When last we saw our hero, Steve Jobs he had lost a Superior Court case attempting to demolish historic Jackling House in Woodside, California created by famed architect George Washington Smith (designer of many Santa Barbara Spanish Revival buildings). Steve, never one to accept anything that stands in the way of realizing his ambitions, asked the Supreme Court to hear his appeal. This week it refused. This means that Jobs has exhausted his legal remedies and must find someone to take the House and relocate it if he [Jobs] still wishes to build his dream house on the property.
Uphold Our Heritage, the preservation group established to save the house has always advocated for a resolution that would allow Jobs to build his new home while preserving Jackling House. Unfortunately, he has persevered in demanding his right to destroy it. The preservation group has found several preservation-minded individuals interested in negotiating with Jobs about relocating the home. Let’s hope that Jobs will see reason and begin negotiations in earnest with one of these potential buyers and the UOH attorney, Doug Carstens.
It never needed to come to this. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal fees, thousands of hours of staff time by the city of Woodside and various judicial venues that heard the case. I guess when you’re Steve Jobs the world marches to your rhythm rather than the other way around.
I get a lot of people coming to these posts who tell me in their infinite wisdom as ‘architectural historians’ that Jackling House looks like a load of rubbish. To them I’ll add a few quotes from the Uphold Our Heritage site:
The Jackling House [is in] the California Register of Historic Places for its association with an historic figure, copper baron Daniel Jackling, and for its exemplary design and materials, the work of master architect George Washington Smith, known as the “Founding Father” of Spanish Revival architecture in this country.
…George Washington Smith is one of only NINE great California estate designers acknowledged in “The Garden Book” (Phaidon, 2002). Smith gets a full page in the book, along with the world’s most important designers of palaces, châteaux, country houses, including Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the designers of the Alhambra, the Imperial Palace and Gardens in Tokyo, and Versailles!
In her book on “The Santa Barbara Style” (Rizzoli, New York, 2001) author Kathryn Masson lauds:
Smith’s masterful interpretation of the architectural vocabulary of vernacular buildings in Andalusian Spain. His use of authentic materials and command of architectural forms convey a romantic Mediterranean atmosphere. Traditional Spanish design is authenticated by thick stuccoed walls that allow for deep window and door openings, heavy overhangs with carved wooden corbels that throw structured shadows back onto the gleaming wall surfaces, and design elements such as hidden gardens, colonnaded porches, and multi-leveled building units with varying rooflines.
On a related subject, I noted that the NY Times business columnist Joe Nocera (TimesSelect required) wrote today about Steve Jobs and the current Apple options backdating scandal. Some of his observations of Jobs’ personality and behavior are amazingly pertinent to his actions in the Jackling House case:
Now let’s look at the other [second] grant–the 7.5 million options to Mr. Jobs himself…
Consider, first, Mr. Jobs’s desire to replace the 20 million options [which were “under water”] with the 7.5 million options. What he was really trying to do was reprice his options without actually admitting that — because repricing would entail an accounting expense. To avoid the expense, he was supposed to wait six months and a day after the cancellation of the first package before Apple gave him the new package.
But he was Steve Jobs, and he wasn’t about to go optionless for six months and a day…
You get the strong impression that nobody dared to say no to Mr. Jobs, a notoriously difficult and abrasive chief executive. One imagines the trepidation of the compensation committee members — or Ms. Heinen [corporate counsel] — in telling him that he couldn’t get a low option price because the stock had risen during the negotiations.
So instead, they found a date in October that approximated the stock price in August — and an underling created phony board minutes.
What is particularly galling is the double standard. You hear from lots of sophisticated investors that it would be terrible if Mr. Jobs were forced out at Apple. How, they say, would that help Apple shareholders?
But lots of other chiefs have lost their jobs because of options backdating, and several have even been indicted. However indispensable he may be, the notion that Mr. Jobs can’t be touched because he’s Steve Jobs is something terribly corrosive.
If the S.E.C. is coming to the view that options backdating is just a peccadillo, as Silicon Valley has claimed all along, it should say so. But if it believes this is serious stuff, then it shouldn’t be making excuses for Steve Jobs, as it appears to be doing.
As for Mr. Jobs, as hard as he’s worked to convey the image of an above-the-fray visionary, that’s not quite the reality, is it? I recently stumbled across this comment from him, circa 1985: “I’m at a stage where I don’t have to do things just to get by. But then I’ve always been that way, because I’ve never really cared about money.”
What Nocera notes, and the Jackling House episode confirms, is that Steve Jobs could have close to what he wants, but not quite the whole echilada, if he would just compromise a wee bit with reality in the form of corporate securities law (the stock options) or the California code (preserving Jackling House). But he won’t do it–on self-serving principle. And that’s where he gets himself into trouble. In the case of Jackling House, it isn’t a matter that will bring his empire down like a house of cards. In the case of the options scandal, it probably should but it won’t. Again, Steve Jobs lives a charmed life–one that isn’t earned. And that, as Nocera correctly note, is “something terribly corrosive” of societal values.
Jobs’ behavior concerning both Jackling House and the options scandal betrays his egomania and vanity. What he really wants to do regarding the house is tear it down so he can outdo his other Silicon Valley tycoon rivals who’ve built sumptuous palaces as monuments to their own egos. The irony here is that it’s possible that might’ve been Daniel Jackling’s own motive in originally building the house, since he himself was a copper baron trying to make his mark in the 1920s with an architectural statement. But regardless of whether there was vanity or ego involved in the original creation of this landmark, it has withstood the test of time in its 90 years of existence and is worthy of preservation.