Photo: Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.
On NPR's "Morning Edition," Susan Stamberg waxed about postwar California home builder Joseph Eichler and his most celebrated local collaboration, the Balboa Highlands historic district at the north edge of the San Fernando Valley in Granada Hills. Balboa Highlands homes were designed by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons to be modern, sunny and built on slabs. And in the early 1960s, they were just about the only new homes in the Valley suburbs available for African American families to buy. Real estate agents enforced illegal red-lining most everywhere else outside of Pacoima. Eichler insisted that his homes be open to all.
From the NPR web story:
There are 108 Eichler homes in this tract; it's called Balboa Highlands. And Lyla Grossman says Eichler not only built handsome, affordable modern homes for the masses; he wanted everyone, and anyone, to have them. "My greatest respect for all these homes is that he wanted integration," she says. "And that was very new in this area — completely new ... And that's why I loved it so much."
The Grossmans' neighbor, Adriene Biondo knew a couple — they've since died — who were the only African-American owners at first. She remembers that they told her: "We felt confident in moving here because we heard that the Eichlers' nondiscrimination policy meant that if we didn't like our neighbors, he would buy our house back."
Biondo, the author of Modern Tract Homes of Los Angeles, worked for 10 years to get "Historic District" status for Balboa Highlands. She says Eichler's philosophy, and the houses that his architects — A. Quincy Jones and partner Frederick Emmons — designed were magnets for certain kinds of buyers.
"It's not just the modern architecture," Biondo says. "It attracts people who love to live in a modern way."
Balboa Highlands, built between 1962 and 64, lies west of Balboa Boulevard on Lisette Street, Darla Avenue, Nanette Street and Jimeno Avenue. It is the first post-World War II neighborhood in the Valley to be given historic district status by the city.