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Court allows demolition of Juana Briones House

Original post made on Oct 27, 2010

Jaim Nulman and Avelyn Welczer got one step closer to building their dream home on the site of the historic Juana Briones house in the Palo Alto foothills, after the state's Sixth Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that the City of Palo Alto had no choice but to issue their demolition permit.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010, 5:30 PM

Comments (78)

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Posted by Old Palo Altan
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Why do these techzillionaires have to build on this particular parcel of land? Looks like there are still vacant plots in the PA foothills. God help us if we should actually try to save this building and make a living history center out of it. But since Palo Alto cannot even keep the bowling alley from going condo, guess there's no hope to save the adobe. Unless you tell locals a large grocery store is going there. Friends of Juana Briones should hoop up with the anti Alma Plaza group for some tips.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Can the owners of this property sue the city of Palo Alto or the "Friends" group for denying them the value of their own property? Also, can they sue for legal fees that were forced upon them? I would not want to be a member of the board of the "Friends", at this point.


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Posted by You do have a choice
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Why do these techzillionaires have to build on this particular parcel of land?

Because it is their land and their money. Got any more questions?



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Posted by Jason
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Looks like these people went into the land purchase knowing about the history, and it has been tied up in litigation since.
See the last time we discussed this issue.

Web Link


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Does anyone have any idea what all the costs in this have been? Not just the lawyers, but the value of the time spent by the "friends" and the same for the City?

With that information, this whole decade-long scenario could be put in a proper perspective.


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

This was such a phoney issue. Even if everything about Briones was true, what we really have here is a womens' lib spin on a story about a woman who happened to split with her spouse and then lived in a hut that was washed away about 100 years ago. The historic significance of the property by any sane standard is ziltch. And in fact most of the story was just made up by the historic preservation busy-bodies.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

This is great news in this one step at a time ongoing legal saga. Palo Altans must stand up to these small groups of so called preservationists and assert their property rights.

504 Lincoln Avenue which was approved for demolition at the Council Meeting on Monday evening only took 3 years and $500,000 worth of stalling and permit reversals.

The owners of the Juana Briones House have endured almost 10 years of harassment from a small group of so called historic preservationists. After all the litigation is over, I hope they sue the Friends of Juana Briones House for all the money they've been forced to spend on litigation and appeals. Also, rent for the 10 years they've been denied occupancy of their replacement house.

If I recall this old house has been damaged in earthquakes, subsequently altered and remodeled so many times, very little of the original house is left. If it is that valuable to Friends why don't they pick it up and move it to some land of their own? Meanwhile, the demolition permit must be issued ASAP.


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Posted by adrian huff
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm

great article


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Posted by T Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:45 pm

This property was for sale many years ago, and we considered buying it after moving here. We had no interest in the background of the house, but it is on a lovely site that we liked. However, the disclosures fully described the physical problems with the house and a lawyer's 10-minute check with the city revealed the difficulty of dealing with a historical structure.

The people who bought the house knew all of these things, too. Whether their problem is obliviousness, stupidity, or bravado, the punishment is the same: you do not get what you want when you want it. An owner's right should compel, but if you buy a pig, you should not complain that it is not a cow.


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Posted by Charles W
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

Does anyone have an article they can link about the owner Jaime Zulman?
In the previous Palo alto online, people say they know him from Applied Materials, and frankly no one here has ever heard of him. Is Applied in on this too? Maybe going to make some sort of corporate retreat out of it.... and where has this gent been living for the past 15 years while he waged battles in palo alto>


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:12 am

"Palo Altans must stand up to these small groups of so called preservationists and assert their property rights." I agree!
These small groups have stopped all businesses from building in Palo Alto too. We have no shopping in Palo Alto because of these people.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:43 am

A legal summary of this sordid affair can be found at: Web Link

We citizens have a fair right to know how much this thing cost our city of Palo Alto in both staff time and legal fees. We also need to become aware of how CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)is being used by activists groups to deny property rights and shakedown both property owners and city budgets.


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Posted by Holman should resign
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

This is good to hear--it will be about time when this non-historic eyesore will be bulldozed. While the preservationists like to say that this is an original home built in 1840's there is no evidence to support this claim.
this is another example of a group of zealots with a personal agenda obstructing property owners. Unfortunately these zealots have no financial liability so they have no problem costing the owners thousands of dollars. I hope the current owners file a lawsuit against this group. It is about time that this "everything in Palo Alto is historic" gang be taught a lesson.


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Posted by Ron Wolf
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:40 am

How absolutely sad. How much of our heritage is left to preserve? How much from 1850 and before? Hardly anything, and now looks to be even less.

