Thursday, February 8, 2007
Apple CEO Jobs Cannot Tear Down Historic Mansion—Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Town of Woodside violated historic preservation laws when it authorized Apple, Inc. CEO Steven Jobs to demolish a 17,000-foot mansion on property on which he wants to build a smaller residence, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Three yesterday denied Jobs’ petition for rehearing and ordered publication of the panel’s Jan. 10 opinion.
The ruling is a victory for a local preservation group, Uphold Our Heritage, which won the backing of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the California Preservation League in its bid to save the Jackling House. The house was built in the 1920s and was designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style by George Washington Smith for copper magnate Daniel Jackling.
Jobs bought the house in 1984, lived in it for about 10 years, and then rented it out until 2000, which was the last time it was lived in. The parties agreed that the house is in a deteriorating state, and Jobs has sought to demolish it since 2001.
The town’s consultant advised that the house is a “historical resource” that cannot be demolished without California Environmental Quality Act review.
An environmental impact report was prepared, identifying several alternatives to demolition, including leaving the mansion in its current state; restoring it at a cost of approximately $4.9 million; partially restoring it and building an addition at a cost of $9 million; or moving it to another site, in which case rehabilitation and site work would cost about $6 million and moving the building at least $700,000, depending on where it was moved to.
Demolition, the planning staff said, would be inconsistent with the town’s goals of preserving its “rural character and natural beauty” and encouraging maintenance and rehabilitation of existing structures.
The Planning Commission, however, overruled the staff, found that the alternatives identified in the EIR were not feasible, and concluded that the town’s interest in conserving open space outweighed the historic impacts. The commission approved the demolition plan, subject only to the condition that Jobs first seek a buyer who would be willing to move the building off-site.
The City Council upheld the commission, but San Mateo Superior Court Judge Marie S. Weiner said the town’s decision was unsupported by substantial evidence. There was no proof, she said, that rehabilitating the house would cost more than tearing it down and building a new residence.
Justice Joann Parrilli, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
“The fact that rehabilitation may cost between $4.9 and $10 million dollars is insufficient to support a reasonable inference that this alternative is not economically feasible,” the jurist wrote. “Without some information concerning the cost of constructing a new residence on the property, it is not possible to determine whether the cost of renovating the existing historic structure is reasonable or feasible. Indeed, so far as the present record reflects, it may be less expensive to renovate and preserve the existing structure than to build a new 6,000 square foot residence suitable for the area.”
Uphold Our Heritage was represented on appeal by Santa Monica attorneys Douglas Carstens and Jan Chatten-Brown. Howard N. Ellman of San Francisco represented Jobs.
The case is Uphold Our Heritage v. Town of Woodside (Jobs), A113376.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company