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adding a 2nd story to my Eichler

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Joined: Oct 7 2004

Yes, I have been thinking about it (by preserving the style that is). Anybody has gone through such a project? I am mainly interested in some references for structural engineers and architects.

thanks,

David

ajm
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Joined: Mar 24 2003

We had a beautiful second story addition designed by one of the architects associated with this website. (email me for names). Unfortunately the cost, and the huge disruption entailed by such a project, was a little more than we could tolerate at the time and the plans are on hold. At the time we were getting estimates contractors (also on this site) told us that the structural problems of supporting the second story were well understood and manageable (this is a big issue in such a project). Obviously, careful consideration was given to neighbors' privacy issues in the design and we were fortunate in terms of grade differences between our site and adjoining sites that this was possible.

Ironically, this project would have required approval from the Sunnyvale planning commission, even though the result would have been a complete tribute to Eichler style and philosophy. Meanwhile, several nearby projects which have complete ruined Eichlers, literally totally transformed them into tasteless ranchburgers, are routinely approved by staff. Various people close to the planning commission have given me the impression that the Sunnyvale planning staff sees Eichlers as transient nuisances which they hope will all one day be remodeled into red-stucco monster homes.

I'm still hoping that we can do our second-story addition in the next few years and that I'll be able to use it as a real evidence when the question of whether second story additions are pure evil finds its way back to this board.

-Andrew

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Oh, they're evil alright. Second stories to Eichlers are bad, very bad. There has been much discussion regarding second story additions to Eichlers on this board. I suggest you do a little reading of past posts. Just use the search function above.

Second stories are not just evil in Eichler neighborhoods, but any decent all single story neighborhood. I live in 1240 sqft of space and depend on my patios for additional private living space, as they were intended. If my neighbor erected a second story, not only would I loose much indoor and outdoor privacy, I would also loose my wintertime sun, which I depend on the keep my home warm during the Winter months!

I have never seen an example of one looking right. Not only will you the rob privacy of your neighbors, you also risk damaging the harmony and integrity of your neighborhood.

If you need the extra space that bad, move to a two story house, or add-on appropriately within the existing design scheme. Don't damage architecture that cannot be replaced. In the end, you'll have a mangled Eichler, prime for tear-down and to be replaced by an ugly three story stucco taco bell. When you radically alter a special home like an Eichler, you risk altering the context of the home and community.

Another thing to consider is the structure. Your footings of your slab and 4 inch posts may not be able to handle the additional weight of a second story, especially in earthquake country.

Bad, very bad.

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Joined: Oct 7 2004

There is at least one 2nd story eichler in the Sunnyvale area that looks just stunning (I actually went inside and checked it out myself) and neighbor friendly. They did such a great job it was actually featured in the Sunnyvale City Planning guideline book on how to remodel one's home. Your concern about structural integrity is well taken, therefore my inquiry.

regards

joe b wrote:
Oh, they're evil alright. Second stories to Eichlers are bad, very bad. There has been much discussion regarding second story additions to Eichlers on this board. I suggest you do a little reading of past posts. Just use the search function above...Another thing to consider is the structure. Your footings of your slab and 4 inch posts may not be able to handle the additional weight of a second story, especially in earthquake country.

Bad, very bad.

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Joined: Apr 2 2003

Well, I can see both sides of the argument.

It is definitely unfair to expect someone who has put down roots in a community to have to leave simply because their family has grown (as happens) and they need additional space. On the other hand, it is short-sighted to think that simply because a second story addition preserves the "integrity" of the design, that you are not imposing (and possibly radically altering) the quality of life of your neighbors.

It's a tough question for sure. In my tract in Willow Glen , some have argued that we have a couple (among several) architecturally correct second stories. But a chance conversation with one of the neighbors of such a second story home at a neighborhood get-together, significantly impacted how I now think about such additions. They told me that if they had realized what was going on, they would never have moved in. I would have to bow to the expertise of our Eichler real estate specialists, but I would guess living next to a second story not only impacts your current quality of life (privacy, landscape plantings, sunlight, etc.) but also your future resale value.

Unless you are on the end of a cul-de-sac, I think it is hard to balance your wants against others' rights.

Just a random collection of thoughts. I, too, face the space issue but I just could not stomach the disruption (let alone the long-term impact) that second story would impose on neighbors who have been the epitomy of welcome and support to my family.

Jake

eichfan at rawbw dot com

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Ditto Jake's comments.

I must say that a lot has happened since my post that Joe B took offense at (but then, there have been so many...)

Hubby and I, always on the look out for new ideas in color and landscaping, took a drive through some of our favorite Sunnyvale Eichler neighborhoods and I guess we must be getting senile. Rather than the beautiful, clean and manicured yards, and lovely streets wrapping around Eihcler after Eichler, we saw far too many junk autos, and much, much worse than that, more than the average amount of badly done 2nd story Eichler additions.

