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Open Letter to Eichler Owners-are U Hurting Housing Values?

29 replies [Last post]
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Joined: Mar 12 2005

I know that homeowners have the right to do essentially anything they want to their home, however I would ask that fellow Eichler owners take a longer term view (and encourage their neighbors to take a longer term view) on the changes they are considering OR the way in which they are currently 'presenting' their homes to the general public.

I raise this issue because I have witnessed a general decline in the way many homes are being maintained in Eichler tracts. Specifically, I would ask people to consider the following items which will go a long way towards reversing this decline:

- PAINT COLOR. While you might like purple and bright green, do you really think this color appeals to the general public? Keep in mind that you or your neighbors are going to want to sell their home one day and your bold artistic statement isn't going to help the process. Stick to natural, muted tones for the primary structure. Bolder accent colors are OK when utilized judiciously (e.g. on the door, roofline trim, etc) however make sure that the accent color compliments the base color and is consistent with what Eichler had intended.

- TAKE DOWN THE CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY LIGHTS. Holiday lights strewn across the front of your house can be beautiful November - January however its July. Please respect your neighborhood and take down the lights already! Nothing says i've given up on my home more than Christmas lights and an overgrown yard. Please remove the lights!

- GET THE R.V.'s & MONSTER TRUCKS OUT OF YOUR FRONT YARD (and ideally out of your driveway). Also, if the tires are flat or the engine is removed from anything in your driveway, please sell, donate or give it away! There are plenty of not-for-profit charities that will pick your non-opeartional vehicle or vehicles up for free and you your donation will be tax deductible.

- GET RID OF THE GAWDY FOUNTAINS OR BIRDBATHS IN YOUR FRONT YARD. Some fountains and birdbaths are OK however the boy peeing into the fountain base, religious figurines or gnomes would probably look better elsewhere. If you must have them then please keep them in your backyard.

- BASIC FRONT-YARD MAINTENANCE. If you have a yard which was at one time beatifully landscaped with:

ROCK: but has been overcome with weeds, get rid of the weeds. There are environmentally friendly herbicides that can knock them out within 24 hours - no weed pulling required. Also, if the plastic tarp is showing thru, either get more rock or simply redistribute what you have.

PLANTS/SHRUBS: Trim them back at least once a year. If your entire yard is overcome with IVY, BAMBOO, JUNIPER TREES, etc. then you might want to hire someone to saw and dig this stuff out and give you a fresh start. Do not delay or give up since this type of overgrowth is only going to get worse with time and could potentially create more damage to your home, driveway, etc.

- BEDSHEETS ARE NOT CURTAINS; ALSO NO FRILLY WINDOWCOVERINGS! Please do not use bedsheets as curtains. Do not use bedsheets or anything frilly as a window covering, even if you think they are outside the view of the public - WE CAN SEE THEM. You can find cheap yet trendy window coverings almost anywhere these days. TARGET and IKEA sell cheap windowcoverings if you are on a tight budget and don't know where to begin to look. Just remember to stick to the basics and think 'light and airy'.

- SIDING REPLACEMENT - Basic siding that you pickup at the local hardware or lumber store will make your Eichler home look like a mobile home. Siding should be replaced with Eichler-like siding. There is plenty of information on this board re: what this siding should look like and also how you can purchase (or cut) this siding yourself.

- ADDRESS NUMBERS SHOULD HAVE CLEAN AND BASIC LINES - NUMBERS ONLY - Please keep it simple! Stick to the numbers and leave off "Casa", your family name (leaving off the family name is not only for aesthetic reasons but also for your own personal safety) or other eronneous information. The numbers should be basic - don't attempt to 'artistically personalize' with numbers burned into wood, pottery or other custom, frilly designs.

- IS THE FLAG REALLY NECESSARY? - I'm not being unpatriatoic, just asking the question.

Sorry for the rant however "Eicher-proud" folks really need to work together to take back their neighborhoods. None of the suggestions above really cost any money, in fact they are likely to payoff for everyone in the long term. Thanks for listening.

