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March 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Historical imperative for Steve Jobs Historical imperative for Steve Jobs (March 17, 2004)

Not many towns have residents who want to throw away historic 17,250-square-foot homes once visited by President Nixon, Charles Lindbergh and Shirley Temple, but then Woodside isn't like many other towns.

Evidently Steve Jobs, the Apple Computer and Pixar baron, has no use for the 14-bedroom, 13.5-bath house built for copper baron Daniel C. Jackling in 1926. He owns the home on the 6-acre property at 460 Mountain Home Road, just a stone's throw away from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's nearly completed estate.

Mr. Jobs has not revealed whether he plans to upstage Mr. Ellison's $100-million cluster of Japanese-style buildings and 2.7-acre lake with his own statement home, but for the last three years he has attempted to win approval to demolish the historic house. So far, he is finding little sympathy from Woodside.

Town officials determined that the Jackling home might be historically significant, and that an environmental impact report would need to be done before demolition was approved, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The act says if projects such as demolition of the Jackling home are found to have a significant, negative impact on a cultural or historic resource, an appropriate remedy must be proposed. In the language of CEQA, it means that something must be done (called mitigations) that will reduce the impact to a less than significant level.

The issue is to go before the town's Planning Commission, which must decide whether to accept the environmental report when a final draft is released later this year. If Mr. Jobs does not like the decision, he may appeal it to the Town Council.

We know from other high-profile planning and zoning cases that Woodside is not a town that can be pushed around by high-powered attorneys working for high-powered clients. The town has every right to accept the environmental report and push for the alternatives that preserve the house.

Such a decision could be appealed to a Superior Court judge, but there is no certainty that Mr. Jobs would get the outcome he wants.

Rather than continue the standoff, it is time for Mr. Jobs to try another tactic. For starters, he should immediately secure the house to stop the "demolition by neglect" that he apparently hopes will render the home too damaged to save and bolster his case to tear it down. This guileless tactic is a slap in the face to the town's effort to resolve the issue and can only work against him.

Next, Mr. Jobs should reveal his ultimate plans for the property. That might give town leaders an opening to possibly relax certain building restrictions in return for maintaining a viable Jackling house. Many other alternatives could be explored if Mr. Jobs were inclined to discuss the issue, rather than simply pursue demolition at all costs.

So far, more than a dozen people have commented on the environmental impact report and most said the home should be left standing. The Jackling house is truly a unique part of Woodside's history, reflecting a period that should not be forgotten.

Mr. Ellison's project was only given the go-ahead after he agreed to remove rather than demolish a historic home on his property designed by famed architect Julia Morgan. Mr. Jobs should be just as willing to help Woodside find a solution other than demolition, which would wipe out a priceless remnant of another era when copper, not the computer, was king.

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