Orange planning standards to keep its 350 Eichler homes preserved – Orange County Register

The residents in Orange’s three historic Eichler tracts will soon have a chance to offer input on the rules that will protect and preserve their historic homes.

The City Council recently approved an up to $70,000 contract with architecture and planning firm Page & Turnbull to develop design standards ensuring the historic style of Orange’s Eichler homes are protected.

Page & Turnbull is being asked to host community meetings with residents of three Eichler tracts –  Fairmeadow, Fairhaven and Fairhills – to gather input and then sketch out the guidelines for acceptable ways to add solar panels, construct additions and make other exterior changes.

John Lesak, principal and historic architect with Page & Turnbull’s Los Angeles office, said the guidelines will be the result of cooperation, combining the firm’s historic preservation expertise with what residents say is important to them.

“The Eichler neighborhoods are pretty special. They were designed by fairly well-known architects hired by Eicher, and they were revolutionary– kind of the best of the suburban developments of the mid-century, from an aesthetic layout,” Lesak said. “What becomes important is, how do you manage change to those? How do you balance doing right in a historic preservation type of way with the requirements of modern living?”

Lesak said the firm will achieve balance through a series of meetings – starting with educational meetings, then gathering community input and lastly devising a document and gathering feedback.

Totaling 350 homes in Orange, the Eichler tracts were built in the 1960s by post-war real estate developer Joseph Eichler. Marked by Eichler’s post-and-beam style that catered to middle-class America, the mid-century modern homes have been a holy grail for certain house-hunters and a continuing quest for local preservationists.

The creation of design standards for the Eichlers is one of the last steps in designating them as historic districts – a goal for Eichler lovers in the city for years.  A petition delivered to the city in June showed more than 80 percent of Eichler owners supported a historic district designation for the tracts.

Once the contract with Page & Turnbull is finalized, the development of the standards is expected take nine months, plus more time for public hearings in the Design Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council. If everything goes smoothly, a historic district designation could follow shortly…

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