For all of you who suggest that property rights trump all others, I hope that your next door neighbor decides to build a monster home as a gathering place for their motorcycle gang (apologies to motor cyclists) next door to you. Then we'll see how quickly you jump sides on this sort of issue and ask the City for protection.

Do you really think that community values and restrictions to preserve character have no place in modern society? I would guess so, and you will get what you deserve, Palo Alto on the way to being the same as anywhere.

Or maybe none of this matters as we can always go to Europe on vacation to enjoy the heritage of fine old buildings and culture...


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Posted by Holman should resign
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

"I hope that your next door neighbor decides to build a monster home as a gathering place for their motorcycle gang (apologies to motor cyclists) next door to you."
Well, you are dealing with 2 separate issues. If the neighbor builds house that conforms to the rules of the city--i..e size, setback, etc. then there is nothing any neighbor should have to say about it.
Second, if there is a motorcycle gang (so you insult motorcyclists and then make a lame apology!!) or other noise issues that is for the police to deal with

"Do you really think that community values and restrictions to preserve character have no place in modern society? "
I suggest you read the link provided by Samuel that discusses the history of the litigation.
Of interest:
"In October 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused structural damage to the Juana Briones House. Berthiaume undertook to make repairs. After consulting with a general contractor, who did some emergency shoring work, Berthiaume assembled a team of experts, including an architect and an engineer, who drafted plans for more extensive repairs. To fund the repairs, Berthiaume applied for assistance both to the City and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Unable to obtain funding from either entity, Berthiaume abandoned plans to repair the property and listed it for sale."

Note that the city refused money for the needed repairs after Loma Prieta

"He declared the structure a public nuisance and informed the Meubs that abatement was required, by either "repair or demolition.""
Note that the city's building inspector talked about demolishing the structure.

A couple of other points--if this place was so historic, why did the city not step in and buy the home for preservation--even now, what haven't the interested parties offered to purchase the home and preserve it.


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Posted by Millie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:02 am

Let's knock down everything old, everything with character, anything that's historically interesting. We need more tacky McMansions. We need more Wal-marts. We need to look more like Everywhere, USA, and we need to pay taxes accordingly since there will be nothing distinctive about Palo Alto.


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Posted by Lisa
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

I have witnessed the destruction of old Palo Alto, the proliferation of monster Taco Bell mansions, and the loss of community over the past 30 years. Those that decry historical preservation don't realize that what they do affects their neighbors with issues as diverse as daylighting, privacy, and parking. Those that don't realize what was lost obviously haven't been here for very long. I don't know about the merits of the Juana Briones house, but much has been destroyed. So how about - we just bulldoze downtown Palo Alto, lose the historical character, and make it look like Sunnyvale? Most of you are here because of that historical character. You just don't get it. Goodbye and Good Luck!


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Posted by j9oneill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:12 am

technozillionaire (n.) One who has so much money received from either an income from buying or selling technology, or inherited from a hard working iconic parent in the silicon valley - who does not posses the ability to "care" or "feel" much about preserving history or part of a community, but instead has self centered tunnel vision for their own pleasure.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

"We need more tacky McMansions."

The Juana Briones mud house, was very tacky for its time. It destroyed the ambiance of the wild hills, and should never have been allowed by Palo Alto! This is my of saying that such a shack would never be approved by our current planning department. In fact, it was an eyesore, and uninhabitable, thus our city building inspector demanded that it be torn down.

This entire Juana Briones hagiography is a modern invention by some women who live and die for identity gender politics. Then they got the latino identiy politicos and professors to join the fight. Then they got Palo Alto to waste a ton of money on the thing.

If Juana Briones was alive today, she would probably drop over from laughter at the notion of preserving her mud hut. Too bad we con't have strong women like that around today! Instead we get the Karen Holmans and her crowd.

We deserve to have an accounting of the cost of this disaster to the taxpayers of Palo Alto. Karen Holman should be spotlighted to make sure that she announces the final number. Then let the lawsuits begin for cost recovery.


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Posted by Holman should resign
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:21 am

"the proliferation of monster Taco Bell mansions"
This happens every time this issue is discussed--people feel the need to denigrate someone else's home with a clearly derogatory label. In Palo Alto the definition of a "monster Taco bell mansion" is a home that does not meet your personal standards of taste. It has also become fashionable to attack those who seek to build a home that one does not like with names like "selfish", "elite",and "technozillionaire". It is clear that some people expect these homeowners to behave in a "civil" ammner, but see themsleves as exempt from these same rules
Regarding most of these homes--there are rules about building a home--size, setback, number of stories etc. If these rules are obeyed, I am not sure how much input a neighbor should have.