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

It's hard to disagree but I think most people on this forum are with you. The audience you are trying to reach is not part of this forum. Most people here are obviously interested in maintaining their Eichler.

Ben
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Joined: Aug 12 2004

Agree with you both and add that it's not just Eichlers, but any home in any neighborhood.

My in-laws live in a gated CC over in Danville and their HA is always having to fight with this kind of stuff, PLUS stupid things like some don't like the above ground cable boxes and are trying to ban them. Or the kids living in a +$5M home with their lifted 4x4's booming 1,000 WATT "music" that comes in through the walls that is over 150 feet away in the middle of the nite?

Fighting human nature, this and a losing battle, but don't give up. Every little bit helps.

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

One little addition to the above list:
Painting over your windows looks très tacky.

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Joined: Mar 24 2003

I've been thinking the same thing. What is it with the original owners and/or the second owners (the ones that have been there for 15+ years). USE SOME OF THAT EQUITY!

All I know is that I've spent a fortune and broken my back to create an amazing environment while some of my neighbors around me need to have their homes bulldozed

Russell

ajm
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Joined: Mar 24 2003

This kind of post makes me ----well, it at least makes me want to go home and hoist up the flag. Actually, I think I will hoist up the flag when I get home.

Everyone's different. Everyone has different circumstances: financially,
culturally, aesthetically. Your idea of the proper font for street numbers may not be a top priority item for every family. Maybe the RV they saved for for years was their top priority? And if someone wants to use a color that you find a little garish? So what. Maybe they think it's fun. Who made any of us the head of the "good taste" committee?

I think that talking to you neighbors and finding out what they're all about is a better route to a good neighborhood than snooty lists of Eichler dos and don'ts that celebrate our own aesthetic superiority.

-Andrew

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Joined: May 16 2004

Hello tguptha,

I think I may live in the neighborhood you are describing.

ARE YOU SELLING YOUR HOME?

Is that the reason for the rant???

If it is, then......good riddance.
Get to know your neighbors and don't offend people who want to show patriotism on July 4th while you are trying to cash out on your home.

Travis & Julie
1219 McIntosh Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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Joined: Mar 12 2005

I am not selling my home (nor do I intend to) in the near future. While I agree that we all have our differences, I think most of the items listed above are a good indicator that a neighborhood, Eicher or other, is in a general state of decline, especially if you see these types of things occuring with an increasing degree of frequency.

I agree that some of the items I highlighted, including address numbers and weather-beaten flags flying at full mast 24/7/365, are extreme and worthy of a retraction, however the other comments remain spot on.

While we all have different circumstances, budgets and individual tastes, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a conscientious homeowner that would support or defend Christmas lights in July, painted over windows, bedsheets for curtains, a salvage yard of vehicles and RVs in the front yard or a yard which has clearly been abandon by its owners. Fixing these problems (or as you say "differences") would generally not cost a thing and would go a long way in terms of restoring the neighborhood.

Eichler Proud? Work together to take back the neighborhood!

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Joined: Mar 24 2003

I'm sorry but I gotta agree with Tgupta here.

Some of these Eichler properties have turned into rental units over the years. I know of some in our neighbor hood that have an engine block and old refridgerator in the front yard. Yuck. Luckily, as housing prices have steadily risen, those rental units are being sold and new owners are coming in and really loving these dilapidated properties.

However, there are some communities (like Lucas Valley) where they have a strong homeowner's association that helps to manage said properties. The unfortunate part is that not all eichler areas have these associations. In my opinion, they are sorely needed.

I love my Eichler.

Russell

Ben
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Joined: Aug 12 2004

This is very common in any area where the original owners have moved on, died, etc. Moved on to a vacation or retirement home and rented out the old house. Died and the kids now rent it out, etc.

They don't know HOW2 be good landlords and just collect the monthly rent. Many times they don't maintain it well or at all and have little to no understanding of their loss in value for either refi or sale.

Home owners association is one route to ID and have something said to them (owners and/or the city), but there are others that are even more effective.

Every city has a "weed abatement" ordiance of some sort. They all cover more than weeds....anything visual from the street. Like an engine block on the front lawn, or a bumper sticking up past the top of the fence, etc.

