Modest homes, wide streets, and numerous parks are the common characteristics of South Palo Alto. Originally part of the post-World War II residential expansion, South Palo Alto broke off from Midtown and is now a large geographic area consisting of several sub-neighborhoods, including: Palo Verde, Adobe Meadow/Meadow Park, Charleston Gardens, The Greenhouse, Greendell, Greenmeadow, Walnut Grove, Fairmeadow, Charleston Meadow, Monroe Park, and the eastern part of what used to be Midtown.
Though it boasts many types of residences, perhaps the most popular type of home in South Palo Alto follows the stylings of Joseph Eichler. A 20th century post-war real estate developer, Eichler made a name for himself by developing distinctive tract housing and built around 11,000 homes in Northern and Southern California. His name became synonymous with this particular architectural style. Although many homes in South Palo Alto are true Eichlers, others are Eichleresque homes built by copycat developers.
An Eichler house has several distinctive features: modern, one-story, wood, and expanses of plate glass. These homes are built to emphasize casual indoor-outdoor living and to take advantage of the sublime California climate. Usually, the roof is flat or shallow-pitched with exposed beams, no attic space, and minimal insulation. The interior has an open floor plan, and the rooms are flooded with natural light from skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows, which often face inner courtyards or backyards. The floor has radiant heating on a concrete slab foundation. Currently, these homes are quite desirable to a young crowd. It should be noted, however, that these Eichler homes can be difficult to renovate and Palo Alto’s planning department strictly enforces the floor area ratio (maximum floor area to lot size).
Several specific tracts in South Palo Alto were developed by Joseph Eichler. The most well-known is Fairmeadow, sandwiched between East Meadow Drive on the north and East Charleston Road on the south. Fairmeadow is known for its circular streets, designed by Mr. Eichler to reduce vehicular traffic and give his affordable housing development a quiet, family-friendly atmosphere.
Another popular Eichler development is Greenmeadow, right behind the Cubberley Community Center, between Creekside Drive to the north and Ferne Avenue to the south. To foster privacy in Greenmeadow, Mr. Eichler designed numerous cul-de-sacs which branch off several main streets. In 2005, Greenmeadow was included in the National Register of Historic Places. To preserve the iconic Eichler character of the neighborhood, Palo Alto barred homeowners from adding a second story or drastically changing the contemporary look of the home.
As there are other pockets in South Palo Alto that have this second story restriction, it has been both a blessing and a curse to homeowners. On one hand, the unique indoor-outdoor suburban environment, envisioned by Mr. Eichler and his colleagues, remains to this day. Cruising through streets like Ben Lomond or Redwood Circle is like traveling back in time to the 1950s and 1960s. Residents, themselves, actively keep the lively neighborhood vibes with block parties, Fourth of July parades, and street games.
On the other hand, the second-story restriction prevents homeowners from maximizing their land with expansions or additions. Likewise, Eichler-influenced restrictions highly limit home renovation. Proposing to tear down an Eichler can be considered nearly “blasphemous” by neighbors and Palo Alto. As a result, home values have a lower price ceiling. Home values in South Palo Alto generally lag behind other Palo Alto neighborhoods.
The South Palo Alto neighborhood offers an abundance of relatively modest homes at conservative purchase prices, as well as close proximity to some of the top-ranked schools in the state, making it an exceptional place to call home.