An article in a Silicon Valley newspaper misleadingly heralds an agreement between Steve Jobs and the town of Woodside that supposedly guarantees the preservation of Jackling House, a historic California home he owns in that town. It was originally built for copper baron Daniel Jackling, who, like Jobs, made a fortune in a new technology of his day, providing the copper for electric wiring. Jackling commissioned George Washington Smith, who later created the Spanish Revival look of Santa Barbara, to build his dream palace.
For several years, Gordon Smythe, a technology entrepreneur, has offered to preserve Jackling House and Jobs has refused because he preferred tearing it down in order to build Mr. Blandings dream house on the six acre property.
After a historic preservation group, Uphold Our Heritage, organized to block Jobs’ plans and won a victory in State Superior Court, Jobs attempted to appeal to the State Supreme Court. But he also allowed his lawyer to reopen talks with Smythe. It appears that they’ve come to an agreement and that was what the town council approved.
What does this agreement actually do? Does it preserve Jackling House? Not really. Uphold Our Heritage has engaged experts who’ve told them relocation of the House would cost approximately $4-million excluding the purchase of a new piece of property. Jobs has always refused to pony up this money. And in this agreement he offers $600,000 for Smythe to take it off his hands. The problem is that Smythe does not yet have a property to which to move the House, nor does he have the funds for the actual relocation.
In the interim, he plans to store the House in pieces. When and if he does restore it in a new location, he’s specified that he will only rebuild the original portion of the House built in 1925, but will not restore a 1931 addition.
So we really have a half-assed resolution of the issue. This is why Uphold Our Heritage will go before Judge Weiner in August to present its position on the agreement. The group hasn’t yet determined what that position will be, but if it does oppose the deal and the judge finds in UOH’s favor, then it’ll be back to the drawing board. And it will mean the continuation of Jobs’ painful neglect of the home which has turned it into a boarded-up relic.
Typically, Jobs’ attorney has placed blame on the preservation group if it derails any agreement with Smythe, claiming that it stands in the way of restoration of the House. When it comes to people like Steve Jobs, it’s always the other guy’s fault. Never his own. Given his billions, shelling out $4 million to save this House is a pittance. But he just won’t do it on principle.
Given Jobs’ history of high-handed, opaque behavior as a corporate CEO in which he attempted to conceal backdated stock options and refused to tell his shareholders that he’d undergone a liver transplant (until he had no choice), it’s not surprising that he’s willing to see a beautiful example of California historic architecture go to ruin in a fit of personal pique.