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San Jose Eichler Neighborhood Recognized

Eichler is added to historic register

Congratulations to the residents of the Fairglen Additions neighborhood of San Jose who led a successful campaign to have the tree-lined district — distinguished by its 218 Eichler homes — added to the National Register of Historic Places this year. The neighborhood near Curtner and Booksin avenues is San Jose’s largest enclave of Eichler homes, built between 1959 and 1961 and known for their distinctive flat or lowsloped roofs, open floor plans and tall windows. And three of the homes, all within walking distance of each other on Fairwood Avenue, will be featured in a Preservation Action Council tour on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

At the same time, there also will be a Mid-Century Pop-Up Shop — with vendors selling period memorabilia, decor and furniture — on Fairwood Avenue, which will be closed to traffic for the event. Sally Zarnowitz, cochair of the Fairglen Additions Preservation Committee, will talk about the significance of the housing tract at 11:30 a.m., and author and historian Heather David will sign copies of her book, “Motel California,” and the San Jose Signs Guide at noon.

Tickets are available for $20 in advance at or by calling 408-998-8105, or $25 on the day of the event at the pop-up shop on Fairwood Avenue.

Originally written by Sal Pizarro, Columnist, The Mercury News on Thursday August 15, 2019.

City hopes to restore Eichler harmony

New guidelines aim to promote compatibility, ease friction between neighbors

City hopes to restore Eichler harmony
The city of Palo Alto has compiled guidelines that describe the characteristics of homes developed last century by Joseph Eichler. Photo by Veronica Weber. by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

City hopes to restore Eichler harmonyEver since they made their Palo Alto debut in 1950, Eichler communities were intended to be more than the sum of their boxy, glassy parts.

Characterized by glass doors and large windows, flat or low-pitched roofs and ample backyards, developer Joseph Eichler’s homes famously celebrated indoor/outdoor living. They also promoted a community ethos through use of common space, as evidenced by the community center, neighborhood park and swimming pool in Greenmeadow, one of two Eichler neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Districts.

Yet these very qualities that have long united Eichler owners have also created rifts in many of the city’s 31 subdivisions. Large new Spanish-style homes in Eichler enclaves like Faircourt have sparked outrage — and calls for action — from longtime homeowners. Some have appealed the approvals of proposed new houses that they deemed incompatible; others argue that two-story homes should be banned altogether.

The conflict hit its crescendo in 2015, when residents from four different tracts petitioned for “single-story overlay” districts, which prohibit new two-story homes and second-story additions. In a series of tense meetings, the council approved the requests from two neighborhoods (Los Arboles and Greer Park North) and rejected two others (Royal Manor and Faircourt).

In each case, the council weighed arguments of those who characterized two-story homes in Eichler neighborhoods as architectural blasphemy — a garish indulgence that threatens the privacy of neighbors and diminishes the aesthetic of the community — and those who see two-story homes or second-story additions as ways to accommodate multi-generational families and as legitimately entitled by property rights.

In an attempt to bridge the divide, council directed staff to draft special guidelines for constructing homes and additions in Eichler neighborhoods. On Feb. 22, the city’s Historic Resources Board approved the guidelines, which are now set to go to the City Council for final approval this spring.

Even though the new guidelines are voluntary, they are already causing frustration and confusion among some Eichler owners. At the Feb. 22 meeting, some argued that the guidelines don’t go far enough in protecting neighborhood character while others claimed that they are too proscriptive.

Michael Nierenberg, who owns a two-story Eichler, argued that the city conducted insufficient outreach. Staff sent postcards to each of the more than 2,000 Eichler homes, but only about 150 people, Nierenberg noted, were interviewed before the guidelines were crafted.

He was one of several residents who rejected the idea of “freezing Eichlers in time” by restricting design options.

“As new materials come along — and new looks and things — we might be missing out on siding, roofing and things that might make your house better, not worse,” Nierenberg told the board.

Manas Madal, who lives in Fairmeadow, argued that adopting the new guidelines would infringe on the property rights of homeowners. If approved, the guidelines should stay voluntary and not subject to regulation by the city.

Others lauded the guidelines as a good step, even if they took issue with certain details. Diane Reklis, who has lived in an Eichler for 40 years, said the document has “lots of good stuff in it” but raised concerns about the document’s provisions on accessory dwelling units. The guidelines allow homeowners to build detached housing that is up to 17 feet in height and 900 square feet in area.

