Steve Jobs' bid to tear down a historic mansion in Woodside generated a whole lot of testimony at the April 28 Woodside Town Council meeting.
Preservationists and representatives of Mr. Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc., painted very different pictures of the Jackling house, an imposing 17,250-square-foot Spanish colonial-style home on Mountain Home Road.
Where preservationists see a treasure designed by noted architect George Washington Smith and filled with graceful details like imported tile and custom copper fixtures, Mr. Jobs sees an "abomination" that he would dearly like to scrape to the ground and replace with a smaller, modern home.
If this battle triggers a sense of deja vu, that's because it's been going on since 2001 -- and it's going to linger at least a little bit longer. After taking testimony, the Town Council continued the public hearing on Mr. Jobs's request for a demolition permit to its May 12 meeting.
Named for original owner Daniel C. Jackling, a titan of the copper mining industry, the house was built in 1925. Its age triggered an environmental review under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, and it was determined to be a historically significant structure, making a demolition permit harder to acquire.
Mr. Jobs was actually granted a demolition permit for the house in 2004, but the permit was blocked by a historic preservation group. Its members took the town and Mr. Jobs to court, and won.
Now that Mr. Jobs has exhausted his appeals, he's gone back and provided missing information that the courts said invalidated his old demolition permit. His representatives presented detailed information about the estimated cost of renovating the house -- $13 million -- and said it would be $5 million more than the cost of demolishing it and building a tasteful, 6,000-square-foot custom home.
"Enough is enough. I don't think any property owner in this community should have to endure what he has had to do," Howard Ellman, Mr. Jobs' attorney, told the council.
When the town granted the permit in 2004, it took the unusual step of requiring Mr. Jobs to try to find someone willing to relocate and restore the house. The preservation group, called Uphold Our Heritage, say that there's been no good faith effort to find a taker, and point to at least two serious offers that have been rebuffed.
Mr. Ellman said at the meeting that none of the offers to take the house have been reasonable.
"Needless to say, I didn't ever take these offers to him. I value my relationship with (Mr. Jobs) and I didn't want to have to endure the blowback," he said.
The Jackling house has been abandoned for the past decade, and Mr. Jobs has made it clear that he'll leave it to fall down rather than fix it up, a situation preservationists find infuriating.
"It's a great house. It's not that far gone," said Thalia Lubin, a member of the town's History Committee. "It's very, very sad that the house was vandalized," she said, adding that she chose that word deliberately.
"Not demolishing it only keeps it in its present condition," pointed out Councilman Ron Romines.
Almanac staff writer Dave Boyce contributed to this story.