Forum HomeCA-Modern ForumsGrab Bag Central › An open letter to the author of recent SF Chronicle article

An open letter to the author of recent SF Chronicle article

18 replies [Last post]
Joined: Aug 30 2003

I just sent this email to the author of a recent SF Chronicle article on Eichlers. I was interviewed for the ariticle.

Hi Kathleen,

I just read your Eichler article "UNHAPPY WITH EICHLER" online at

To be frank, I am very disappointed in it.

You describe radiant heat as "weird". I understand that you have never lived in a home with that type of heating. But to just say it's "weird" and leave it at that is hardly an insightful comment. In fact, radiant heat is common in Europe and modern systems are very efficient and effective. Systems built in the 50's have their drawbacks, but when they are in good working order (as many still are) it is a marvelous way to heat a house: no noise, no dusty air blowing around, and warm feet. It seems clear that the radiant heat in your grandmothers house is not working properly if your feet were cold in the winter. In my house, I walk around all winter just wearing socks and it's wonderful.

Obviously your grandmother's house has not been properly maintained over the last 52 years. Any house of that vintage, Eichler or not, that had not had appropriate maintenance done on it would have roof leaks and plumbing problems. And every tract house of that vintage had either no insulation in the exterior walls, or very poor insulation by modern standards. That was the way all houses were built in that era: no one had heard the term "energy efficiency" because gas and electricity were so cheap!

I told you these things when we spoke on the phone, but you choose to ignore them to try to make your article more amusing. In other words, you sacrificed accuracy for effect. You're young, and trying to make a name for yourself. I'm sure that you'll do better next time. But to advocate tearing any home down to build a 5-story "monstrosity", even tongue-in-cheek, is irresponsible and insensitive to those who would have to live next to it. Re-roofing the house, adding insulation to the walls, putting in a new floor, and fixing the plumbing and heating system would cost less than 10% of the value of the house, and solve all the problems you describe.

By the way, the reason people "drop the name Eichler when he wasn't even the architect" is because without him, the houses would never have been built. He was the driving force, and what he did was unique and without parallel.

Best regards,

Barry Brisco

1959 A. Quincy Jones atrium model in The Highlands, San Mateo

Joined: Nov 26 2004

I read the article this AM and was just about to post the URL here with a similar response.

The naivety of the author shines pretty brightly in this article and its a shame that the article was written for shock and effect vs. accuracy.
She should have gotten out of her grandmas run-down and poorly maintained house and viewed some other Eichler homes before casting stones.

If you haven't done so already, you should also submit your response to the chronicle editor / "letters to the editor" section. You can send your response to

Joined: Aug 18 2003

is another person's hell, I guess-
Let's face it, Barry- even though we love our Eichler, I still remember the realtor who showed it to us 'preparing' us before our tour- "Now, not everyone likes Eichlers- as a matter of fact, some people really hate them. . . just let me know if you want to go. . ."
I couldn't wait to see the place, I was so intrigued.
Luckily, both my husband and I fell into the 'love' category. But there have been times- getting the roof redone, getting rid of asbestos tile, getting a new heating system, the pipes done, the electric upgraded. . . that have made me (almost) want to run, empty wallet outstretched, to a bit less. . . high maintenance sort of abode. But then I look at the pool and the plants, sitting out beyond the glass, framed by the great lines and the rich wood walls, and I think . . . no, no, this is okay :)

Kathleen's grandmom bought that house in 1968, and, per her article, didn't do much to take care of it afterwards. Almost 40 years of neglect for a home that cries for attention! I'm surprised the poor girl lasted even a few months living there. Hopefully, she'll sell it, and she'll sell it to someone who'll see beyond the peeling tiles, the leaky roof, the bad pipes and whatever else Kathleen hated and turn it back into something wonderful.
Maybe Kathleen'll even leave them that cool orange sofa as a gift.

Gotta go. This weekend, we're painting.

Joined: Aug 30 2003

As I said, any house of that age that has not been properly maintained is likely to have roof problems, plumbing problems, floor problems, and so on. These issues are not specific to Eichlers! Conventional tract houses of the same period were also poorly insulated but since they had attics it was not quite as apparent. The writer completely neglected to put the problems of the house in context, all in an effort to come up with a new twist on what it's like to live in an Eichler home.