The worst part was just how terrible the architecture was. Doesn't Sunnyvale have ANY zoning laws? What are residents paying those high property taxes for anyway, if not for protection of their investment? Some truely did look like big red barns and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the neighbors when these things went up.

From and economic equity point of view, one would say that if the area already had existing 2nd story addtions, then the cost impact on 3rd parties not involved in the transaction (in terms of reduced property value and aesthetics) has already been taken into account as other people buy and move in next door. HOWEVER, homeowners that moved into the area before the 2nd story additions went up do not have that luxury, and they go uncompensated for their loss. Case in point: the house directly behind us, over the back fence and facing the master bedroom--is a badly-done 2nd story Eichler with a traditional pitched asphalt shingle roof. The owners are really nice, but the house is ugly and I don't like having to look at it every single day. However, it was there when we moved in and thus was factored into our purchasing decision.

As Jake observed--there are no easy answers and I do agree that there must be some degree of homeowner freedom to choose upgrading their homes without having to move, just because they are space constrained. The trick is in how competing interests are balanced to minimize the net social loss. But after a lot of soul-searching, I am beginning to come around to understanding the viewpoint of the Eichler Police.

Cathye

ajm
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Joined: Mar 24 2003

How nice that you would grant homeowners "some freedom" in determining what do to with their property. I'm sure they will appreciate it.

When you move in to a neighborhood you do so with full knowledge that each individual homeowner has the freedom to change the appearance of their home. Second stories are not unique in this respect. Homeowners can paint their mailboxes purple, install furnishings that you find hideous, or turn their Eichlers into non-Eichlers. If architectural or style review board was not in place when you bought the place, then that's a risk that you assume. If homeowners want to surrender their individual rights to an architectural review board then they can do it legally and add it to the CC+Rs of their property so the restrictions are known up front when you buy the place. But this feels to me like a "be careful what you ask for...." type issue. You may feel like you're a model Eichler citizen until the Eichler police come by and write you up for a non-regulation 3" backset front door knob. Or for the cool house numbers that you find so clean and modern but don't match the set of "official" Eichler-approved fonts. I'll always trust freedom more than I'll trust some arbitrary group of individuals trying to decide what's in "good taste".

The purpose of zoning laws, which we have plenty of in Sunnyvale thank you very much, is not to protect people from what you think is "bad architecture." And our investments, judging from the prices of Sunnyvale Eichlers, are being protected just fine. There are planned Eichler communities with strict review provisions and if people want to live in them that's great. I'm glad Sunnyvale favors freedom, even if means I have to stare at a what I think is a hideous "former" Eichler across the street every morning. I'll trade that for being able to do what I like with my own house.

-Andrew

ps, where exactly are all these "junk cars"? Not in any of the Sunnyvale Eichler neighborhood's I'm familiar with.

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Joined: Apr 26 2003

It seems that freedom does come at a cost.

Courtesy of Lottaliving. This house is NOT in Sunnyvale.

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

wow. way to use that creative freedom. I wish I lived in the Eichler across the street so I could look at that adorable piece of architecture every-time I walk out the front door. Oh, I need to hire the brilliant architect who "fixed" that house up!

thank for sharing, Jeff!

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

Cathye,
I am curious as to the zoning laws in San Jose that prevent the awful looking example shown above although to my knowledge we don't have anything quite that bad in Sunnyvale.
I know that Sunnyvale has guidelines for remodeling and in fact I have a book the city planners give to people who apply for permits which suggests they keep in the style of their existing neighborhood whether by size or building material etc. The design guidelines in the book are not enforcable by law however and most homeowners don't really want their city government to dictate a building style to them. Even though I am a total design aficionado I don't think you can legislate good taste--if only that were possible.
When we applied for a variance for our fence the permit person in Sunnyvale suggested we keep it in the same style as the original Eichler and of course we had already decide to do that. It costs more money to keep it original (hand milled lumber cut to size) and many home owners do not want to pay the extra to keep things "original". As far as the junk cars go I know at least one person in Sunnyvale who has called the city to have a car parked for several days in the same spot towed away.
BTW, If you are interested in seeing a stellar Eichler remodel in Sunnyvale e-mail me for the address. (its not mine) :wink:

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

No offense meant to Sunnyvale. Really. Our first home growing up was a Sunnyvale Eichler on Dawn Drive - vintage 1949. AND we (San Jose) are not immune to 2nd story Eichlers, both poorly and well done. On our street alone, we have a couple that come close to the picture previously posted.

