"Why Not Just Tear It Down?" - Page 3

Reckoning with the 'teardown point of view'—as neighborhoods erode and homes are going, going, gone
Why Not Just Tear It Down
Why Not Just Tear It Down
Directly across the street from the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club (top), on Palo Alto's Louis Road, an Eichler was recently
destroyed and replaced by this 'monster' home (right in photo).

"Not everybody has $3 million who wants to be in Palo Alto," says Mark Easterday, who runs Eichler Homes Realty and focuses on Eichler real estate in Silicon Valley. "You're just cutting out a lot of people who are fun and exciting, and want to live in Palo Alto, and who want to bike to work or bike to Caltrain.

"Now they can't get a house. They have to get a condo, or move to Sunnyvale or some place else."

Why has Silicon Valley emerged as teardown central? Stephen Estes, who lives in a Mackay home in Santa Clara, says, "Our neighborhood is a mile and a half from the Apple campus, so the pressure on the neighborhood is only going to increase."

The problem is worse in Palo Alto, Easterday says, for several reasons.

"It's not just high tech. There's the investor and VC [venture capital industry] in Menlo Park. It's a quick train ride to San Francisco [and other points north] for people who work at Genentech and the other biotech firms. And you've got the collegiate stuff at Stanford.

"It's got jobs and business, it's a very central location, very culturally diverse, and excellent schools beyond reproach."

Easterday sees the threat first hand. In January, one would-be buyer of an Eichler in Palo Alto's Fairmeadow that Easterday had listed at $1.5 million said he wanted to tear it down and build a 2,800-square-foot replacement.

"I said, 'I'm Eichler Homes Realty. I'm not going to let you tear it down and do that.'"

Modern homes, of course, are far from the only homes being supplanted by bigger homes.

"It affects many homes. There are 2,700 Eichlers in Palo Alto, so they get the most attention," Easterday says. "No other developer built that many homes, so obviously they're going to have prominence because of their sheer number."

Some people, in fact, think Eichlers are surviving better than other homes, because people like them.

"Not a lot of Eichlers are being torn down around Palo Alto. More ranches are being torn down," says John Suppes, a homebuilder on the Peninsula and Santa Clara Valley who has built hundreds of homes in the past, and whose focus today is largely on 2,800 to 3,500-square-foot homes in a modern style that he says are influenced by Eichler.

Many of his projects involve replacing a smaller home with a much larger one. He says he does not rip down Eichlers, because he admires them.