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June 23, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

One-year reprieve for Woodside house One-year reprieve for Woodside house (June 23, 2004)

** Steve Jobs offers to give away Jackling house.

By Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff Writer

Freebies: Large historic Woodside mansion, 17,000+ square feet. Spanish colonial revival style. Famous architect! You haul off-site.

Coming soon to a historic preservationist magazine near you -- advertisements for the 1926 Daniel C. Jackling house, which Steve Jobs is apparently so eager to unload, he's willing to help pay the cost of removing it from his property on Mountain Home Road.

Mr. Jobs, CEO of Pixar and Apple, has been seeking a demolition permit for the house, designed by noted architect George Washington Smith. Although it's not part of the demolition application, he told the commission earlier this month that he wants to build a much smaller home for his family on the property.

Woodside's Planning Commission, looking for a way to allow Mr. Jobs to rid himself of the pesky mansion while still complying with CEQA, the state environmental law, seized on the idea of moving the house somewhere else when it was put forth at the June 16 meeting.

Howard Ellman, Mr. Jobs' attorney, told commissioners that Mr. Jobs would not only be willing to give the house away, but that he might even contribute to the cost of removing it.

"Steve is perfectly prepared to cooperate with anyone who wants to take the house, and let it go for nothing," Mr. Ellman said. "He thinks it does not have any value."

Even if a taker for the house is found, there are problems inherent in moving it off-site, including its large size, the narrow winding roads leading to it, and its current, dilapidated condition.

Mr. Ellman, in correspondence with the council, dismissed as infeasible the alternative of moving the house when it was broached in the environmental impact report. "There is no showing on this record that a house of the size, construction, rambling configuration and age of the Jackling house, closely surrounded as it is by mature trees, could feasibly be dismantled and moved without disintegrating," he said.

Commissioner Rick Anderson pointed to the house's poor condition, which was extensively documented in the EIR and in Mr. Jobs' own testimony. It was last occupied in 1998 by Secret Service agents for then-President Clinton. Mr. Anderson said Mr. Jobs should pay to rehabilitate the house to the point that someone would actually want it.

"I'm surprised we are even still talking about carrying the house off," he said. "(Rehabilitation) should reverse some of the neglect Steve Jobs has put on the house. Just asking him to pay to move it is not nearly adequate."

None of the other commissioners agreed, however.

Instead, the majority of planning commissioners decided to make Mr. Jobs wait 12 months for his demolition permit, during which time he will pay for a marketing campaign to see if anyone is interested in moving the house and restoring it. That condition was one of several alterations to the project imposed in order to make it more palatable and comply with the legal constraints of CEQA.

By certifying the CEQA-mandated environmental impact report for the Jackling house demolition at the previous June 2 meeting, the commission accepted its finding that the house is a historically significant cultural resource, and that demolishing it would create a "significant unmitigated impact."

Under CEQA, in order to go ahead with the demolition, planning commissioners had to show that the demolition would bring some other overriding public benefits to the town.

Commissioner Diane Elder said Mr. Jobs' desire to return the Jackling house site to its natural state and build a smaller house, leaving more of the property as open space, was valuable.

"I understand we have a historic resource that might qualify for the (state) historical register, but for me, open space means something," Ms. Elder said. "I feel the idea of smaller houses on larger lots is supported in the general plan, and right now there's nothing in the general plan about historic structures."

If Mr. Jobs finds no takers for the Jackling house, to get his demolition permit he would have to combine the approximately 5-acre property with an adjacent parcel he owns into one lot that could never be subdivided, agree that the new main residence will be 6,000 square feet or less and win Architectural and Site Review Board approval of his building plans.

A thorough photo-documentation of the house would have to be conducted at his expense, and several of its key features, including its Aeolian pipe organ, custom flagpole and copper mailbox, would have to be preserved.

Mr. Ellman said Mr. Jobs also intends to demolish the house on the adjacent parcel, but the commission declined to add its removal as a condition, after being warned by Town Attorney Bob Lanzone that the house may also be historically significant.

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Rick Anderson opposed, and Sara Jorgensen and Steve Patrick absent.

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