ARCHITECTURE: Eichler Homes

In the land of the Eichler, a growing Bay Area real estate battle
The rear of the Eichler home of Vilma and Don Buck photographed in Sunnyvale, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. The couple has lived in their Eichler for 50 years. Built as high-quality affordable homes in the middle of the last century, modest, airy, glass-lined Eichler homes are now highly sought-after -- and valuable. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Where you’ll find Eichler homes

  • There about 10,500 Eichlers in Northern California.
  • From 1949-74, they were built in tracts in Sacramento, Marin County and San Francisco; in Concord, Walnut Creek, Oakland and Castro Valley in the East Bay; and all over the South Bay and Peninsula, including Redwood City, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, Los Gatos and San Jose.
  • Palo Alto has the most Eichlers: about 3,000, with two tracts that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Sunnyvale has about 1,125 Eichlers. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak grew up in one, as did Mayor Glenn Hendricks.
  • San Mateo’s The Highlands is the largest contiguous development of Eichler homes, with more than 700.
  • Concord boasts three Eichler tracts (Rancho del Diablo, Rancho de los Santos and Parkside), with about 175 homes.
  • Walnut Creek’s Rancho San Miguel has about 375 Eichlers.
  • For more information on Eichlers and issues involving the homes, see EichlerNetwork.com.

People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler

Eichler City: Midcentury Modern in Silicon Valley

EICHLER NEIGHBORHOODS

The Past, Present and Future of Eichler Homes

Tract Housing in California, 1945-1973: A Context for National Register Evaluation.pdf

A Notable Exception: Eichler Homes
Some postwar housing developers did maintain a policy of non-discrimination, selling houses to all qualified buyers without regard to race or other characteristics. The most well known of these was Eichler Homes in the Bay Area, headed by Joseph Eichler. The company sold one of its houses to an Asian-American family in 1950 or 1951. Sales to Asians increased from that time on in Eichler Homes tracts in the Palo Alto area and the South Bay, apparently without controversy. In 1951, Eichler built a house for the family of Franklin H. Williams, director of the western region of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Concerned that selling a house in one of his tracts to an African-American might jeopardize his FHA financing, Eichler acquired a single parcel in Palo Alto, outside of any larger tract, on which to build the house for Williams. The Williams family lived in the house until the early 1960s, when Franklin moved to Washington to serve in the Kennedy administration. In Washington, Williams played a principal role in organizing the Peace Corps, and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ghana during the Johnson administration.
Three years after the construction of the Frank Williams house, Eichler sold a house in his Greenmeadow subdivision in Palo Alto to an African-American scientist and instructor at Stanford, and the scientist’s West Indian wife. From that time on, Eichler Homes maintained a policy of non-discrimination and sold about 30 to 40 houses per year to African-Americans and other racial minorities.29 Eichler Homes did try to prevent clustering of African-American families within their subdivisions, thinking that clustering might have an adverse effect on future sales. They did this by encouraging African-American buyers to pick lots that would avoid clustering, and were honest with buyers in stating their motives.
The company was quiet rather than crusading about its sales policy, never seeking publicity over the issue or deliberately marketing to minorities. Nonetheless, Eichler Homes became well known, not only in the Bay Area but nationally, for their policy of non-discrimination. Joseph Eichler demonstrated his commitment to open-housing policies by resigning from the National Association of Home Builders in 1958 over the Association’s support for racial restrictions.

With Sunny, Modern Homes, Joseph Eichler Built The Suburbs In Style

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