Here is the San Mateo internet addresses which has phone numbers and names of the officers who are responsible for enforcing the codes. I call them all the time... :)

http://www.cityofsanmateo.org/dept/housing/ce/index.html

FAQ page

Top 10 tips

Contact info with names and phone numbers

Frequently Asked Questions
The City of San Mateo operates in compliance with hundreds of written codes that are designed to maintain a healthy, safe and clean environment, carry out land use policy and preserve the quality-of-life standards that residents and businesses enjoy in our community.

There are many types of codes: City Codes, including Nuisance Codes, Zoning Codes, Fire Codes, Uniform Building Codes, Uniform Housing Codes, Vehicle Codes and Penal Codes. Code Enforcement is a responsibility shared by many City departments. To be eff

ective and efficient, code enforcement also needs the cooperation of residents and businesses.

Because there are so many codes - many involving complex technical or legal issues - residents frequently have questions about code enforcement and their role in making San Mateo a better place to live and work. The following information will answer the most frequently asked questions about code enforcement in our community.

*
How are codes enforced?
*
How do I notify the City about a possible code violation?
*
What penalties result from code violations?
*
What is the City's home business requirements?
*
What are the City's fence and hedge requirements?
*
What is the City's signage requirements?
*
Where can I view the City's Municipal Codes?
*
Where can I find some of the more obscure laws I may need to know about?

How are codes enforced?
The enforcement process is typically initiated in several ways:

1. in response to a complaint by an individual;
2. observation of a code violation by City staff as they patrol the community and do their jobs;
3. as a consequence of an action (for example, an application for a building permit or a request for a zoning variance).

How do I notify the City about a possible code violation?
A complaint about a possible code violation is made by letter, telephone, email, or in person to the appropriate City department (Contact Information).

Please be prepared with specific information, such as:

* the address of the property,
* detailed description of the situation, and
* the length of time you have observed the situation.

You do not have to identify yourself, however, having your name will assist us with follow-up and ensure we have all the information we need to resolve the situation.

What penalties result from code violations?
In many cases, the individual responsible for the code violation is given the opportunity to voluntarily correct the situation and comply with current codes without a penalty. If the correction is not made, then the individual may be subject to fines and other penalties.

What are the City's home business requirements?

In some cases, businesses cannot be operated out of the home. However, there are some business activities which are permitted in residences. Uses such as home offices, professional services, instruction, food preparation, and handicrafts may be allowed if certain criteria are met and a Home Occupation permit is obtained. Commercial auto repair and retail sales from the home are not allowed.

To be permitted, a home occupation must meet the following criteria:

* All employees of the business must be residents in the dwelling.
* Only 400 square feet of the home, or up to 20% of the living area, whichever is less, may be used for the business.
* Clients may only visit the dwelling between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and no more than 5 client visits per day are allowed.
* Parking must be provided for all business vehicles.
* Deliveries to the business may only be made by private mail service or the Postal Service.
* Outdoor storage of goods, equipment, or material is not allowed.
* A valid business tax certificate must also be maintained at all times that the home occupation is conducted.
* Vehicles used for the business may not have visible logos.

For information regarding a Home Occupation Permit, please contact the Planning Division at (650) 522-7212. To apply for, or to request an application for a Home Occupation Permit and a business tax certificate, you may contact the Finance Department at City Hall, 330 West 20th Avenue. Their phone number is (650) 522-7100.

To view the SMMC regarding Home Occupation click on the following: Home Occupation (SMMC: 27.16.040)

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Joined: Jul 28 2004

Thanks for the excellent list of resources. The Eichler Highlands neighborhood is plagued with all of the above-cited problems, but we are not in the city of San Mateo. We are governed by the county regulations and these aren't very well known.

It would be wonderful if someone could post similar information for the Highlands area.

The Eichler Highlands area is in the middle of a community-wide and very emotional discussion about height limitations. Although I would like to see only single-story homes in the neighborhood, it seems even more important to me to set some standards for home maintenance. Cars parked in the front yard are more offensive to me than second-storeys.

