For residents of the Los Arboles, the squat and glass-doored Eichler isn't just the architectural norm it's a symbol of the neighborhood's identity.
On Nov. 9, they will appeal to the Palo Alto City Council to help them preserve the distinct Eichler character of the neighborhood by granting them a zone change that would ban new two-story homes.
The hearing will be the City Council's first in a decade on a zone change known as a "single-story overlay." It will also likely be the first in a string of similar requests from other Eichler-style neighborhoods. Greer Park North recently applied for a similar zone change and is scheduled to go to the City Council later this year. The Royal Manor tract, which lies along Louis Road, between Loma Verde Avenue and East Meadow Drive, followed suit with its own application in late October, according to city planners.
The grassroots movement was sparked by resident anxieties about new two-story homes looming over fences, violating the privacy of neighbors and degrading the character of the community. It was further enabled by the council's decision in June to formally waive the roughly $8,000 fee that historically accompanied these requests.
Though the city typically treated past applications as ones initiated by the planning commission and waived the fee, the fee's very existence served as a deterrent to neighborhood groups looking to pursue the zoning restriction, various neighborhood leaders told the council in June.
Now, with the fee waived and the first batch of applications submitted, Los Arobles is looking to become the first in a wave of Eichler tracts seeking a single-story overlay. The neighborhood includes 83 homes, of which 79 are original single-story Eichlers and the remainder are original homes with small second-story additions. According to surveys, 80 percent of the property owners in the tract have voiced support for the zone change 10 percent higher than the city's threshold for approving a single-story overlay.
The neighborhood is located just south of Loma Verde, between Middlefield and Ross roads. It includes Holly Oak Drive, Ames Avenue and Cork Oak Way. The application for the zone change notes that the neighborhood is diverse when it comes to years of home ownership and ethnic backgrounds. Within this diversity, the application states, "we share in the appreciation of our Eichler homes and a commitment to maintain our privacy and daylight as well as the unique design and character of our historical neighborhood."
If the council gives the application the green light, the single-story overlay at Los Arboles will be the first approved by the council since 2004, when Allen Court in Midtown won the zone change. At that time, only 12 or the 22 homes favored the change.
In Los Arboles, this division does not exist. Given the high level of support, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission swiftly threw its support behind the Los Arobles proposal in September and recommended that the council approve the new zoning district.
"This is a community that voted in unison, according to the parameters we set up," Commissioer Michael Alcheck said at the Sept. 9 meeting. "They met the standard, they are entirely entitled to pursue the application and I support their vision."