workshop attendees. By completing the survey, you can share your thoughts and values related to Palo Alto’s Eichler neighborhood character and design.