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Joined: Dec 20 2004

I'm glad most of my neighbors are not so bad but since we are on the subject of flags here are some basic rules so you don't accidently desecrate our national symbol:

1) Flags up at sunrise and down at sunset. You should play Taps but I can let this slide as I don't want to hear Taps at 6am :-)

2) If it has to stay out all night have a light on it.

3) If it gets tatter and worn please replace it. It is very disrespectful to hang an old torn flag.

4) If it touches the ground and gets dirty, clean it.

In case you need all the gory details:
http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagetiq.html

- Ralph

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Joined: Aug 9 2003

This was a great post. Most of the following posts were constructive and infomative.

I find it odd that anyone would find this post offensive - especially to play the card that your personal liberties are at stake - (the right to choose your address font or house color). I am not in favor of home owners associations - posts like this keep people informed keep the home owners associations away.

Ben
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Joined: Aug 12 2004

Along the personal freedoms thing, which is why this country such a great place vs others I've visited.

I'm not of the "keep it OEM" and will change anything I want to. Some will say ruination of the place, not just an Eichler, but any other "design".

Engine blocks on the lawn is something I'll call to have the authorities take care of, but I see "their" point too.

It's just where that "line" is and it's very subjective.

I take that line to be where "they" take away or intrude on others freedoms. Then our laws says it will then take action.

On the American Flag thing. Weird timing, as my father in law and I were just talking about this (he's a WWII silver star guy). Took my old flag to the BoyScouts next to the old San Mateo Times building to have them burn it (that is the recommended method) and they didn't know anything about it. Talked to the adult leader and he had to look it up. They took it and was going to use it as a teaching/learning thing.

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Joined: Jan 16 2004

Wow - What an Amazing Post - Quite a List
Sure has turned into fun watching where it has gone.
Like your thoughts but think you are talking to the
wrong crowd. The folks on this site are Eichler Lovers

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Joined: Mar 12 2005

I agree that most Eichler Network vistors are already enthusiasts however i'm sure even the best of best have a few of the issues identified above plaguing their home and their neighborhood.

The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend so hopefully folks will take the time to get out and take down the Christmas lights, clean up their yards and driveways and helping to brighten up the neighborhood.

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Joined: Oct 10 2003

I bet if you went up to those neighbors this weekend and offered a hand to help, they wouldn't turn you down. :wink:

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Joined: Mar 24 2003

LOL I might go and try to lend a hand, but my rage from their total apathy might not make a good first impression.

LOL

Russell

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

tguptha:

Good for you! What neighborhood/town do you live in? Just curious.

We are in Willow Glen and one of the reasons we chose it was for its generally very strong curb appeal - and by this I am talking about the entire area - in fact the other parts of the Glen are better kept up for the most part than are our Eichler streets. Large, green and well manicured lawns are the style here and we love it. But we too have our inconsiderate neighbors and one in particular, with a backyard full of junk autos and a falling down fence so everyone gets to enjoy the "view" as they walk by. No one is immune.

That said, we are luckier than some. I am talking especially about the SM Highlands, which has some of the most appalling "statements of individuality" I have ever seen. Far far worse than the bright green house with the flag in front one street over from ours. I'm talking Greecian columns, barn style 2nd stories, and junk all over the place. It was one reason why we never even considered the Highlands, even though over all, it is a beautiful area.

When your statement of individuality does not lower my quality of life or property value, then it is none of my business, but when it does, it is EVERYBODY'S business. We economists refer to this as a "negative externality." Air and water pollution are also negative externalities. They impose a cost on someone that is/was not part of the transaction. Beautifully landscaped front yards are positive externalities because they create benefits to others that never paid for them.

Financial compensation for negative externalities is one way they are dealt with. Those that generate them pay those that are injured. Like 2nd hand smoke and the litigation against restaurants and bars that allowed smoking. Same argument. Now, if someone moves into a neighborhood today, and it has these junk homes there already, then they have already been financially compensated via the lower price paid for their home and the fact that they willingly purchased it in spite of the junk homes. BUT if you buy your house in a nice area and then that area declines through creation of JUNK homes, then you should be compensated for that damage to your property value, but right now, there is no mechanism for doing this. If anyone wants to read about this model, do a search under Coase's Theorem, or Pigouvian Tax.

