Eichler Victory in Sacramento!

Neighborhood of 60 homes gains crucial local historic status thru low-key strategy
Fridays on the Homefront
The making of the 'South Land Park Hills Historic District' was a two-pronged effort that involved winning over neighbors, and meetings with city officials to work out details. Above, members of the 'Eichler Historic District Design Guidelines Advisory Committee' survey all the Eichlers in the neighborhood to determine which will be 'contributors' to the nomination. Photo: Gretchen Steinberg

'Eichler homes' and 'preservation' have come together for a big‐time win in Sacramento!

An effort to preserve Sacramento's lone Eichler neighborhood succeeded on May 21, when the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved the nomination for the 'South Land Park Hills (Eichler) Historic District,' which comes with enforceable guidelines to preserve the homes' looks.

And it all began with cookies and cocoa.

"It only took five years," a leader of that effort, Susan Henas, observed as she left the Council meeting that day.

Fridays on the Homefront
A remarkable 49 of the approximately 60 Eichlers in South Land Park were deemed original enough to 'contribute' to the historical look of the community, including this one on Fordham Way. Photo: Dave Weinstein

Surprisingly, given the importance of the tracts created by Joe Eichler, few have historic designation. There are currently four Eichler developments in Northern California on the National Register of Historic Places. South Land Park Hills now becomes the first NorCal Eichler tract with local historic status, joining four others in SoCal that have received that distinction.

Why so few? Well, it's a lot of work, documenting the significance of the homes, winning neighborhood support, working through bureaucracy.

While approval of the historic district did not require a vote of the residents, the lion's share of homeowners polled backed the designation. In addition, 49 of the tract's estimated 60 homes, all of which were designed by architects Jones & Emmons and built in 1955‐'56, were deemed to 'contribute' to the historical nature of the tract.

 

Fridays on the Homefront
L‐R: Gisela Gutierrez, Gretchen Steinberg, Susan Henas, and Dane Henas were among the leaders of the effort to turn Sacramento's Eichler neighborhood into an official historic district. Photo: Dave Weinstein

How did the neighbors in South Land Park succeed? What can other historically minded Eichler owners learn from them?

Get social.

"The Social Committee was so pivotal in getting everything else running," says Gisela Gutierrez, who helped organize the group, "because it brought people together."

She recalls the first gathering, in February 2020, "right before everything shut down" due to Covid. The idea was to promote the idea of a historic district, but in a non‐threatening way.

 

Fridays on the Homefront
Henry Feuss, a preservation planner, walked the Sacramento City Council through the 'whys' and 'wherefores' of the Eichler historic district shortly before they voted to approve. Photo: Dave Weinstein

"We had to make sure that we worded the invitations to the gatherings to indicate that it was a social gathering, and that it wasn't a meeting about the historic district," Gisela says. "I remember the very first one we had, which I hosted, and it was cookies and cocoa."

"Some people came and asked, 'When's the meeting? When are we going to start talking about the historic district?' And I said, no, no, this is just a social gathering."

Gisela Gutierrez, Susan and Dane Henas, and Gretchen Steinberg (leader of the preservation group Sacramento Modern) led the charge, with other members of the 'Eichler Historic District Design Guidelines Advisory Committee'—Jacquolyn Duerr, Maria Pabon, and Steve Guest.

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