January 2017

Eichler tracts on target to be named historic districts

In a move to establish an historic district designation for its three Eichler tracts of homes, the City of Orange will hire a historic preservation consultant to develop guidelines to protect and preserve the character of the neighborhoods.

More than 80 percent of the residents living in the Fairhaven, Fairmeadow and Fairhill tracts favor the designation.   The Eichlers are mid-century residential tracts developed by Joseph Eichler in the 1960s.  

The homes feature indoor-outdoor living, walls of glass, atriums, minimal interior walls, and post and beam construction.  Eichler was one of the first “merchant builders” to employ architects, and refused to consider design shortcuts and inferior materials.

Orange identified its Eichler tracts as potential historic districts via an historic survey conducted in 2005.  In 2010, the general plan’s cultural resources element recommended that the tracts be designated as such.  Residents have subsequently encouraged the city to adopt the designation via petitions, public meetings and testimony before the city council.  
Local historic district designations are determined by the city council and are processed as a zone change during a scheduled public hearing.  To meet federal standards for historic landmark designations, the city must provide long-term assurance that listed resources will be maintained and rehabilitated in conformance with standards set by the Secretary of the Interior.

The consultant will develop design guidelines for additions, remodels, restoration and repairs. Those guidelines will be based on federal standards and provide specific guidance to Eichler homeowners.  The city expects the guidelines will also be based on substantial community input.  

The city is seeking outside help to develop the guidelines to speed up the process.  City staff is qualified to write them, but its workload would delay the project.  The city determined that hiring a consultant would accelerate the Eichler tracts’ historic designation.

The city has budgeted $65,000 for the project.