"Those that decry historical preservation don't realize that what they do affects their neighbors with issues as diverse as daylighting, privacy, and parking. "
Once again we are mixing up two distinct issues--historical preservation with what neighbors want. The real conundrum is how do we balance the two--property rights vs what the neighbors want. Is it a belief in Palo Alto that if you buy/build a home and it has certain levels of privacy, parking, sunlight etc that those rights are guranteed forever--in other words everyone else has to conform to your desires? How to deal with this issue?

"we just bulldoze downtown Palo Alto, lose the historical character, and make it look like Sunnyvale?"
What is special about Downtown PA? The Cheesecake Factory, the Apple Store, the Walgreens?


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Posted by Residents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

I am sorry we are to lose the Juana Briones house. We need to look at how easy it is to game the system. All you have to do is allow your historic property to rot and you will then be able to demolish it. People are for property rights until they are harmed by them.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:34 am

"We need to look more like Everywhere, USA, and we need to pay taxes accordingly since there will be nothing distinctive about Palo Alto."

--no, Palo Alto will NEVER look like Everywhere as long as people like you who thinks your preference trumps property rights still live in this area!!


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Posted by Millie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

Some of the Taco Bell McMansions deserve to be denigrated. We get visitors who are aghast at their tastelessness. It's amusing to visit open houses and see the geniuses who design -- and buy -- huge houses set on tiny lots separated from their neighbors by only a driveway.

One of the funniest features was a huge floor-to-ceiling window wall fronting the staircase and upstairs hall. The owners had to get dressed before going downstairs for coffee unless they wanted to give their neighbors a show.

Did they think they had 5 acres in some bucolic setting??

No, we don't need a tourism coordinator at $200,000 to promote Anywhere, USA.

PS: Briones' politics have nothing to do with this unless you're so brain-washed you've forgotten that other historic figures like authors and robber barons also had notable houses.


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Posted by PAMom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

Where are the historical sites for local school kids to visit? My children very much enjoyed visiting the Sanchez adobe in Pacifica.
Web Link
The building didn't look like much, but it was a similar historic site, that they restored somewhat and had various stations candlemakiing, cattle roping etc for kids to learn about life in early CA. Please dont suggest that we celebrate Taco Bell, Compadres or Chevys as repreenting early California history so someone can bulid a nice mcmansion in the eucalyptus grove.

If some of the people on this board can point to a site like the Sanchez adobe near Palo Alto, and why they are so eager to support the owners in tearing down this site. In glancing outside, it looks like there are other vacant parcels. In reading the case it looks like the owners got a read on the property limitations from their attorney and went ahead and purchased anyway, so why are so many on this board feeling sorry for them?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

Residents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood says "We need to look at how easy it is to game the system. "

--That's the only thing I agreed with you out of your entire comments. We need to change the system to impose financial liability on "Friends" group. They have costed city and the property owner financially big time in this case! They need to pay!!


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Posted by Holman should resign
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

Millie:

"Some of the Taco Bell McMansions deserve to be denigrated."
So, what you are saying if you do not like the appearance of a home, it is okay to denigrate it. You see no problem with that?

"We get visitors who are aghast at their tastelessness."
And I bet you we could find people who like their appearance. So all of your visitors are taken on a tour by you to see these homes that you personally disapprove of?

"It's amusing to visit open houses and see the geniuses who design -- and buy -- huge houses set on tiny lots separated from their neighbors by only a driveway. "
Where are these home? I would like to know? I thought that the city had rules for size per lot and for setbacks. Sounds to me like your comment is a gross exaggeration.

"One of the funniest features was a huge floor-to-ceiling window wall fronting the staircase and upstairs hall. The owners had to get dressed before going downstairs for coffee unless they wanted to give their neighbors a show."
You have issues, with people's homes. They chose to build that way, they apparently have no problem with it, but yet you object..
Where is this home,c an you give us an address so we can see if itis real.


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Posted by To the preservationists
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

To the preservationists:

Times change. Communities evolve. I'm betting most who want to preserve this house enjoy modern conveniences - automobiles, gas heaters, etc. - and are even using electrons to power the computers used to comment on this article.

Palo Alto and all communities cannot become an isolated oasis of a period of history. Imagine the house in question in the 1840s time frame. There would be acre upon acre of surrounding, tranquil farmland. Horse and buggy would be the primary form of transportation.

Through the years, surrounding plots of land have been divided once and again. Roads have been laid. Gas and electricity conduits run. The community has grown from the hundreds to the thousands to the tens of thousands.

