$400,000 fee award upheld in Steve Jobs case

Preservationists have won the latest round in the lengthy legal fight over the fate of a historic mansion in Woodside owned by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and CEO of Pixar.

The Jackling house, a 1920s mansion designed by noted architect George Washington Smith, was slated for demolition until an ad hoc group of historic preservationists called Uphold Our Heritage stepped in, claiming that the approval of the demolition violated state law.

So far, the group has prevailed in court, despite several appeals filed by attorneys for Mr. Jobs who took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

In the latest wrinkle, the California First District Court of Appeals on Nov. 12 upheld an award of more than $400,000 to cover attorneys' fees incurred by Uphold Our Heritage.

The court ruled that the group is entitled to recover its fees because "the litigation resulted in the enforcement of an important public right by stopping the demolition of the historic residence."

Howard Ellman, the San Francisco attorney representing Mr. Jobs, did not return The Almanac's phone calls seeking comment.

Clotilde Luce, a member of Uphold Our Heritage and whose family once owned the Jackling house, said in an e-mail that she's grateful to attorneys Jan Chatten-Brown and Doug Carstens for taking on such a time-consuming case with no assurance that they'd be fully paid for their work. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's West Coast office participated in the lawsuit, further proof of the Jackling house's historic importance, she said.

"(I) am very impressed by the thoroughness and probity the courts have to exercise," Ms. Luce told The Almanac.

Mr. Jobs has owned the Jackling house since 1984. He lived in it for about 10 years, but since 2000 it has been unoccupied and left derelict. The 17,000-plus-square-foot mansion was built in the Spanish colonial revival style and includes custom copper features made for its owner, copper magnate Daniel C. Jackling. Mr. Smith, the architect, is best known for his work in the Santa Barbara area.

In 2001, Mr. Jobs requested permission to tear down the house and replace it with a family home more to his taste, triggering a review required under the portion of the California Environmental Quality Act that deals with historically significant buildings. He won the town's permission in December 2004, following an appeal to the Woodside Town Council. Preservationists halted the demolition with their lawsuit, which prevailed in San Mateo Superior Court in January 2006 and was upheld upon appeal.


Posted by Citizen A, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:18 am

Ridiculous. Its just a freaking house. There's nothing really historic or special about it. How come we Americans make something so "special" out of a house that a wealthy person lived in. And this is not an anti-wealth post as I have enough wealth. Its just a statement about the ridiculousness of using materials items to create "historical significance."

Like or not like Steve Jobs, Steve was right in this case and the group focused on preserving this house is completely out of their sane and sensible mind.

Posted by Another "Citizen A", who is very nostalgic about the "old" Woodside, a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:00 am

The Jobs family's predicament is infuriating. Who in the general public is ever going to see the place anyway??? It's private property! Let him make a compilation DVD of the house with old and recent photos and movies...Put it in the hallowed Woodside Community Museum and be done with it! At least then whoever wants to see, can!
"Uphold Our Heritage"...I understand their "labor of love' but they are wrong and should be responsible for their own attorney bills.

Posted by Lisa DeFrenne, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 22, 2008 at 3:42 am

Very disturbing. All he wants to do is build a smaller, more modest, energy efficient home on that lot.

The house is a monstrosity. 17k square feet, uneven floors, something like 15-17 bedrooms?, each room at a different level, bedrooms all in a separate wing, etc.

This is such a shame. I feel bad for Steve on this one.

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