Eichler’s Last Stand - Page 3

Los Arboles Addition stays caring and connected in a planned mix of Palo Alto one- and two-story Eichlers
Eichler's Last Stand
Renata and John Tong behind the Dutch door at their lovely Eichler entrance.
Eichler's Last Stand
Eichler's Last Stand
Eichler's Last Stand
The Tongs' living room (top) and dining room (middle). Bottom: Their atrium is a favorite place to study for daughter Sophia (left), joined here by friends Emily Su (center) and Cathy Hou (right) and family pooch Kaiya.

By the mid-1970s, the days of Eichler finding large, undeveloped orchards on the Peninsula were in the past. Los Arboles Addition's site was originally home to a church and parking lot, says Chet Sandberg, an original owner.

Two-story additions in one-story Eichler tracts always raise fears that privacy will be lost as people gaze from their second-story bedrooms into their neighbor's glass-walled rooms. That is a bit of a problem here—but not a desperate one, folks say.

Herb Fischgrund recalled one neighbor who was "bugged by the [neighboring] kids looking into his house." The man put in a planter and large tree to block views. Arlene Holloway, who lives in a two-story, says foliage preserves their neighbor's privacy.

Among residents living in a two-story is Michael Montegut, who remembers first visiting it. "We didn't realize it was an Eichler. I had never heard of two-story Eichlers. I said, 'This house looks like an Eichler,' and she [the broker] said, 'It is an Eichler.'"

"What's nice about the two-story Eichler is, the bedrooms are all upstairs, so you have a little more privacy," says Montegut, who had lived in a smaller, single-story Eichler in Cupertino.

The two-story Eichlers have dramatic, double-height living areas, which Montegut enjoys. He says, "The house feels quite large because of the two-story glass when you walk in."

Almost one third of the Addition's homes may be two stories already, but when the neighboring Los Arboles tract sought to prevent two-story homes by seeking single-story-only zoning, some people in Los Arboles Addition thought they would do the same.

"No one wants teardowns and McMansions," says Renata Tong, who with her husband, John, are raising two daughters in the Addition.

But the plan did not move forward, with city planners citing the number of existing two-story homes in the tract.

From the start, the neighborhood has attracted folks in what is today called tech. Matt Johnson, who runs a tech firm from his home, appreciates that "the engineers who were original owners who worked for defense contractors, how well they get along with newer folks in tech."

Residents appreciate their tract's convenient, Midtown location. Many kids bike to school. Richard Martin used to bike to his job at the Stanford Research Park. Mitchell Park and the library are a short walk or drive away.

Middlefield Road can get traffic, but it's never too bad, neighbors say. Across Loma Verde is a small neighborhood shopping center, with a dry cleaner, a shop selling high-end wines, a popular café, and an enormously popular Philz Coffee, famous for its mint mojitos among other pricey drinks.

"There is always a line at Philz," says John Tong. Neighbors, even those who love coffee, wince when talk turns to the coffee shop. That's because Philz fanatics park in front of their homes—even when it is illegal to do so—and drive through their court looking for parking or for a shortcut that doesn't exist (because Torreya ends in a cul-de-sac).

As problems go, an invasion of java junkies is minor. Los Arboles Addition faced worse grief in its earlier years. Two of the problems were ones Eichler had faced periodically throughout his career—the vicissitudes of the real estate and money markets, and quality control. The third problem was the sort that Eichler worked hard never to have.