We love Sunnyvale--used to live there and it was high on the list when we were looking. We ended up in Willow Glen and could not be happier. We have ties to Sunnyvale, as part owners of a very large dental complex on Remmington. My observations relate to some spots that we ran across that were definitely going down hill and that we found disappointing, but we have them here too. We have a corner house with 3 junk autos in the backyard and ham radio anetnnas everywhere. Looks like Area 51.

Our guess is that some of these homes have been inherited by dependents that are trying their best to live off of the estate, without working or putting any money into the upkeep. How else could one explain it?

Cathye

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Joined: Mar 28 2003

Why not add onto the back? The lots that the Eichlers are on in Sacramento might be larger than the lots in Sunnyvale. I recently saw an addition to a Sacramento Eichler that was done in the Early 60s' and they did a great job of blending it with the original part of the house. Post and beam, matching ceilings and siding--really nice. We do a have couple of second story additions--both over the garage, that are very ugly. My house actually has a peaked roof added onto the flat roof portion (in the back) that isn't visible from the street. It isn't a second story, but almost. Fortunately they did a good job of having it blend with the house--except for the sidnig, which I replaced with Eichler siding.

This is America, land of the free, etc, etc. but these houses are real treasures as originally built and it is hard to find good additions. In Sacramento, the new owners buying our Eichlers are for the most part young modernists who seek them out (like me). Most of the others are orginal or second owners who are still excited Eichler enthusiasts. The person who bought one in the middle period before they were hip again and did a second story addition in the 60's or 70's is still our neighbor and aside from a few jokes, is loved! But the people who decide to go up now, are really stupid and insensitive, not only to their neighbors, but to the house itself. I'd seriously consider moving!

Dane

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Joined: Jan 4 2004

I must jump in here. It has been a while since I have posted here; I have been completely re-doing an Eichler that a friend and I purchased, and to the purists out there, we have retained many of the original details. (Closets, some of the paneling, ceiling stains etc.) We have also found a resource for double paned mist lite glass (that is the original obscure glass found in most of the Eichler homes).
As far as the 2-story argument goes, everyone that is against them should drive around the SM highlands on Yorktown street; there are several ORIGINAL 2 (and one 3) story Eichler homes.
Or maybe go up to Diamond Heights and drive on Amber or Cameo drive.

The point is, every self-righteous person posting on this site that complains about 2 story Eichler homes is actually presuming to know more about designing these houses than Joe Eichler or his Architects.

Because these houses exist, it is impossible to string together a logical argument that prohibits the possibility of this being a viable design option, ever.
As a matter of preference, many well respected Eichler enthusiasts (one of whom I am sure is reading this) may not like the 2 or 3 story designs; but the fact remains that those are true Eichler homes unaltered in Architectural design since the original construction, and the fact that they exist can not be ignored or denied when making the argument that an Eichler home should be a single story house.

Now, I also understand that horrible abominations have been added to many Eichler houses by homeowners that are trying to save a buck and doing the least expensive alternative to adding square footage to their houses, and this has fueled the fire for all the controversy surrounding this issue. Generally, a second story addition will cost less per square foot to add on than extending the exterior footprint, as well as setback issues, lot coverage etc. and persons with adjacent lots have no legal right to views or privacy (moral rights are a separate issue).
People tend to panic when the floodgates are down and there is nothing governing design in Eichler neighborhoods (other than individual taste-a bit scary certainly).
My opinion: any design, be it contemporary, traditional, craftsman, colonial, modern or rustic, if executed by a talented and competent designer, and followed faithfully by the builder is a work of art that I can admire and respect.

renman

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Joined: Aug 9 2003

Renman,

I got alot of good information for you past posts - however - looking at the time of this post - you must have been a bit tired.

Since you advertise on this site - you have everything to gain by advocating 2nd story additions. I really question your objectivity.

I have seen ORIGINAL Eichlers that were designed to be 2 storys - they look good. IMHO - most people are complaining about original 1 story homes which were converted to 2 story homes.

I think your logic ends this way - any 1 story home converted to a 2 story home is to be admired because it was designed by an architect.
Go to 1677 Fairwood Dr in San Jose - that lookout tower was designed by an architect.

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Joined: Apr 26 2003

Renman, thank you for your comments.

As I understand it, the original multi-story Eichlers in the San Mateo Highlands are built on sloping lots, where the height of the building is disguised by the slope of the land, and to aid the building in better fitting in with its landscape. Instead of scaping the lot to erect a single story home, the multi-storied Eichlers make use of the slope.

San Francisco's Diamond Heights of course have multi-story Eichlers. This is a more urban environment where lots are small. There is a consistent fabric to the neighborhood:

http://www.lottaliving.com/albums/residential_eichler_sanfran/San_Franci...

My personal problem with second story additions on single story Eichlers is where they occur in neighborhoods where there are primarily single story homes. The taller houses simply do not fit in with the fabric of the neighborhood.