If these small houses are positioned in the rear of the property (as the guidelines suggest), they will require occupants to walk past the main residence, possibly intruding on privacy, Reklis said. She also noted that 900 square feet is quite large in the context of Eichlers.

“You’re taking half the size of a current Eichler and sticking it in the backyard,” Reklis said.

The recommended 126-page document includes guidelines on everything from placement of doors and design of windows and roof forms to broad issues relating to cladding materials, massing and height. They encourage the builder to employ post-and-beam construction (which is synonymous with Eichlers); use roofing materials with a “flat, visually unobtrusive appearance”; and avoid historicist styles such as Mediterranean Revival and New-eclectic.

It also includes guidelines for constructing basements and first-story additions. Whenever possible, the document states, the project should avoid direct views into neighboring windows that may require additional privacy, including bedroom and bathroom windows.

Board Chair David Bower said that in recent meetings on the new guidelines, the issue that kept coming up was privacy. Residents said they were particularly concerned about second-story add-ons and neighbors peering through windows into their yards. The guidelines address these issues, he noted.

“While I don’t think they are a perfect approach, I think they are a good start,” Bower said.

Board member Michael Makinen pointed to another public concern: uncertainty over how the guidelines will be used. Though they are currently not subject to any regulations from the city, that can change, he noted.

“Yeah, we’re calling it voluntary but is it really voluntary? I think there is a feeling … that they may be more than what we advertise as voluntary.” Makinen said.

It will ultimately be up to the council to decide how to use the new guidelines. The board considered various approaches toward incorporating the Eichler guidelines into the city’s review process but refrained from specifying the exact nature of how or whether the rules should be enforced. They agreed that, when possible, the city should defer to neighborhood preferences. The board did vote 5-0, with Brandon Cory absent, to recommend that the new guidelines at least be used in tandem with the existing Individual Review process when considering two-story homes and second-story additions.

Councilwoman Karen Holman, the council’s liaison to the Historic Resources Board, recalled the city’s tendentious path toward the new guidelines and expressed hope that the new document will help tone down the acrimony and reduce the number of appeals being filed by residents concerned about the new house going up next door.

“We have neighbors fighting neighbors … because of new construction, additions and such in Eichler neighborhoods,” Holman said. “I see these (guidelines) as a resource to help abate those appeals and those battles within neighborhoods.”

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Tips for Selecting a Custom Home Builder

custom home builderOne of the most critical decisions you will make about your custom home is selecting the right builder for the job. Compare the services offered by different companies to be clear about what you are paying for, what to expect, and how the process works. The design and construction project can be complex, and you want it done within your budget, and on time. The ideal building partner understands your needs, helping you confidently navigate the process to ultimately deliver your dream space. Here are some key considerations when selecting a custom homebuilder.

  • Credentials: Look for depth of experience, check licenses and ask about professional affiliations. Seasoned professionals have a reputation to protect and are more likely to execute the project according to plan.
  • Quality: This is your dream home and you may live here for many years. You don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of frequent breakdowns and ongoing repair expenses. Examine the track record of your shortlisted builders and ask about the type of construction materials they will use. An investment in quality today will offer years of comfortable living, and fetch top dollar if you decide to sell.
  • Customer service: Building a custom home requires a significant investment of time and money. Choose a team that takes the time to listen to your needs, answers questions, and provides information to help you make informed decisions. This will give you an indication of the type of customer service you can expect.
  • Communication: Established home builders in Silicon Valley know that transparent, clear and ongoing communication is vital to timely project completion and customer satisfaction. They will use a variety of methods including in-person meetings, phone and online communications to provide updates and answer queries.
  • References: Ask for references from previous clients and be sure to check them out. We recommend going to construction sites (if possible) and homes they have built. Take a close look at their work and material quality. Speak to crewmembers, if you get the chance, to assess whether you will be comfortable working with them.
  • Take your time: Carefully evaluate all the information you have from potential builders. Trust your instincts and avoid contractors that try to rush your decision with high pressure sales tactics.

Custom Home Builder Offering Personalized Service

At Flegel’s Construction Co., we treat your building project like our own. Your custom home will receive the personal attention of our owner, Scott. Pre-build discussions, weekly site meetings, easy accessibility and constant communication will keep you informed at every stage. With quality materials and skilled workmanship, our services will exceed your expectations. Our crew focuses on the little things that you might not even notice! We look forward to the opportunity to make your dream home a reality.

We value our happy customers in Palo Alto, Los Altos, San Jose, Cupertino and Mountain View, CA who continue to refer us to their family members and friends. 

Contact us online to inquire about our custom home builder services in the Silicon Valley area.