1959 A. Quincy Jones atrium model in The Highlands, San Mateo

Joined: Mar 25 2003

Hey does anyone have contact information for the unhappy Eichler owner?
We would like to buy this house from her sight unseen.

no. seriously.

Please pass this along - that she can do a for sale by owner and avoid paying commission to an agent. I will pay her the full value of the UNIMPROVED land (because the house is obviously a tear-down).

We are pre-approved and ready to go.

(for those who don't know me - i would not tear it down...
BUT she deserves to have it stolen from her if she does not believe it has value. And we will put an offer on it tomorrow if she'll sell it as a land value/tear down. Or if there is a group of investors who would like to go in and steal it together restore/clean it properly and flip it - please let me know.)

Your Ultra Guide for Googie, Atomic Age and Mid Century Modern Living: OPEN 24/7!

Joined: Aug 30 2003

Instead of complaining on this bulletin board, why don't you all write to the San Francisco Chronicle, and the author of the article?

And don't forget to mention how the editors demonstrated an astonishing lack of editorial judgement and oversight.


1959 A. Quincy Jones atrium model in The Highlands, San Mateo

Joined: Aug 1 2006

I sent the letter below to the SF Chronicle re: Kathleen Haley's "Unhappy with Eichler" article. As an Eichler owner I was really disheartened by Ms. Haley's views. I was saddened as a person by her attitude and closed mind...

Dear SF Chronicle Editor -

It was difficult to decide what bothered me the most about Kathleen
Haley's article (“Unhappy with Eichler” July 29, 2006). Was it
that she assumed architecture and materials used a
generation ago were to blame for the home’s disrepair, versus her
grandmother's lack of upkeep? No. I didn't know her grandmother, but I
can make an assumption that as a school psychologist she didn't
make an unusually large amount of money, so maybe the upkeep was
beyond her means. Was it Ms. Haley’s tongue-in-cheek hope that her
grandmother's home be knocked down and they “build a hideous
five-story monstrosity in its place”? No, I think Ms. Haley was
just trying to be funny because surely she can appreciate the
environmental and community disruption such a home could impose. I
think what bothered me the most was her lack of humility and
thanks. Kathleen lived for free in one of the most expensive,
beautiful areas of the bay area and she complains that it's a
little cold and the cabinet colors are not to her taste?
Ungratefulness is such a disappointing character trait in anyone,
but much more so in someone so young. I sincerely hope that Ms.
Haley can someday appreciate the value of a home outside the norm
of her expectations and the gift she received these past months.

Joined: Oct 10 2003

jubutter: great letter, you nailed it.-L

Joined: May 7 2003

So Kathleen Haley is unhappy with her Eichler. Boo hoo. I will say to her credit, when she talked with me about being interviewed for the article, she didn't mis-represent herself. Kathleen honestly explained she was going to write about "why Eichlers should be torn down".

In my naiveté, I believed I could change her mind. After all, I “whistled in the dark” as a member of the Eichler Historic Quest Committee, and in that case the committee’s optimism paid off. Miracles do happen, but not this time.

Granted, I may never have been “in the trenches” as an Eichler owner, and she quoted me correctly when I indicated I'm no handyman. But years of childhood memories, coupled with interviews with legions of happy fellow Eichlerholics, does make me feel qualified to say that she's way off base in the tone of her article.

Her points about maintenance are well taken –and few would deny that- but I've talked with many owners who feel that Eichlers are well worth that trouble, and others still -including original occupants- who claim they've had no major trouble at all.

Eichler owners Chris and Larry Wallace have things to say about this
article as well. Chris wrote to me that Kathleen "Needs to gain some maturity with regards to values…she does not have to 'value' an Eichler or even like an Eichler. But she should respect that other people do."

Chris goes on to say that "This goes for other values in life. What
she likes should not be the blueprint for others. She will find that many
people do not value monster homes. Her article would have been fine if she just mentioned the troubles SHE was having with the Eichler, without the wish to have a monster house rebuilt on the site. Obviously she does not have a good rapport with her neighbors, as I bet they have no wish for a monster house." Chris recommended a pro-Eichler article as an immediate counter, to balance out the view.

