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January 11, 2006

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Publication Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Editorial: A reprieve for Jackling House Editorial: A reprieve for Jackling House (January 11, 2006)

Like it or not, the Woodside Town Council cannot ignore the recent Superior Court decision overturning Steve Jobs' efforts to tear down the historic Jackling house in Woodside. The ruling may force the town to support preserving the Mountain Home Road landmark, even after it voted to issue Mr. Jobs a demolition permit.

In December 2004, the Town Council voted 4-3 to issue a permit to tear the house down despite a finding from its staff that demolishing the historic, but somewhat dilapidated structure would violate the state's environmental laws. The council's decision was overturned December 28 by Judge Marie S. Weiner, who upheld the challenge by two preservation groups and a former resident of the Jackling house, Clotilde Luce.

Now the case returns to Woodside; if Mr. Jobs appeals the court ruling, it could delay the outcome for a year or two or more.

Now, it appears, Mr. Jobs will have to again consider the options laid out in an environmental impact report, which the Town Council deemed unworkable. They include:

** Doing nothing.

** Rehabilitating the home, and allowing upgraded kitchen and bathrooms. Cost: $4.9 million.

** Rehabilitating the home and allowing a new addition, including a new living room, entertainment room, office suite and fitness area. Cost: $9 million.

** Moving the home to another location on the property and rehabilitating it. Cost: $6.6 million.

** Moving the home to a location off the property and rehabilitating it. Cost: At least $6 million plus the unknown cost of a new property.

(An unusual wrinkle in last year's demolition permit ordered Mr. Jobs to seek out and assist anyone who might dismantle the home and move it to another property. That effort produced only one valid prospect, which so far has come to naught.)

Judge Weiner noted that Mr. Jobs has refused to offer a design alternative to the Jackling house other than to say it would be a home of 6,000 square feet on 12 acres. Without a cost estimate, it is impossible to compare the plan to the options in the EIR. It was also noted that the most recent comparable property transaction in Woodside showed an 11-acre site going for $52 million.

Given the interest in Woodside real estate by some of Silicon Valley's most successful entrepreneurs, and the 8,000-square-foot size limit for new Woodside homes, Mr. Jobs might consider restoring the 17,000-square-foot Jackling house and selling it off with a small portion of his 12-acre property. He could probably clear enough on the transaction to pay for a new home on the remaining acreage.

If that doesn't happen, we can see the stalemate dragging on for many more years, while the Jackling house crumbles and Mr. Jobs sits in the purgatory of Palo Alto, praying for a thunderbolt that will clear his property of historic demons.


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