SSO vs Eichler Design Guidelines

Background: What is SSO?

SSO or Single-Story Overlay is a Zoning Ordinance (R-1s). It is similar to development regulations of the R-1 single-family residence district, except that it limits the maximum height to 17 feet and prevents building two story houses in a neighborhood. Some neighbors in Palo Alto Eichler Neighborhoods are collecting signatures to submit an application to City of Palo Alto asking them to change our zoning from R-1 to R-1s  to prevent construction of any two story houses, or addition of a second story to existing homes in the neighborhood.

How might SSO affect me?

If it passes, SSO will prevent you from adding a second story to your home or building a two story home.  This can limit the living space square footage you can expand to.  It can also affect your property value directly by turning away potential buyers of your home that want choice, or indirectly by lowering the selling prices of comparables in the SSO neighborhood.

Who are we?

We are a group of neighbors who love Eichlers and don’t want houses that are not consistent with the design of our neighborhood. We did extensive research and realized Single Story Overlay is not what Eichler neighborhoods would benefit from. What they need is a new set of design guidelines specific to Eichler neighborhoods. The residents may refer to guidelines for the best recommendations on privacy and aesthetics and develop their house  without any impacts to their ability to expand their homes for their family needs.

If you agree that City of Palo Alto should move forward with Eichler neighborhood design guidelines instead of restricting Eichlers to one story, send us an email at:  with your name & last name and your property address. 

Questions around reasons for proposing Single Story Overlay and why Eichler Design Guidelines is a better alternative

  1. What can SSO do about preserving the aesthetics of Eichler neighborhoods?

The SSO can not preserve Eichler inspired design.

SSO only limits new constructions to one story. A building in a SSO zone, can be demolished and reconstructed in a non-Eichler style i.e. Mediterranean style although single story.  If the neighborhood is concerned about Eichler design, it is a better option to have Palo Alto develop Eichler design guidelines instead of Single Story Overlay. In fact Eichler did originally include 2-story designs. Examples can be found on Torreya Court.

The thing that can preserve the consistency in look and feel of Eichler neighborhoods, is some design guidelines specific to Eichler neighborhoods. A new set of design guidelines specific to Eichler neighborhoods should recommend best aesthetics and privacy guidelines to the neighborhood , without impacting people’s ability to expand their house for their family needs.

  1. What can SSO do about privacy of Eichlers?

SSO is not the right tool to protect the privacy of Eichler glass houses.

Many Eichler neighborhoods are in a flood zone which requires them to raise their house once they are rebuilding the house. Once the new house is raised it will have a view of next-door backyards. This is without a second story. City of Palo Alto already has methods to protect Eichler homes’ privacy (such as city’s Individual Review program).


  1. What is the SSO impact on property values?

SSO will impact the value of houses negatively.

If SSO is approved, many homeowners will have a difficult time developing their properties to take advantage of their available floor area, due to the size and shape of their lots. 20 years ago people had a different lifestyle and found a 1700 sf house enough for a living so SSO wouldn’t make a difference.  However, today families prefer more square footage. 20 years ago most of Eichler houses were only 40 years old. Today they are 60 years and older and 10 years from now they will need major updates. In a couple of years SSO lots will be valued a lot less than their comps without SSO.


  1.  What is the SSO impact on building potentials on your lot?

SSO will restrict how much you can build in your lot.

If the SSO is approved, you will no longer be allowed to go up one level. You will only be able to expand your house into your backyard. How much you can add-on depends on the size and the shape of the lot. There are restrictions that will limit the area they can use to build any house. If you live in a moderate sized lot ( 6000 sf ) and you decide to rebuild your house, with the SSO you will have to choose between building a house without enough space for your family or a bigger house with an unusable backyard. If you already live in a two story Eichler, you should be aware that there is a grandfather code in SSO that declares any existing two story homes non compliant, meaning that you won’t be able to rebuild or expand your house easily either.