Suburbia in the Sky - Page 3

San Francisco's Diamond Heights—where there's charm, drama and the most unique Eichlers of all
Shel and Rosie Rosenthal are all smiles while neighbor Troy Litten (left) entertains them at the piano. Shel, a Diamond Heights original, bought his Eichler in 1966, and was joined by Rosie a decade later.

Shel Rosenthal, who bought his Eichler in 1966, recalls the joy when Safeway opened a few years later a short stroll from his home. "It was wonderful. The whole shopping center was lovely," he says.

Also in place, per DeMars' design, is a modernist fire station, schools, churches, and parks and playgrounds.

"The site plan design also carefully protected viewsheds by imposing height limits, and zoning for housing types, because of the dramatic views of downtown and the Bay Area, a particularly treasured characteristic of the area," Simonson writes.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency attended to social equity as well as to progressive land use planning. For years, Joe Eichler had sold homes to Black people and other minorities, but many other builders had not.

The Agency, however, banned such discrimination at Diamond Heights, a few years before state law did the same.

Rosie caught at her Eichler's entrance.

Shel and his wife, Rosie, who married in 1976, say the neighborhood has always had Black, Asian, and other minority families. "Very much so," Shel says. "And we all get along."

Of the 2,265 dwellings built at Diamond Heights, 458 were reserved for low-income people. These did not include the Eichlers. Today, the Eichlers of Diamond Heights are among the priciest Eichler-built homes anywhere. One of the single-story Eichlers near Shel and Rosie's home recently sold for $3.2 million.

The Diamond Heights Eichlers have never been a 'we-all-know-our-neighbors-and-chat-with-them-everyday' sort of tract, as some Eichler neighborhoods are, despite a Diamond Heights neighborhood association that sponsors beautification projects and the like.

"I know the neighbors on this block," Shel says of the street where he and Rosie live. "I don't know any others."

Still, Shel says, when newcomers arrive, "We have asked them to come over and have a drink with us, and invited the rest of the Eichlers on this block to come."

Troy Litten, whose Eichler is largely original, has filled his home with collections of arts and design, including numerous colorful telephones (above) from Eastern Europe, and scores of neckties.

Open houses, when Eichlers come on the market—which they do rarely—are one good way to meet neighbors, Troy Litten says. "I live for open houses in the neighborhood."

In his 30 years in the neighborhood, Jack Bernstine has gotten to know several of his neighbors, but agrees that there is no overall neighborhood socializing.

His next-door neighbors, Jamie Litchmann and Chanda Williams, say they know all their neighbors on Amber Way, and say some are people who grew up in the tract. "We're friendly, and we keep an eye out for each other," Litchmann says.

Williams adds, "Part of it is because we have a dog, and we meet other people with kids and dogs."

Inside Litten's living room.

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