How to Clean Windows Like a Pro


STEP TWO // How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Wipe clean with a squeegee (Picture Window)

man wiping soapy window pane with a squeegee

Starting at the top left, pull the squeegee over the soapy pane in a reverse-S pattern (left-handers would start at the top right). At the end of each stroke, wipe the squeegee’s blade clean with a lint-free rag. Cloth diapers or old linen napkins are perfect for this task.

Dry off remaining drips (Picture Window)

man wiping away excess water on windowpane edges with a chamois

Remove any water remaining on the edges of the glass with a damp, wrung-dry chamois, which soaks up wetness without leaving streaks. Dry the windowsill with a rag.

STEP FOUR // How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Customize the squeegee (Multipane)

using a hacksaw to trim a squeegee to fit a specific windowpane

To clean a divided-light window, you need a squeegee that fits the panes. Weingard uses a hacksaw to cut one to size. He trims the metal channel ¼ inch narrower than the window pane, then files the cut edges smooth. With a utility knife, he cuts the rubber blade to the pane’s full width and fits it into the channel so that it projects 1/8 inch at each end.

STEP FIVE // How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Scrub the panes (Multipane)

man using a natural sponge to clean smaller panes of glass


A handheld sponge or hog-bristle brush works best on multipane windows. Weingard prefers natural sponges. “They’re firmer and more absorbent than synthetics,” he says. Using the same solution of a
squirt of liquid soap in water, he rubs each pane from left to right, top to bottom, working the sponge edges or brush bristles into the corners to loosen dirt.

STEP SIX // How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Wipe clean with a squeegee (Multipane)

man using a customized squeegee to wipe soapy water from smaller panes of glass

Pull the squeegee down each pane in a single stroke from top to bottom. After each stroke, clean the blade with a rag so it doesn’t leave streaks. (If the squeegee squeaks a lot, add a bit more soap to the water.) As above, remove any streaks on the glass with a chamois, and dry the muntins and sill with a rag.

STEP SEVEN // How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Get rid of stubborn spots

mineral-stained glass windowpane on the left to compare with supercleaned pane on the right

Over time, hard-water runoff from masonry or rain falling through metal window screens leaves stubborn mineral stains on glass that normal washing can’t erase. So after a regular cleaning, Weingard wets the glass and gently “supercleans” it either with fine 000 steel wool (if the panes are small) or with Barkeeper’s Friend, which contains oxalic acid. (Other brands of powder may scratch the glass or fail to remove stains.) He mixes the powder into a paste on a wet towel, rubs away the stains, then rinses and squeegees the glass twice to remove the residue. Even with that treatment, the staining generally comes back in about six months.

To get rid of stains for good, Weingard recommends the application of 3 Star Barrier Glass Surface Protectant, a clear polymer coating. “After the stains are gone, you just put the coating on with a strip applicator and squeegee it off,” he says. Protection against staining is permanent, as long as the polymer is reapplied after each regular cleaning.

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How to Choose Dining Room Chairs

While many dining room tables come with matching chairs these days, there are still occasions that might have you searching for a separate set. Maybe you inherited a family heirloom table or stumbled across the perfect fit for your breakfast nook in an antique shop. Maybe you just don’t love the chairs that came with your table or you’re looking to refresh the space with new seating. Whatever the reason, you’ve got lots of options which is why we threw together this guide to find the right dining chairs and create a cohesive look that you love.

Image from

First things first, keep in mind that your chairs don’t have to match your table. They don’t even have to match each other as long as each one sits comfortably under your dining table. If you do choose mismatched chairs, it’s important to make sure the one thing they have in common is that they’re the same height so that you and your fellow diners aren’t looking up or down at each other.

Regardless, preparation is key. Start by measuring your table to get a good idea of what size your chairs should be. You don’t want to fall in love with a set, only to have the chairs arrive at your home and realize they don’t fit at your table together.

Next, consider how many chairs your table needs to accommodate and whether your table extends, as well as if you plan to keep it extended with a leaf at all times. Think about how many people you plan to feed on a regular or semi-regular basis. Most long rectangular or oval-shaped tables seat six, eight or ten people, while most square or round tables seat four, six or eight diners.

No matter the shape, most tables are around 30″ high, and most chairs will have 17″ to 19″ of space between their seats and your floor. You want at least a foot of space between the top of the table and the chair seat, and you also want your guests to have at least 24″ of space to themselves, which includes the width of the chair and about 6″ on either side for elbow room so keep this in mind especially if you’re gravitating towards chairs with armrests.

