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EICHLER IN THE CITY

Diamond Heights in San Francisco.

Eichler Homes in Diamond Heights.

There was a time when constructing  in San Francisco was more than pure economic speculation. There was a time when a good architectural design, socially responsible development, and fine materials were important when building in the city.  I love San Francisco but I have to acknowledge that the city has some major problems.  Housing is one of them.

Here, rents and property values are among the highest in the country. San Francisco has been kind of expensive for a while but, lately, the tech industry has contributed to the increase in rent cost, property values, and evictions in several parts of the city like never before.  Constructing more building apartments is one of the solutions our politicians have suggested. In other words, they believe that as the supply in houses increases, their price decreases.  Well, as someone working in the science field, I know that THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE.  San Francisco is rare exception to this rule. Why?  The answer is simple: because THE NEWEST BUILDINGS IN THE CITY ARE HORRIBLE.  Nobody wants them.  These new apartment buildings look all the same, their designs are extremely boring,  the materials are chip, their size very small, and they are highly pricy. People from Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, etc, want better houses and they are willing to pay large amounts of money for old buildings or houses because they are better designed.  Property owners are selling the vintage houses because they know they can make money now. As a consequence, there are evictions everywhere in the city. Our politicians LOVE THE MONEY that the tech companies are bringing to SF so they are doing very little about the evictions. As we can see, the increase in housing supply is not solving the housing problem in San Francisco.  It is making worst.  Now, the old buildings are even more expensive that before, the new buildings are pricy (and empty), and the the number of evictions and homeless in San Francisco is increasing.

Constructing buildings with a better design would appeal more to new property buyers? Would interesting designs be more appealing to tech people?

Diamond Heights.

Diamond Heights Neighborhood.

I am not complaining about the San Francisco (I am happy living here).  I am just trying to present a current problem and a possible solution.  I believe that new construction developers should learn something about design from Eichler Homes (for more info about Eichler Homes, please read what I wrote in my blog last year under “Eichler Homes”) . I know that when we attend an Engineering or Architectural school our teachers emphasize  that we should reduce costs when building to keep our companies happy.  I do not agree with this statement always because by reducing expenses in extreme you get the boring and cheap-made buildings we have in San Francisco now. In contrast contrast, saving money was important for Eichler Homes too but a good modern design was equally important.  As a consequence, these houses are still looking fresh and appealing after 50 years. What made Eichler Homes unusual—the devotion to design, socially responsible development,  and the insistence that product innovations should come from within the company and from the architects, rather than from his industry’s more typical combination of company consensus and market research—were the qualities that made the company a leader in the field.

Diamond Heights

I nice Eichler house in Diamond Heights.

There are a couple of locations in San Francisco in case you are interested in admiring some Eicheler Homes. In the early 1960’s, Joseph Eichler expanded his reach from the suburbs of Northern California to the city of San Francisco.

DIAMOND HEIGHTS TRACT

Joseph Eicher’s first foray into urban development was single-family homes in the Diamond Height of San Francisco.  Conveniently situated near the middle of San Francisco, Joseph Eichler’s Diamond Heights tract is located in the hilly interior of the city, nestled between Twin Peaks to the North, Noe Valley & Castro to the East, and Glen Park to the South. Built between 1962-1964 under the guidance of architect Claude Oakland, Eichler Homes constructed approximately 100 single family homes in Diamond Heights, ranging in size from 1,629 -2,020 square feet.

Diamond Heights

Another cool Eichler house in  Diamond Heights.

Departing slightly from his classic one-story, post-and-beam ranch home design, Eichler developed seven distinct floorplans in this neighborhood, most of which are either two-story or split-level homes. Common floorplans for this Eicher tract include 4 bedroom/2.5 bath, 3 bedroom/2.5 bath, 3 bedroom/2 bath and two bedroom/2 bath homes.

Common features of Diamond Heights Eichler homes include in-floor hydronic radiant heat (copper pipes), floor-to-ceiling glass (which varies by degree based on the specific floorplan), tongue & groove ceilings, Japanese Shoji style closet doors and either 1 or 2 car garage parking. Most homes also include a courtyard which is consistent with the indoor/outdoor living theme that exemplified Joseph Eichler.

Pride of ownership and a commitment to preservation can be seen amongst many of the homes in this development. However, there are also a fair number of homes in need of restoration.  Fortunately most homes have excellent ‘bones’ and can provide an excellent canvass for individuals passionate about mid-century modern design and Eichler preservation.

Great view of San Francisco fro Diamond Heights.

Amazing view of San Francisco from Diamond Heights (one of my favorites in town).

