Welcome to Paradise

Eichlers of Los Altos' Fallen Leaf Park turn to historic designation to keep their world tranquil and pristine
Welcome to Paradise
The Eichlers of Fallen Leaf Park are primed to be Los Altos' first historic district.

With their capacious canopy of trees, curving streets, streetscape free of sidewalks for that semi-rural look, and with would-be owners knocking on doors seeking to buy, the Eichlers of Los Altos can come across as paradise plunked down into Silicon Valley.

And the folks who live there know it too. Few people anywhere take neighborhood pride as seriously—even if most of them have forgotten their 37-home haven was ever called 'Fallen Leaf Park.'

They brag about the tranquility, the well-maintained houses (well, except for one or two), how original in appearance all the houses remain (well, ditto that one or two), how wonderful all their neighbors are and have forever been, and how successful their children have become.

"There really were some neat neighbors," recalls David Horine, who's lived in Fallen Leaf Park 46 years and, with his wife Angela, raised five daughters.

Welcome to Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
Two of several different Eichler front elevations, all by Claude Oakland, found among Fallen Leaf Park's 37 homes.

"There were five girls all the same age in the neighborhood. They all knew each other, all the parents knew each other. And there was a subtle competition.

"Well, one of the girls went to Berkeley," he says, "one to Princeton, two to Harvard, and our daughter went to MIT. That was the peer group that our daughter was growing up in. It's been a cool neighborhood."

"These houses I have always regarded as the best of the Eichlers," says Allen Wolman, noting their size, beauty, and square footage of the lots, a quarter acre or more.

The homes of Fallen Leaf Park, built on the cherry orchard of the old Clay Ranch in 1967 and 1968 to designs by Claude Oakland, include some unusual models, including some employing, between atrium and rear courtyards, sizable 'loggias' and 'galleries.' Both are spaces of undefined use that are like indoor atriums.

 Allen and Jean Wolman's house is one of the most unusual, because the original owners asked Eichler to replace what would have been a rear courtyard with interior space. Eichler, whose brochure for the tract promised that "modifications of…plans are possible," obliged.

The result is undoubtedly the largest room in the neighborhood, 50 feet long and 16 feet wide. "It's too big," Jean says. "It's just me and my husband now. We're not party givers, but it's a great party house."

Even the two houses that were modified with second-story additions win praise from many neighbors. The work was "very tastefully done," says Richard Campbell, an architect himself. Both remodels were done decades ago by Oakland's firm, and do not impinge on neighbors' privacy.

Fallen Leaf Park has always been a move-up neighborhood too, with houses going originally for just under $50,000. Both in the early days and more recently, several owners have moved here from smaller Eichlers elsewhere.