Once you have an idea of the size of the chairs you need, it’s time to decide on a style. Pottery Barn offers a variety of dining room chairs, so browse some examples to determine what might look good in your home. You can choose between open and solid backs, upholstered chairs or chairs made from solid, easy-to-clean materials, such as wood, acrylic, wicker or metal. Keep in mind the size and decor of your dining room when making a selection; you might not want to put a rustic wooden chair in a sleek, contemporary-style room if your home is very modern, but in a more eclectic house that juxtaposition might be exactly what you’re going for.

If you choose upholstered chairs, you have plenty of options. Leather lasts a long time and wears well with age if properly cared for. Cotton and microsuede fabrics come in a wide range of colors and patterns and clean easily in the event of a spill. If you have young children dining with you regularly, that may be important. Also, consider chairs with removable cushions so that you can clean them, replace them if they become damaged or switch them out with the seasons.

Don’t forget about comfort. While chairs with armrests may take up more space, they may be more comfortable in your space. You also want to keep the chairs light so that diners can easily push them in or pull them out from under the table. Cushioned or upholstered backs and seats can also add to your diners’ comfort level.

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How to Clean Rain Gutters

Clean gutters to protect your siding and landscape plantings, and prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your foundation.

In a downpour, a clogged roof gutter sends a cascade of water down the side of your house, making canyons of your flowerbeds and saturating your foundation.

Clean gutters of leaves and debris to help prevent damage to your landscaping and siding, and to head off expensive water damage repairs to your foundation that may cost $10,000 or more.

How Often Should You Clean Gutters?

Clean gutters at least once a year — twice a year if you have overhanging trees. Also, clean clogged gutters after big storms. Clogs often occur where downspouts join the gutter system — check these areas closely.

How to Clean Gutters

  • Wear a shirt with long sleeves. Wear rubber gloves.
  • Have a good extendable ladder available. Standoff stabilizers (ladder “horns”) are ideal to keep the ladder from damaging the gutter.
  • Use a small plastic scoop to remove gunk. Buy a gutter scoop from the hardware store ($25) or try a child’s sand shovel.
  • Spare your lawn by dumping the stuff onto a plastic tarp.
  1. After you’ve cleared the muck, flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose — also a great way to spot any leaks.

How Much Does it Cost to Pay Someone to Clean Gutters?

If climbing ladders is not your cup of tea, you can hire someone to do the job for you for $50-$250, depending on the size and height of your house.

Should You Try Gutter Covers?

Interested in an ounce of prevention? You can slow clogging by installing gutter covers in the form of mesh screens, clip-on grates, or porous foam. However, the cost can be more than the gutters themselves, and covers need regular maintenance to keep them clear. Expect to pay $6-$8/running foot for gutter covers, installed.


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9 Air-Cleaning Houseplants That Are Almost Impossible to Kill

What might your office or apartment have in common with a NASA spaceship? Unfortunately the answer may be poor air quality. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health: Stagnant indoor environments allow pollutants to build up and stick around in greater amounts than we humans should be breathing in. Living and working in places rife with air contaminants and lacking decent ventilation can cause “sick building syndrome,” which can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye, ear, and nose irritation. Lucky for us, NASA scientists have been working to understand this problem and find solutions. Their space-age solution was an easy one that anyone can use: Use houseplants to clean the air .

What’s the Deal?

Given that people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, air quality matters . Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, and cleaning products in homes and offices can emit a variety of toxic compounds, like formaldehyde. Indoor air pollutioncan also be caused by pollen, bacteria, and molds, as outdoor air contaminants like car exhaust finds its way into buildings. All of these are made worse in small or poorly-ventilated spaces (like maybe your apartment with that window that you accidentally painted shut last year).

The good news is that there’s an easy and affordable way to combat the presence of the yucky stuff we may be breathing in, and it comes right from the natural world. Plants purify air, making them part of what NASA calls “nature’s life support system.” Adding potted plants to a room has been shown to reduce the amount of air particulates (although plants in bloom may be contributing their own compounds to the air) .

So, how do houseplants clean the air? Plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. But that’s not all—microorganisms associated with the plants are present in the potting soil, and these microbes are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect .

Beyond air quality, plants just make people feel better. For example, hospital patients with plants in their rooms were more positive and had lower blood pressure and stress levels . Similarly, indoor plants may make people smarter by allowing them to stay alert and reducing mental fatigue .

