Welcome to Paradise - Page 3

Eichlers of Los Altos' Fallen Leaf Park turn to historic designation to keep their world tranquil and pristine
Welcome to Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
Top: Inside the Eichler atrium of Ursula Shultz, pictured here with Ophie, her dachshund friend. Above: Ursula's beautiful living room.
Welcome to Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
Top: Margot Gordon, seen here in her kitchen with her dog Priscilla, was the first owner to buy and move into Fallen Leaf Park. Above: Looking into Margot's atrium, which was originally photographed by Eichler Homes' Ernie Braun nearly 50 years ago.

Winning support of the neighbors was only the first step, though, in creating a historic district. The next involves raising $16,000 to $17,000 to pay for an architectural historian to evaluate the homes and prepare a district nomination. Tracy and Nate convinced the City Council to waive a $4,500 city fee for seeking to create such a district.

Design guidelines based on Eichler guidelines in other cities will be drafted by members of the community, working with Eichler's grandson, Steven Eichler, a volunteer.

Originally Tracy had considered seeking protection for all of the Eichlers in Los Altos. Beside the 37 on Fallen Leaf's three streets—most are on Clay Drive, with a handful on Fallen Leaf Lane and Alexander Way—there are two other groupings, with homes from the same era.

Parsons Way, closer to downtown, originally had nine Eichlers on a cul-de-sac. Seven remain intact, or largely intact.

Not far away, on the well-traveled Almond Avenue, two custom Eichlers sit back-to-back, one reached by a long driveway. Adrian Liang, a software entrepreneur who moved into one of them six years ago, says he'd never heard of Eichler at the time but wanted a modern house.

"We've always been a fan of the modern kind of look," he says of himself and his wife Amanda, who are raising two boys. "We don't like a lot of the typical California houses. We were living in New York, and we like apartments with giant windows and a lot of light."

"We were having a horrible time finding houses with that kind of characteristic. We were about to give up entirely on moving to California till we found this."

Adrian and Amanda are friendly with their fellow Eichler owners on Almond, and Adrian says they don't miss being part of a wider Eichler community.

At Fallen Leaf Park, which has no neighborhood association or community park, social activities have flourished at times, waned at others, but always remained cordial.

In the old days, when every backyard had beautiful and productive cherry trees (they were a selling point for some buyers), and when open countryside remained in easy reach, "Most families had children," Angela Horine recalls, "and some had a lot of children. Almost every single house had a stay-at-home mom."

She recalls moms getting together over homemade Bundt and cakes and scones, talking about their kids. Robin and Lou Fries remember their two boys playing with the neighbor children in the street. Kids biked to school—and some still do. "The only time it would get squirrely was when a bunch of kids would go off riding in a pack," Jim Hustler remembers.