On January 27th, California Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner rendered a final judgment against Steve Jobs in his bid to demolish the historic Jackling House. Uphold Our Heritage, a group I’ve supported even before its formal inception, led the battle to preserve the home when the Town of Woodside essentially capitulated to Jobs’ demand that the house must go.
The house was built by Daniel Jackling, a western mining magnate who revolutionized the copper industry at the turn of the century. He built his palace in 1923. I’m certain he was as entrepreneurial in his day as Jobs’ is in ours. It was designed by renowned California architect George Washington Smith (who was responsible for Santa Barbara’s “Spanish hacienda” style). For further background, see my earlier post about the campaign to save Jackling. The Uphold Our Heritage site also contains valuable information about the home’s history and the architect’s legacy.
Bloomberg News published its own story about the case yesterday, Apple’s Jobs Fights Preservationists Who Want to Save His House. Apparently, CNN ran a story which made a bollocks out of the entire case saying that Jobs was fighting with the Town of Woodside which was attempting to prevent him from demolishing the home (it isn’t, but Uphold Our Heritage IS). The reporter accepted at face value Jobs’ contention that the house is a “monstrosity.” I’ve tried to find this story on their website without success. Apparently, they thought better of profiling it online.
Last December, when Weiner filed her preliminary decision I wrote Steve Jobs Loses Fight to Demolish Historic Landmark. Now that the decision is final I’m delighted. Of course, Jobs attorney has publicly stated that his client will appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court. This will land Jobs in the same spotlight as David Geffen, another celebrity who took land use decisions into his own hands–and lost. In Geffen’s case, he defied the State’s right to permit public access to his beachfront property in order for individuals to get to the Malibu beach. I’m glad that the Supreme Court doesn’t take it lightly when celebrities ride roughshod over State law when it comes to uses of their property.
Here is a portion of Weiner’s decision:
The administrative record reflects a severe lack of evidence supporting…findings that the EIR alternatives are “economically unjustifiable” or economically infeasible [this refers to Jobs’ claim that relocating the home was economically unjustified].
…Their [the Town of Woodside’s] finding of economic infeasiblity is not supported by substantial evidence, and was arbitrary and capricious. This was an abuse of discretion.
What the Town…approved is the utter antithesis of its existing General Plan. The theme of the General Plan is one of conservation, preservation, and certainly maintenance of existing structures. It is arbitrary and capricious for the Town of Woodside to imply or interpolate the provisions of the General Plan contrary to its express components.
Such findings simply demonstrate the Town Council’s exaggerated efforts to find a means to the end that Jobs seeks.
In regard to the “conditions” placed upon the demolition permit [that Jobs take a year to find someone willing to move the house off-site] , there has been no showing that these conditions are actually enforceable [i.e. if there were a buyer willing to relocate the house, Jobs would be under no obligation to turn the house over to him/her]. Jobs is the sole decision maker in determining whether or not to accept any proposals for relocation.
Woodside made a finding that the EIR alternative to have the house relocated to another site was not feasible, yet it required that efforts be made to see if the house could be relocated to another site to a willing taker. This demonstrates the absurdity of the “findings” of infeasibility made by Woodside.
Accordingly the finding of overriding consideration was not supported by substantial evidence, and the granting of the demolition permit by Woodside to Jobs was an abuse of discretion.
Congratulations to Clotilde Luce and Uphold Our Heritage for waging a brilliant campaign with the help of Chatten-Brown Carstens, a law firm specializing in cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act. This is a huge victory for historic preservation. It should be a lesson for cities (like mine here in Seattle) which have essentially no regulations intended to preserve existing housing stock (and especially historic homes). Preserve it or lose it!
UOH’s defense of Jobs’ appeal will cost at least $35,000. UOH has confidence it has a strong case on appeal. If you admire historic architecture, if you’ve ever visited Santa Barbara and loved it, if you believe in preserving our artistic heritage, and if you just want to make sure Goliath doesn’t get to run roughshod over the Davids of this world, please consider making a contribution to support the legal defense of Jackling House via the group’s Paypal account.
Tax-deductible donations may also be made through:
National Trust for Historic Preservation
8 California Street
San Francisco, CA, 94111-4828
Please note “for Jackling House” on the check.