Diamonds in the Rough

As prices hit $2M, S.F.’s Diamond Heights Eichlers are rising to shine—one at a time
Fridays On the Homefront
The look and feel of S.F's Diamond Heights Eichlers seem to be on the rise. Pictured here is the revitalized face of Klopf Architecture’s recent Amber Drive project. Photo: Mariko Reed
Fridays On the Homefront
'Before' shot (left side) of the Klopf's Amber project. Photo: courtesy Klopf Architecture
Fridays On the Homefront
Architect John Klopf.
Fridays On the Homefront
Kitchen remodel from Klopf's Amber project. Photo: Mariko Reed

Developing communities in San Francisco proved in some respects to be the Waterloo for Eichler Homes, but Joe Eichler's construction in one neighborhood in particular has left a fairly unique legacy of mid-century modern design.

Diamond Heights is a rocky outpost above Glen Park and Glen Canyon, composed of Red Rock Hill, Gold Mine Hill, and Fairmount Hill. It was named for Diamond Street, as the City prepared in the 1950s to expand the relatively undeveloped bluffs. By limiting access to a single thoroughfare, Diamond Heights Boulevard, the S.F. Redevelopment Agency hoped to retain the rural flavor of the area.

Along with developers like the Ring Brothers and Galli Construction, Eichler Homes was awarded a tract to develop. Eichler built 100 homes on four streets—Amethyst Way, Amber Drive, Cameo Way, and Duncan Street—that today are undergoing somewhat of a renaissance in a different manner than those of flatland Eichlers.

"We haven't really heard from anybody up there until recently," says John Klopf, whose San Francisco-based architectural firm, Klopf Architecture, has worked on more than 80 Eichler remodels throughout the Bay Area, and a few in Diamond Heights. "I think there's a lot more to be done than has been done in that area."

Some see the hillside development as a diamond in the rough, as the look and feel of Diamond Heights evolves in a positive way with each new remodel and restoration.

Klopf is currently working on his second Diamond Heights modern remodel of the past year, the first of which was a three-story 1962 Eichler on Amber. "People are definitely getting interested in remodeling these homes," he says. "There's a lot of construction going on."

And it's bringing results too. One refurbished Eichler in the Heights, on Duncan Street, was transformed from unsightly into a beautiful showcase before selling for more than $2 million last year. Another on Amber is currently listed at $1,795,000.

Because of the topography of Diamond Heights, original architect Claude Oakland had to look outside the typical Eichler design of a one-story, open floor plan.

"The siting is really different," Klopf says of the area compared to most Eichler neighborhoods. Many homes are multi-story, some are split-level. There are models with street-facing courtyards in the place of an atrium, and ones accessed by a central staircase. All are butted up, city style, next to each other.

But inside they still have that Eichler look and feel. Yet, says Klopf, "it's a different kind of feeling."

"The original architects really came up with a clever way of making that work," he says of his completed three-story project on Amber, which shares a roof with its next-door neighbor and thus resembles a duplex.