This is a great discussion and raises many important issues. While in my pre-homowner days, I used to hate Code Enforcement, they are quickly becoming my new best friend (just after animal control, that is).

Hey if someone wants to live like oakies, then move to Oklahoma.

Cathye

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Joined: Feb 15 2004

I see some of these things in Terra Linda as well. But my guess is (as someone said) most of the people that have little regard for the "neighborhood values" do not read this forum......and many do not own the property. But I must say it is improving all the time.

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Joined: Jan 8 2005

Maybe you should start your own HOA and start laying down the law in your neighborhood! I do think most who are offenders on your list do not own a computer.
The person who posted the thing about some people not having money so they have an excuse to have a crappy house is silly. You can be both rich and poor to be apathetic and lazy. Unfortunately it is the people who bought Eichlers in the 80's and 90's who did the terrible re-models on their homes. I think the revival of the Eichler is more recent.....so we must wait until they sell before the houses will begin to be restored. Patience grasshopper.

Joined: Mar 2 2004

What a great list. Here's how I see the problem; When that ruined Eichler sells cheap, it is much more likely to be torn down and replaced by a 'big box' house. Run-down home occupiers are totally oblivious to our sensitivities. They look out from their mess and see our 'well-kept' homes and think "What a great neighborhood I live in". Instead of fuming, we can make sure the offender knows how we feel (frequently). I don't think it's cruel to remind someone that he is damaging the property value of his home and the surrounding neighborhood. My father once rented to some messy tenants. Things changed fast when neighbors began complaining to him.

ajm
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Joined: Mar 24 2003

Thankfully, one cannot just "start your own HOA and start laying down the law in the neighborhood." And to summarize my previous post as having meant that "not having money is an excuse to have a crappy house" is an extreme distortion.

Look, I like a nice, neat neighborhood as much as anyone. Things like parking cars on the lawn, leaving engine blocks lying around, and 6' tall weeds are ugly, unsafe and unsanitary and has Ben pointed out in his post there are plenty of exising remedies for these problems through local government. And in my experience, people who leave cars on the lawn or use bedsheets for curtains probably, as many have said, do not read this board and certainly are not likely to be moved by arguments about mid-century modern aesthetics.

But what I don't like about the original post was the way it lorded one particular vision of an Eichler neighborhood as if it were handed down from on high. If my neighbor wants to have a house sign that says "Casa Smith", or have a nice little birdbath in her front yard, or have frilly curtains in the house, or keep an RV next to the house (subject to local regs, of course) then why shouldn't they be able to? And when you say that we ought to think about whether or not we need to fly the flag because it doesn't quite jive with your vision of the neighborhood, well, that's just over the top.

And the reason I'm so sensitive to this issue is because all of this "we know the way each house should look" stuff is a very two-edged sword. I've wanted to live in a modernistic glass house ever since I was 7 years old and doodled sketches of houses in my spare time, but if I were to have tried to build such a house 50 years ago I'm sure many of the Homeowner Association types would have fought tooth and nail against it because it destroyed the artistic integrity of their gingerbread cottage neighborhoods.

So I'm not saying we should live like "Oakies" (apologies to OK residents), or that "crappy houses" are the ultimate expression of personal freedom. I'm just saying that not everyone who owns an Eichler is as obsessed with a particular vision of the neighborhood as many of us are and that before we start "laying down the law" about stylistic issues we should show a little tolerance and understanding.

-Andrew

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

AJM and Randy,
Both your posts ring true from what I have seen. Style is different than basic maintenance-- and poor maintenance results in the painfully obvious difference between a 50 year old Eichler that looks livable and one that is in tear down condition.
Frilly curtains will not effect resale value as much as termite infested wood.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

One of my theories, besides the fact that some are obviously rentals, is that they were inherited by the kids--who now want to live out thier life on a shoestring - just getting by on the interst from the inheritance, or by doing odd jobs or whatever.

