Recently, the town of Woodside, CA. voted 6-1 to allow Steve Jobs to tear down the historic Jackling House. Previously, the State Superior Court and Court of Appeals had overturned an earlier Town ruling permitting the demolition on the grounds that this violated state law which called for preservation of culturally significant buildings. Despite these losses and no change in the evidence or arguments presented, Jobs returned to the Town and asked for them to reapprove his plan. They obediently did so.
The arguments presented by Town board members showed just how little they understood the law, which clearly states that the California Environmental Quality Act not only intrinsically values the House, but prohibits its destruction. It is sad to note that the Town’s elected officials not only don’t do their homework, they really could care less:
“I didn’t see any reason to try to restore or maintain this house,” he [council member Dave Tanner] said of the Jackling House.
Tanner cited the structure’s enormous size, associated heating and energy costs, as well as the town’s stated preference for smaller homes on large lots as reasons restoration don’t make sense.
Clearly, the state courts will once again stop Jobs and the Town in their tracks. But this doesn’t bother Jobs who is used to getting his way in life since he is a virtual Master of the Universe.
A representative of the National Trust for Historic Places called Jackling House “”one of California’s masterpieces.” The Trust’s blog featured this post on the story. It was designed by George Washington Smith, who was responsible for Santa Barbara’s Spanish revival masterpieces including the Biltmore Hotel and art museum.
Montana State University history professor Timothy LeCain noted in a letter to the Town, the irony in their decision to destroy the historic home of the great American copper baron, Daniel Jackling:
Daniel Jackling “wired” America. The copper from his mine…has been strung over thousands of miles of power lines, threaded into the walls of millions of homes, and built into countless electric devices from toasters and autos to cell phones and computers. There, of course, lies the sharp irony of our dangerously forgetful age. That Steven Jobs–a man whose entire career has been built on devices that are essentially useless absent our copper-based electric power grid–proposes to tear-down the home of the very man whose own innovations made that electric grid possible, strikes me as a particularly egregious case of historical ingratitude and amnesia.
In an analogy that is especially pertinent to my home here in Seattle, LeCain notes that this would be like William Boeing buying and destroying Wilbur and Orville Wright’s birthplace. Would we accept such architectural vandalism?
Another dark irony is that one of the arguments Jobs and his supporters use to justify tearing down the house is that it is a dilapidated wreck. A commenter here proudly linked to images taken by a photograher who broke into the house as if to say: “You see what kind of mess you want to preserve?” They neglect to mention that the current owner, Steve Jobs, is responsible for the boarded up hulk Jackling House has become. There is no provision in state law saying an owner should be shown special consideration for neglecting his property.
Interestingly, the Town has hired as its special counsel in this matter, Anna Shimko of Cassidy, Shimko, Dawson & Kawakami, has another important client (pdf). Are you ready? Pixar. That’s right. Steve Jobs’ company is represented by a lawyer also working for the Town. Do I hear conflict of interest anyone? If I were a resident of Woodside I’d be yelling my head off: how are the Town’s interests represented fairly and objectively when the attorney representing them has Steve Jobs interests at heart? And I can tell you that Pixar represents a far more important client to her law firm than Woodside does. So who’s interests will she have at heart? Or are the interests of the Town and Steve Jobs indistinguishable?