After more than a decade of success building single family homes, Eichler decided to try his hand at multi-unit, residential housing. He aggressively pursued this new and unfamiliar urban market and quickly launched a variety of simultaneous projects including low-rise, high-rise and townhouse projects in San Francisco.

CATHEDRAL HILL

Modern church in Cathedral Hill

Modern church in Cathedral Hill

In 1963, The Laguna Eichler High-Rise & Complex was built on Cathedral Hill, located in the Western Addition neighborhood  of San Francisco (just East of Japantown).   The Laguna Eichler development consists of:

  • One, 18-story high-rise building (150 units), and
  • Six, 12-unit low-rise apartment buildings (72 units)

The architectural firm of Jones + Emmons designed the 18-story high rise building located at 66 Cleary Court.  This structure consists of 15 stories of living space and 3 levels for tenant parking.   The building features 150 units, mostly 3 bedroom homes ranging in size from 1,100-1,200 square feet. All units feature radiant heat, private balconies or terraces as well as 8-inch thick, load bearing concrete walls that help minimize noise between units.

The Cleary Court high-rise is a full service building including a doorman, onsite property management and enclosed parking.

Cathedral Hill.

Cathedral Hill High Rise..

Joseph Eichler commissioned architect Claude Oakland to design the six low-rise apartment buildings located adjacent to the high-rise building, near the intersection of Laguna & Ellis Street.

Low rise apartment buildings in Cathedral Hill.

Low rise apartment buildings in Cathedral Hill.

The low-rise Laguna Eichler  complex consists of six, 3-story buildings with partially submerged secure parking within each building. The buildings are unattached but are conveniently Landscaping within an Eichler condominium complex accessible to one another via walking paths which are beautifully landscaped and intersect at two circular fountains located in the middle of the development.

There are a total of seventy-two, 3 bedroom / 2 bath condominiums in this development which range in size from 1,261-1270 square feet.

Landscape

Landscape of the low-rise buildings.

RUSSIAN HILL

Russian Hill Neighborhood.

The lovely Russian Hill neighborhood.

Russian Hill.

The Eichler Summit in Russian Hill.

Situated in the prestigous Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, the Eichler Summit is a 32-story high-rise located at 999 Green Street. The development consists of 26 floors atop a six-story base of parking, creating a 320-foot-tall building situated at the peak of Russian Hill.

Picture from the side of the bulding

Picture from one of the sides of the Eichler Summit

Picture from the bottom of the buiding

Picture from the bottom of the Eichler Summit.

Designed by Claude Oakland, The Eichler Summit was built between 1963-1964 and features 1-3 bedroom, 1-2 bath units ranging in size from 870-1,800 square feet. Units feature in-floor radiant heat and open living space, including small walkout decks. The location of this development provides most residents with incredible San Francisco Bay and city views. The Eichler Summit is a premier full service building with a 24-hour doorman and onsite manager. There are 112 units in this development (per tax records).

I love the main entrance of the building.

I love the main entrance of the building.

Breathtaking  view of the city from Russian Hill.

Breathtaking view of the city from Russian Hill.

GENEVA TERRACE TOWNHOUSES IN VISITACION VALLEY

Visitacion Valley

Geneva Terrace Townhouses.

In the early 1960s, Joseph Eichler enlisted the help of architect Claude Oakland to design affordable housing in the transitional neighborhood of Visitacion Valley in San Francisco.

The result of this endeavor was the:

  • Geneva Terrace Townhouses complex, and the
  • Geneva Towers high-rise apartment building
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Townhouses in Visitacion Valley.

The 189-unit Geneva Terrace townhouse complex sprawled across 8 neighboring streets and represented somewhat of a diversion from the progressive, modern design that exemplified Joseph Eichler & Eichler Homes.  All of the townhomes were identical in design and consisted of two-story, 4 bedroom homes with a non-descript, red-brick facade and arched windows.

Another view of

Another view of the townhouses in Visitacion Valley.

Eichlers second project in Visitacion Valley was Geneva Towers, an 18-story twin-tower high rise apartment complex located near the intersection of Garrison Avenue & Schwerin Street in San Francisco’s District 10.

The Geneva Towers consisted of 573 apartments with four distinct floor plans. The original goal of this project was to provide affordable rentals to working class professionals. However, the Towers eventually became subsidized housing for low-income residents.

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Eichler at the unveiling of the Laguna Eichler, 1963.

In 1995, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) closed the Geneva Towers which had become a hotbed for crime and was becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain.

On May 16, 1998, the Geneva Towers were imploded, marking an end to the Geneva Towers development.

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Geneva Towers High-Rise Apartment Building

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The destruction of the Geneva Towers.

While the Geneva Towers cease to exist, the Geneva Terrace townhomes still exist and continue to serve as affordable housing for San Francisco families.

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