Why Wait 'til It's Too Late?

Staving off threatening neighborhood changes—before the inevitable wakeup call hits home
Why Wait
Why Wait
When the wakeup call arrived in Terra Linda years ago, it came as the monster home above.

Joe Eichler sold more than suburban homes. He sold a dream of California suburbia with easy living both indoors and out—not to mention atriums and courtyards that were a bit of both.

There would be privacy from peering eyes—in enclosed backyards in neighborhoods where people dote on their kids, set up easels in their atriums, and enjoy canapés around the pool.

To achieve this dream, an Eichler neighborhood should be peaceful. But should it also be vigilant, protective, and proactive?

Over the past few years neighborhood after neighborhood in Silicon Valley has been rocked when owners have torn down single-story homes or added a second story.

Neighbors, perhaps lulled by quiescence and distracted by the fast-moving world around them, had to scramble at the last minute to preserve their neighborhoods.

Back in 2015, Fan and Tracy Zhang sprung into action, serving pizza to neighbors to build consensus against a proposal to build two-story homes overlooking their Eichler tract in Sunnyvale.

This was a real rush job, as Fan Zhang had heard about the project just days before the city could approve it. Neighbors made their voices heard. They convinced the developer to build single-story homes instead, and a privacy fence.

On top of that, Zhang and his neighbors got single-story zoning for their part of the tract—just in case.

A year later, also in Sunnyvale, what neighbor John Sullivan called "a monster house" was proposed for Fairbrae Addition, spurring people there to seek and get single-story zoning to protect them from such intrusions—in the future. But they had acted too late to stop the first monster.

Since then, any number of Sunnyvale Eichler areas have sought and received such zoning protection.

And in Palo Alto, a proposal in 2014 to tear down an Eichler in a small tract on Louis Road helped set off a brouhaha, as several Eichler neighborhoods sought zoning protection. The result included new citywide Eichler guidelines that some homeowners believe don't have enough teeth.

"For a lot of us in the neighborhood, it's been a bit of a wakeup call," neighbor Lynn Drake said in 2014 of the Louis Road and other such Palo Alto proposals.

Why Wait
The streetscape here suggests harmony—and it will continue if its neighbors stay vigilant, protective, and proactive.