I think it is difficult to add a second story on to any house that was originally designed as a single story. It is difficult to find a place to put the stairs. It is difficult to resolve the issue of height and how to transition from a low, flat-roofed single story to a multi-story building. I am not saying that it can't be done well, it just difficult. The house below, I think, makes a noble effort, but, again, I don't think it is all that successful.

http://www.lottaliving.com/albums/residential_eichler_paloalto/Eichler_H...

I personally welcome all opinions in this discussion. Though we may not have the experience or credentials of a Joseph Eichler, a Claude Oakland, or an A. Quincy Jones, our opinions do count.

Photos courtesy of Lotta Living, http://www.lottaliving.com/gallery/residential_eichler

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

I think Michael is being too hard on Renman.

The potential for conflict of interest certainly exists but that does not mean by definition that he or anybody else in the home improvement business is providing dishonest feedback or advice by posting comments on this board. Last time I looked, these guys have jobs backed up as far as the eye can see and their financial security does not rest on getting--or not getting--any particular project, be it a 2nd story addition, a kitchen remodel, or something else.

I for one really appreciate the value that Jon, Randy, and the other trades people provide through their participation on this board. It is one of the things that keeps me constantly lurking and I say that more information is better than less; everyone is free to do with it whatever they want; let's keep the exchange going.

Cathye

ajm
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Joined: Mar 24 2003

Renman, thanks for your thoughtful post. Clearly, neither Eichler nor his architects had any inherent objection to 2 story designs. As to the argument that they would have sanctioned only "original" 2 story designs, a nice counterexample can be found around the corner from my Sunnyvale Eichler where there was a second story addition designed by Claude Oakland himself. My guess is that the architects, working in the real world, were probably far less religiously pure than many of the purists on this board. In my neighborhood, Eichler deliberately mixed flat, low-profile, Courtyard models with the high peaked roof Atrium models, and it's very clear that this variation in roofline was part of the plan for neighborhood, so that there's no indication that a uniform roofline was something that they always required.

I really don't understand why such venom is directed only at 2nd story additions. (Venom to the point of asserting that conflict of interest must be behind any defense of 2nd stories) There are plenty of awful single story remodels of Eichlers around. There are plenty of people who have replaced Eichler exterior fixtures with grossly inappropriate substitutes. In short, there's a lot of ways to ruin an Eichler, and a bad second story addition is just one of them. Making second stories illegal won't keep people from ruining their Eichlers, but it will prevent some consciencious Eichler owners from adding badly needed space in possibly some imaginative and innovative ways.

-Andrew

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Joined: Oct 10 2003

Andrew, that's the best statement I've heard in a while for deferring judgement on someone else's Eichler remodel. I will probably plagarize it for months to come :wink:

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Joined: Aug 9 2003

I could have done a better job in responding to Renmans post - so - please accept my apology - I will try again.

It may be offensive to some people to think that the existing style of their home should modify their personal taste when it comes to remodeling the EXTERIOR of your home - however, that is reality. IMHO architecture is holistic - experienced in context, not in isolation.

I think 80% of people understand this - that is why you do not paint your house purple, cut your lawn on a weekly basis and remove junk cars from the driveway. That does not say that the people who understand this won't violate this principal - it is your choice - so go to it - put up white vinyl fences, use your carport for storage, place a second story on your house - it is a free world.

This email is to the 20% out there who have not thought about this - please do - because your decision will have an effect on your neighborhood. That is a fact. Also, to you 20% - if you been reading this web site - you will get some great information from people who are frequent posters regarding their particular domain - please do not let their positive comments regarding architect designed 2nd story additions influence your decision. An architect stamp approval does not make it ok for you to not think about how your decision will affect your neighborhood prior to your decision.

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Joined: Apr 10 2003

If a second story is done right it looks appropriate (if not beautiful) for the neighborhood, if it's done wrong it's horrible. Let's not forget that Joe built some 2 story Eichlers in some of his tracts. I am the person who took some of the pics shown in earlier posts from lottaliving.com. After 'touring' the Bay Area/N. Cal and So. Cal Eichler neighborhoods for taking these pics-I can say that there are good 2 story ones and bad 2 story ones. If you want to add a 2nd story look at the gallery there and get some ideas for good ones and some ideas on how to avoid the bad ones. And this just doesn't apply to 2nd story additions-there are some horrible 1 story remodels and some cool lookin updated ones. Nor is this issues restricted to just Eichlers-take a look at the gallery of Alexanders and Meiselmans in Palm Springs and also Ladera Heights in LA-you find the same thing there as well.

Wishing for modern home.

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Joined: Apr 10 2003

That was posted earlier from Lottliving.com -its in one of the Concord tracts-and that ain't the worst one-there's a one story down the street that has got to be the worst-it's like 'what were they thinking-was this person on acid?'

Wishing for modern home.

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