Your Action Plan

Although houseplants may be intimidating to those with a “black thumb” or fear of commitment, it turns out that many plants are easy to care for—so easy, in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard to kill them. Below, we’ve pulled together a list of nine virtually-indestructible plants inspired by NASA’s research.

Each kind of plant has its own favorite environmental conditions, so look for a tag that comes with the plant or online to find out how much sunlight and water it will need. If your plant doesn’t come in a pretty pot, or if it outgrew its previous one, you can easily repot it. Just find a pot that’s at least one inch larger than the previous container, add potting soil to the bottom, and place the plant so that the top of the soil remains at the same level as before. Finally, carefully pack potting soil around the edges of the plant and water it. Voilà!

1. Garden Mum

In the NASA research, this plant was an air-purifying champion, removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air. Popular and inexpensive at garden stores, they can be planted outside after they’re finished blooming.

Pollutants removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene

2. Spider Plant

Spider plants are among the easiest houseplants to grow, making them a great choice for beginners or forgetful owners. A fan of bright, indirect sunlight, spider plants will send out shoots with flowers that eventually grow into baby spider plants or spiderettes.

Pollutants removed: formaldehyde and xylene

3. Dracaena

There are more than 40 different kinds of Dracaena plants, making it easy to find one that’s a perfect fit for your home or office. They’re common foliage plants with long, wide leaves that are often variegated with lines of white, cream, or red. Pet owners might want to select a different plant, however, as these are toxic to cats and dogs.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

4. Ficus/Weeping Fig

Though the ficus is a tree in its native home of southeast Asia, when it grows indoors, it’s a hardy plant that ends up being between two and 10 feet tall. So why not get figgy with it? Grow this low-maintenance houseplant in bright, indirect light and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Although this plant has some serious air-cleaning abilities, it can also be taken outside in late spring and brought back indoors when temperatures are warm and well above freezing.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

5. Peace Lily

Peace lily plants are relatively small compared to many of the plants on this list, but they still pack some major air-cleaning abilities. Easy to grow, these plants will flower for much of the summer. Just be aware that those flowers (like all flowers) do contribute some pollen and floral scents to the air, so you may want to avoid having a room full of them. Put peace lilies in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without overwatering.

Pollutants removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

6. Boston Fern

These plants prefer to clean the air from a cool location with high humidity and indirect light. They’re relatively easy to grow, but they do need to stay moist. Check the Boston Fern’s soil daily to see if it needs water, and give it a good soak once per month.

Pollutants removed: formaldehyde and xylene

7. Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

This is one of the hardest houseplants to kill. Although it does need to be watered occasionally, it generally prefers drier conditions and some sun.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

8. Bamboo Palm

A superstar of filtering formaldehyde, these palms thrive in full sun or bright light. Part of the reason they can filter so much air is that they can grow to be pretty big—as tall as four to 12 feet high, making them exciting (and pet-friendly) indoor additions.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

9. Aloe Vera

In addition to being easy to care for, aloe makes some serious health claims. The plant’s leaves contain a clear liquid full of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and other compounds that have wound-healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and there is some evidence that aloe may help (and is unlikely to hurt) skin conditions like psoriasis .

Pollutant removed: formaldehyde

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2018 Silicon Valley Modern Home Tour

2018 Silicon Valley Modern Home Tour

Join us on June 9th for the 2018 Silicon Valley Modern Home Tour. Be sure to see our project “Sunnymount Avenue” along the route!

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Make Your Bathroom Kid Friendly

Make Your Bathroom Kid Friendly

Flegel's Construction Co., Inc. can help you discover "10 Ways to Make the Shared Bathroom Welcoming for Kids."

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  • Video Testimonial

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  • I would hire Scott again in a heartbeat

    I would hire Scott again in a heartbeat. He did our Eichler total remodel from roof to radiant. The workmanship is 5-star. Scott understands the uniqueness of Eichlers and modern design.

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  • I am confident that your expectations will be far exceeded…

    “Our home in Palo Alto was in need of help. Built in the early 1950s and barely updated since, there was a lot to do. Over 12 months and two phases, our home was transformed into the perfect mid-century modern oasis for our

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  • As easy for as us as possible…

    “We interviewed at least 7 contractors for our Eichler remodel and decided on Flegel’s construction and I am so glad we did! Working with Scott and his crew was such an pleasant experience. We had heard so many horror stories

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  • Stands by his work…

    “I cannot say enough about Scott Flegel. He is on the ball. He works on the project with his employees. He has very high standards and his employees follow his example. Our architect has come back to look at the project

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