In our area, I must say that we have also been very lucky. Loni Nagwani (Eichler RE agent) bought a corner home that someone had put a traditional high-pitched roof on. It looked terrible, esp since the original home was a flat-roofed atrium model. First thing she did before moving in, was to take off the old roof and restore the roofline, siding, all exterior work and landscaping, as well as the inside of the home and it is gorgeous.

We have had several other new neighbors - one couple in particular - that bought a corner home on Booksin. It was in a terrible state of disrepair which included several large dead and very tall tree trunks in the front "yard." The energetic young couple have been embarking on a major resotration and improvement job - and since it is on our walking route - we have the chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor nearly every day. Beautiful new landscaping in the front, new siding and paint, and what looks like a lot of work on the inside. Good for them! This kind of work is expensive and given today's prices, probably an economic stretch for many.

And I could name at least 4 other examples in the past few years. RE agents such as Loni do us all a favor by educating her customers about these homes and helping them understand the concepts of MCM asthetics, architecture, and value. I also think that some new Eichler owners are completely overwhelmed with "what to do first and how to do it" when they first buy - especially if their home needs work that cannot wait. The quick fix sometimes, is for them to just hire some contractor or Home Depot even, to stick in a new kitchen or bath, just to get it functional again. Working on these homes from both a technical and asthetic perspective and doing it well is very difficult and due to this, I cooked w/o a working stove for 2 years for the utter terror I felt in potentially ruining the look of my charming original kitchen -- and I am an avid cook. Things are better now, as we finally found the right remodel for us.

Now, when it comes to junk and ruin in the front yard - there is no excuse. Monetary or otherwise.

I agree with those that observe that in some cases, as these homes turn over, they are improved and brought back to their former beauty and asthetics. Now if we could just get rid of the remaining renters/ kids that have inherited mommy and daddy's house and plan never to work again -- we should only be so lucky.

Cathye

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Joined: Aug 9 2003

Every owner should take a Homeowners class 101 - Eichler owners need to take that class and then an add on class Eichler Ownership 101.

These houses are difficult to grasp, unless you are a total Eichler/modernist geek and or an architect, it takes time to get it. Alot of people need help and guidance - it one post like the original post makes a person stop and think before they place that bird bath in the front yard, install a vinyl white fence, add a second story look out tower or paint there accent stripe bright purple - then this post - in my opinion - was a success.

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Joined: Apr 22 2005

I guess I am always surprised when people are so critical of their neighbors. I find it sad when people are not friendly with their neighbors.

Consider this:
When my parents bought their Eichler back in the 60's they were SO proud and loved it! By the late 80's my mom was living alone in her Eichler and the yard started to be neglected. She could not afford a gardener.
Instead of complaining about my mom to other people, her neighbors had their son start mowing her lawn and raking leaves. My mom started paying the boy and they all got to know each other. That is what makes a neighborhood nice to live in - NOT paint and small vehicles.

Please think about the person living in the house you find an eyesore. Get to know them and see if you can help. After all, your point is that the things you are complaining about are easy and inexpensive to fix.

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

Your point is well taken. A little friendly advice and assistance is great for the elderly living alone with no one to help them.

Nevertheless I can't help cringing everytime I walk by the Eichlers with the ugly string Christmas Tree lights that are suppose to look like icicles—in July.

Maybe I should be neighborly and ring their door bells to ask if they need help taking them down.

What do you think?

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Joined: Apr 22 2005

If you're truly asking me what I think, I think you should be neighborly. Plain and simple, it's what makes a neighborhood better. Walk up to the door of the owner of the home that makes you cringe, knock on it, and talk to your neighbor! Conversations become so blustery online whereas a short introduction and an invitation to your tacky neighbor from you to feel free to talk about gardening or design or whatever might make something happen. I didn't intend to raise your hackles - I took my xmas lights down in March.

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Joined: Mar 12 2005

since someone mentioned that there are a lot of new owners doing work on their homes, I wanted to send out the following helpful hints to enhance the beauty of their home (as well as their neighbors).

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