I, however, am less likely to take the high road- preferring to be "bad cop" to Chris' "good cop". Pardon me for saying this, but you of all people will understand. If Kathleen gets her wish to decimate history by destroying her Eichler, then I want to win the lottery, rescue the materials from that torn down Eichler, buy and tear down the 7-story McMansion Kathleen would prefer to have built in it's place, and have the Eichler rebuilt, plank-by-plank. Beam by beam!

I wish then to take the material from that McMansion and burn it, so it can never be used for evil again! All except ONE Styrofoam-and-stucco cornice, that is, which I would have entombed into the new foundation, as a reminder to future generations that the REAL, future-history of Eichlers is infinitely more valuable than the false history of fake-traditional mansions.

Wally Fields, Eichlerholic.

Joined: Apr 10 2003

That this is what journalism seems to have degenerated into, it's all gone the Faux News route. Be shocking snarky and scathing in your reporting, don't do any in depth , accurate scholarly research, or fact checking and be sloppy with your facts and vetting, and make yourself a celebrity. 'Conveniently' leave out some important facts, as reported in the other posts previous to this.
I hope she uses this for a case study (yep it's a play on words) of how NOT to do journalism at her teaching job at UC Santa Cruz.

But I do hope the house is sold to someone who 'gets it'.

Wishing for modern home.

Joined: May 7 2003

YES! Kathleen Haley ownes the hopefully-not-doomed Great-Eichler-Hope house. Here's your chance... if I can find her contact data. Checking SF Chron website to see if there's an email link...
I feel like an idot.. she left me her number, and I can't find it. Barry Brisco, do you have her #?
Well, her byline in the online article isn't clickable to an email. I'll check my scraps of notes at work and see if I can find it. Or you could call the Chronicle and ask for her email. She's freelance, so you might have to do some digging. If I find her # I'll let you know.
If you succeed, please invite me to your housewarming. I'll bring a pair of bongos!

Joined: May 7 2003

... and we have Barry Brisco to thank. He had it right in his posting, right in front of our faces...

Joined: Mar 25 2003

thanks wally.
i actually sent her a note right after barry first posted the email - and cc:d marinmodern on it.

i doubt she'll write back, but nothing ventured. nothing gained.

Your Ultra Guide for Googie, Atomic Age and Mid Century Modern Living: OPEN 24/7!

Joined: Apr 10 2006

Looks like there are other mid-century fans that are upset with the article too.

apartment therapy[/url]

Joined: Oct 10 2003

... and here's a scathing reply from Curbed SF as well:

Joined: Mar 4 2011
Joined: Aug 28 2003

I enjoyed reading all of the letters both pro and con about Eichlers. Although I love my Eichler I can appreciate that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. My favorite comment from the Chronicle letters was:

"Rest assured that many a modern McMansion will be pretty grim in 2056 if the basic maintenance is neglected". --Wende Feller

I am unlikely to live to see 2056 but if by some miracle I do, I will not shed any tears if I see a McMansion being torn down due to neglect.


Joined: Apr 12 2003

I felt she was very sincere about tearing down not only her neglected family's house, but all other Eichlers - in good shape or not.

Of course, she's also an idiot, to put it mildly.

- antenor

Joined: Jun 6 2006

To each their own, BUT it is sad to see someone of such ignorance being allowed to post a justification for Eichler tear down when the symptoms described are indicative to any house design of 50+ year age.

Regarding the toilet paper on the lawn: My bet is they have orangeburg piping, about 50 year life. Is that a sole Eichler issue? Nope, most any house on the peninsula build in the 50's has this issue...and here we are 50 years later. Run a new sewer line. Problem solved.

Regarding Radiant Heat? A friend of mine from Germany recently came to the states and shudders to think that we (in the US) embrace heating/cooling by means of convection. "Drafts in the home are typically signs of inefficency" is her mantra. I know the writer finds Radiant heat "weird" but as an engineer I'm 100% sold on Conduction (warm feet on a slab) and Radiation from the slab over convection; where heat/cool to air exchange is hardly the most efficient means of thermal transfer. Utilizing the "thermal mass" of the slab to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter is far more energy efficient than cranking Convection based AC and Heat. And to be hip to the times, it's far more green. Speaking of green, I hope this was the first and last post from that author.

- Mystermark

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.