"It suggests that when we do approach the Eichler owners down here [in Orange], it won't just be with a grandiose idea," she said. "That idea suddenly becomes a reality."
Resources to Get Started
• The California Office of Historic Preservation provides National Register registration forms and guidance for preparing applications at www.cr.nps.gov/nr/ research/sample.html
• Applications for successful National Register properties can be read at Northwest Information Center, Sonoma State University. 707-664-0880.
• Copies of successful nominations, including those for the Greenmeadow and Green Gables developments, are available at one of 12 regional information centers located throughout the state. Centers maintain registration materials for the counties in their jurisdiction. See the 'info centers' link at www.ohp.parks.ca.gov
Convincing state and federal preservation officials that Eichler neighborhoods deserved a spot on the National Register of Historic Places required both art and science. To determine historical integrity, the all-volunteer 'Historic Quest' committee had to develop its own objective criteria—and then follow them. It had to prepare convincing arguments, and present them persuasively. And it had to wait, revise its work, wait some more, and then revise some more.
"This is a major process," says Barry Brisco, co-chair of the committee who lives in an Eichler in the San Mateo Highlands. "It's much more than just filling out a form."
Over the next four years, he and the committee put in hundreds of hours evaluating Eichler neighborhoods house by house, and helping write the successful nominations to the National Register based on the exhaustive research of Eichler book historian and fellow Quest member Paul Adamson.
Not only did the eight Historic Quest members work for free, they also footed the bill for photography, gas, printing, airfare, and other expenses.
Merritt Colman, whose Walnut Creek neighborhood was dropped from consideration in order to focus on two stronger candidates, made many trips to survey Palo Alto, a full day's work each time. "We were a very democratic committee," he said of the group, which was co-chaired by Marty Arbunich, Eichler Network publisher, with Brisco.
Wally Fields, perhaps the ultimate Eichler enthusiast and a columnist for the Eichler Network, doesn't even live in an Eichler—although he lived in one as a child—but got involved because he loves the homes. "It was sort of a way to reconnect to my origins."
Adriene Biondo, who lives in the Balboa Highlands tract near Los Angeles, put thousands of miles on the road during the Quest years. "I wanted to make the connection to Northern California, the hotbed of Eichlers," she said. Stephanie Raffel also made the commute from Southern California, knowing that success up north could prove inspirational down south.
Carroll Rankin, an architect who lives in Greenmeadow, spread the word in his neighborhood and found quiet support. "We didn't have to do any selling," he said.
The work was hard and at times discouraging, when the state Office of Historic Preservation required revision after revision. "Patience was really key," Arbunich said.
But the core eight members of the Historic Quest committee stuck it out. "It was interesting working with a group of people who have the same vision," Colman said. "The group that finished up, the group that's together now, I think is a great group. We all synched up together and worked well together, and got something done."
All photos by David Toerge
For those interested in pursuing National Register designation for their own neighborhoods, read our vital commentary on "Exploding the Myths of Historic District Designation."