Almanac

News - August 18, 2010

Jackling house preservationists throw in towel

• Uphold Our Heritage drops appeal of Steve Jobs' demolition permit.

by Dave Boyce

The end seems nearer than ever for the Jackling house, that rambling Jazz Age Woodside summer home designed by architect George Washington Smith for copper baron Daniel C. Jackling and owned since 1984 by Apple Corp. chief executive Steve Jobs, who's been trying since 2001 to replace it with something smaller and more modern.

Uphold Our Heritage, a group that sought to preserve the house as an important piece of Woodside history, on July 19 dropped its appeal of a March 2010 ruling by San Mateo County Superior Judge Marie S. Weiner that granted Mr. Jobs a demolition permit, said Doug Carstens, Uphold's attorney.

Uphold made this decision, he said, after Mr. Jobs did not respond to a proposal by Woodside residents Jason and Magalli Yoho to dismantle the house and move it from its current location at 460 Mountain Home Road to 215 Lindenbrook Road, a journey of about two miles.

It was "a really great proposal" in which the Yohos would have paid "a very large part of the relocation and restoration costs," Mr. Carstens told The Almanac.

The Yohos would have lived in the house and opened it to the public once a year, Uphold spokeswoman Clotilde Luce said in an e-mail. "Naturally," she added, she expected Mr. Jobs to "put in something" to help finance the move, but that the Yohos "were going to cover almost everything."

Had Mr. Jobs agreed to it, she said, it would have solved land-clearing problems and would have prevented adding to area landfills.

The "agreement" between the Yohos and Uphold, said Town Manager Susan George, was never formally presented to the town and included "many unilateral stipulations, including the town taking financial responsibility for the relocation of the house should the other parties fail to do so." Such stipulations would likely have doomed the proposal, she added.

Those stipulations were removed in a revised proposal, Mr. Carstens said.

"The town's involvement," Ms. George said when asked to comment, "was limited to attempting to process an application from the Yohos that would have allowed them to prepare their site for the Jackling house and (for) moving the house to the site. The application was never deemed complete and the Yohos dropped it after a point, so that was that."

The proposal might have advanced via an unsolicited offer of mediation by a program within the state appellate court in connection with Uphold's appeal of Judge Weiner's decision. The Yohos proposal could have been on the table, Mr. Carstens said. Uphold agreed to participate, he said. As for Mr. Jobs' response, his attorney Howard Ellman had no comment.

"That's the heart of the story," Mr. Carstens said. "If you can figure out why they rejected such a great proposal, that would be news."

Mr. Ellman, when asked if he had a comment on Uphold's decision to drop its appeal, replied: "No. The result speaks for itself. They abandoned the appeal and we're going forward."

Uphold's decision ends a multi-year effort in the courts to stop Mr. Jobs. Uphold succeeded in preventing the demolition in a 2004 lawsuit, a decision that Mr. Jobs appealed but that was upheld by the state Courts of Appeal in 2007. Mr. Jobs then modified his demolition plans to address the issues noted in the 2004 decision and won a judgment in March.

Ms. Luce, whose family owned the house in the 1960s and who now lives in Miami Beach, said that the town "will be deprived of this quite interesting piece of California history."

Earlier proposal

Gordon Smythe, a Palo Alto venture capitalist and a fan of homes designed by George Washington Smith, offered in 2009 to salvage parts of the house and use them in a new house at an undetermined site in California. That three-way agreement that included the town was contingent upon Uphold ending litigation, however, and that did not happen in time, Mr. Ellman said.

Mr. Carstens noted that while it was true that Uphold did not drop its litigation, Mr. Jobs never signed. And Mr. Carstens wondered why Mr. Jobs did not offer to consider the Yohos' proposal in lieu of Mr. Smythe's.

Commenting on the Smythe proposal to re-use parts of the house, Ms. Luce said: "Smith was an artist, this is a work of very sophisticated architecture. If you smash a Faberge egg and pick up some pieces, what have you 'saved'?"

In a biography on the website architect.com, Mr. Smith is cited as "one of that rare breed of architects who was able to produce buildings that were both subservient to their environment and at the same time able to project strong, beautiful forms into the landscape."

Orderly salvage

The town has hired architectural historian Michael R. Corbett to conduct an inventory of historically significant parts of the house. Preserving these items for posterity is a key condition of the demolition permit issued by the town in 2009.

Among the historically significant parts, according to a staff report, are a 50-foot flagpole, a copper mailbox, Spanish roof tiles, an organ and other features, including decorative tile, stone, woodwork, fireplace mantles, light fixtures and moldings.

Where these objects end up is a matter of first dibs, and that privilege goes to the town of Woodside in every case. Next listed in the report are the San Mateo County Historical Association, and the George Washington Smith collection at the art museum of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Mr. Corbett, who is now engaged in photographing the significant objects, will be succeeded by an expert on how to remove them safely, Ms. George told The Almanac. Copies of the completed inventory then go to the agencies noted above for review.

This sequence of events is likely to unfold over the next several weeks, Ms. George said.

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