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September 29, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Woodside man wants Steve Jobs' house Woodside man wants Steve Jobs' house (September 29, 2004)

** Steve Jobs is trying to get rid of historic Jackling house.

By Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff Writer

Steve Jobs may have found a taker for his historic house in Woodside. In fact, he appears to have found quite a few, including a promising prospect in Woodside on the Atherton border.

Mr. Jobs has been seeking to demolish the enormous Jackling mansion, built in 1926 and designed by renowned architect George Washington Smith.

While historic preservationists have praised the house's sturdy Spanish colonial revival style and graceful embellishments, including copper fixtures and imported tile, Mr. Jobs has said publicly that he considers the place an abomination that's ruining an otherwise lovely piece of property.

After a good deal of public debate and an environmental impact report, Woodside's Planning Commission voted in June to allow the demolition, but only after Mr. Jobs had attempted for 12 months to find someone willing to relocate the house and restore it. An appeal of the demolition is set to go before the Town Council in October.

A "save this house" article in the current issue of This Old House magazine has yielded about 30 phone calls, some local, some in Southern California, and some from as far away as Boston and Birmingham, said Howard Ellman, the San Francisco attorney representing Mr. Jobs.

"I've got a paralegal working full time responding to those inquiries," he said.

One prospect he called "preliminary, but promising" is Timothy Chuter, a noted vascular surgeon who practices in San Francisco. Dr. Chuter told the Almanac that he would like to relocate the Jackling mansion onto his property in Woodside to use as his family's residence.

"I grew up in an old house, not as big as (the Jackling house), but fairly large and old -- and in a constant state of renovation -- so I'm not uncomfortable with that," said Dr. Chuter.

Currently, his property on Valley Court, east of Interstate 280, contains a 1,500-square-foot guesthouse and a pool house. There's a big flat area that could accommodate the Jackling house, so he has put his plans for building a main house on hold while he investigates the possibility of moving and restoring the historic mansion, he said.

"I have five children, and four of them are girls. We need more bathrooms than you can have in a 1,500-square-foot house," he joked.

In order to relocate the Jackling house, with its 14 bedrooms and 13-1/2 bathrooms, it will probably have to be deconstructed, and then reconstructed, Dr. Chuter said. It's too large and its condition too bad for it to actually be moved, he said.

"The concept that it could be moved, I don't think is realistic," he said.

He said he would like to return the house to something closer to its original state, as evidenced in pictures, plans and correspondence at UC Santa Barbara's architecture museum, which means removing several additions that were made later, including a room to house a custom Aeolian pipe organ.

Despite Mr. Jobs' characterization of the house's lack of charm, Dr. Chuter says he finds the style attractive and particularly well-suited to the California climate. Removing the additions would restore the house's original symmetry, he said.

Public hearing

Dr. Chuter is scheduled to appear at a hearing before the Woodside Planning Commission on Wednesday, October 6, to ask for a variance to the town's height and square footage limitations. Although he says he doesn't believe the house is actually as large as the 17,250 square feet it's claimed to be, it is still much larger than what can be legally built in Woodside under current regulations.

Mr. Ellman, the attorney representing Mr. Jobs, said he would like to delay the Woodside Town Council's hearing of the appeal, which is set for Tuesday, October 12, in order to further investigate prospects for moving the house.

The appeal is filed by a trio of preservationists, including the Jacklings' great-niece, Virginia Gill Anderson; Miami Beach resident Clotilde Luce, who is the daughter of the former owners; and Woodside resident Rob Flint.

At issue are the legal provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, which extend some protections to historical structures and other "cultural resources."

Faced with expert testimony that the Jackling house is historically significant, planning commissioners decided that the additional open space gained by replacing the mansion with a smaller home that conforms to Woodside's size rules, as Mr. Jobs said he plans to do, would provide the public benefit required by CEQA in exchange for the loss of the house. The appellants, needless to say, are not of the same mind.

Ms. Luce said that the Jackling house's architect is featured in a book about the world's great houses that she recently purchased at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

"George Washington Smith gets a full page, along with the builders of Versailles, the Imperial houses in Kyoto, etc. So should this historic resource in Woodside be trivialized -- like a vase or ashtray you just move when somebody's mood changes?" she said via e-mail. "Even a bona-fide attempt to move the house will endanger it. The Town should make clear that at no point may any owner demolish or endanger the house."

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