Historic Strategy Fails at Pomeroy Green

Pomeroy West, shown here, and Pomeroy Green are important milestones in the development of coops and condos in California, and may win historic designation if residents persevere to reach the goal. Neighborhood photos by Dave Weinstein

In many ways, the Eichler homes at Pomeroy Green and Pomeroy West in Santa Clara don’t much look like standard Eichlers.

They are clustered and attached townhouses, for one thing. For another, in design they are a series of rectangles and planes, very International Style in feeling, not like the more informal California modern of Joe’s single-family tract homes.

Pomeroy Green, with 78 two-story attached townhouses on seven acres, opened in 1961. Pomeroy West, with a greater variety of homes, has 138 attached units, and opened in 1963. Both have attractive landscapes, pedestrian pathways, pools, and recreation.

The homes at the two tracts, which sit across from each other on Pomeroy Avenue near Benton Street, look so little like standard Eichlers, recalls Frank LaHorgue, who sold homes at Pomeroy Green for Joe in the early 1960s, that “People would drive up, one person would get out of the car and say, we thought this was an Eichler project. Where are the Eichler homes?”

Pomeroy Green is smaller than Pomeroy West. Pomeroy Green is a cooperative; Pomeroy West is a condo community.

In many ways, though, the Pomeroy homes are as historic as anything Eichler built – early examples of cooperative and condominium living in California, an attempt by a progressive developer to respond to changing desires among homebuyers and the need to build more housing on smaller plots of land.

So it would seem an easy shot for neighbors to get both neighborhoods onto the National Register, right? Except, consider. The last time any Eichler neighborhoods made it to to the Register was in 2005. The Historic Quest committee that got Palo Alto’s Greenmeadow and Green Gables tracts so honored hoped their success would spur others to put their Eichler tracts on the National Register. But it has not.

There has been serious movement in the city of Orange by some people there. And now Pomeroy Green has submitted an application to the state’s Office of Historic Preservation, whose approval would send it on to the feds for final approval.

The Eichler Homes brochure for Pomeroy West included this image of a family in their kitchen.

“I recently submitted an application for listing Pomeroy Green on the National Register of Historic Places to the state,” Ken Kratz, a Pomeroy Green neighbor who is leading the National Register charge, wrote. “The name of the property on the application is now Pomeroy Green historic district."

There has even been talk, though not much action yet, by people at Pomeroy West about such an application.

But a recent setback seems to have left residents of the two Pomeroys a bit dispirited – though not about their chances of ultimate success of getting historic status.

But they failed in their attempt to use the argument that their neighborhoods are historic to block what they see as a historically incompatible development being built next door to their homes.

At the end of June, the Santa Clara City Council rezoned a parcel of land at 1075 Pomeroy Avenue to allow the developer to rip down a single-story home there and replace it with four homes that are part of a planned development.

The lot at 1075 Pomeroy Avenue has an existing home, which is expected to be replaced by four modern-style homes.

The lot is surrounded on three sides by the homes of Pomeroy Green. Pomeroy West is across the street.

Kratz and other neighbors argued that the four new homes would be historically incompatible with Pomeroy, and would be too dense.

But the neighbors' argument did not sway council. “Unfortunately, the  project was approved,” Kratz wrote after the council vote. “Only one council member voted against the project.” He added: “The developer did make some concessions to his design that probably impressed the council.”

The staff report to council stated that the developer made changes that included lower building heights, redesigned windows, and changes in materials.

“The revised plan and conditions would allow for a detached townhome development that better responds to the concerns of the neighboring residents,” staff said.

This image from a city planning document shows what the new homes are expected to look like. There may have been changes in the plan, due to conditions set by planners.

Some of the impetus to get the National Register application through was due to the pressure of the proposed development, Kratz has said.

After the council approved the zoning change needed for the new homes, Kratz wrote: “I'm still interested in historic designation for our complex, but, of course, the pressure is off to complete it quickly.”

At Pomeroy Green a pedestrian path provides access to the pool and recreation building. Both neighborhoods have such tree-lined paths.

Meanwhile, at Pomeroy West right across the street, Quentin Polosky, one of the neighbors who has been talking about seeking historic designation, has been moving slowly, largely because he wants to ensure that all neighbors buy into the idea.

“Otherwise, I can see where the National Register activities might be blocked by a few homeowners who for some reason don't want their property to be part of the National Register,” he wrote.

"In general," Polosky wrote in a recent email, "I think Pomeroy West could use someone, some group, with prior experience in successfully applying for historical building designaations, and all the better if they have some experience with Eichlers, as we need some guidance with to get a solid start."

Here’s hoping the residents of both Pomeroy Green and Pomeroy West persist with efforts to achieve historical recognition for their homes. It is time more such Eichler neighborhoods put in the time to win such status – before, not after, unwanted neighborhood changes occur.

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