How should we preserve this house? By trying to capture the area circa 1840? 1930?

We're left with a dilapidated shack of purported limited historical significance. I'm all for preservation when it matters and would lead to community improvement. Take for example Wunderlich Park and the Folger's estate in Woodside. It's full of charm and character, and it provides at tremendous resource for hikers and horse riders alike.

My advice would be to figure out what the 'character of Palo Alto' (or Menlo Park, in my case) means to you in the context of the modern age. For me, it would be the avoidance of high density housing. The requirement for a certain minimum plot size for homes (7000-10000 sqft). A cap on building height - 2-3 stories for homes, and 3-5 for offices. A downtown similar to the current Santa Cruz Avenue. The continuation of the heritage tree laws. I could go on, but in the end, I'm looking for a less cramped, established (eg mature vegetation and shade abound), suburban community feel.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:56 am

"We get visitors who are aghast at their tastelessness. It's amusing to visit open houses and see the geniuses who design -- and buy -- huge houses set on tiny lots separated from their neighbors by only a driveway."

--wow, Millie, you must have had good laughs with your visitors while looking at other people's ugly, distasteful house and feel so good about yourself. You got a good life.


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Posted by great new!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by TaxiManSteve
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Our nouveau riche ruling classes leading our country into a well-deserved decline...

Once we were great... Now we don't even respect the history of those that came before us.

Me! Me! Me! It's all about Me! the nouveau riche hollared... Like dogs barking at trucks passing on the highway at night... signifying nothing.

Steven Lindsey
state rep
Keene, NH


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Posted by Jay Gatsby
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Tis better to be nouveau than to never be riche at all!!

Ah, the sound of dozers and clearcutting can be heard throughout Palo alto. Too bad all the little people cannot afford a 20000 square foot house with media room, wine cellar, infinity pool and motor court. Why hate those who can buy what they want when they want it and tear down your dilapidated "historic monstrosities" ?


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm

"In reading the case it looks like the owners got a read on the property limitations from their attorney and went ahead and purchased anyway, so why are so many on this board feeling sorry for them?"

PAMom, you need to look at the case with a critical eye.

The original pounded earth mud adobe was built sometime in the period of the 1840s, although there is no established fact on the actual time. The two sidewings were added much later, in the early 1900s. Juana Briones was dead, when these two side wings were added, and these two wings were built of wood. These two side wings are cleary not imbued with Juana Briones' DNA.

The current owners offered to make an honest effort to retain the orignal mud structure, and to replace the side wings with a structure that reflected the period (California Spanish/Mexican style). I see no reaosn to believe that the current owners acted in bad faith.

The bad faith in this case belongs to the extortionist demands of the Juana Briones women's support group, which appears to exist, primarily, to push gender identity politics.

There are a number of local adobe historical sites, including San Juan Batista, San Jose Mission, Carmel Mission, Soledad Mission, San Francisco Mission, Boranda Adobe (Salinas), and several more. Our local school kids are much more interested in I-PODS, but their fourth grade classes typically take them on a field trip to visit such mud-age artifacts.

If I happended to be the owner of this property, which I am not, I would sue everybody who unjustifiably persecuted me.


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Posted by Joyce
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I totally agree with "T Tierney, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood".

If you knew you are buying a pig don't ask for why isn't it an elephant.

It's so nice to see historical buildings. This one is from 1840s. You folks should go to North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and learn a lesson how well they have preserved those 16th and 17th century plantation homes.

For some reason I get a feeling that California is full of fools running around with Gold rush or Silicon rush in their blood :-(.

Wake-up smell few <miro> chips. Life is not all about money!! There are things more important.


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Posted by what was the tax deal?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Haven't waded thru all the info - but didn't these folks, by agreeing upfront to purchase and maintain a historic property, receive a property tax reduction??? What happens now.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Joyce says "For some reason I get a feeling that California is full of fools running around with Gold rush or Silicon rush in their blood :-(. "

Well, if you want to call people like Steve Jobs fool, then we all want to be fools.

What's wrong with working hard and making money? And are you using a computer and the internet to comment on this forum which is a direct result of the "silicon rush" you referred to? Funny, isn't it!


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

And Joyce also says "It's so nice to see historical buildings".

So the property owner should spend his money maintaining the house the way it was for YOU to see? Why does he want to do that for YOU?


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Posted by another reader
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Nobody forced Mr Nulman to buy that particular piece of land. He willingly signed on the dotted line. Perhaps he does not appreciate that the rest of the country is watching this case and hoping for the preservation of the adobe. And by rest of the country, we me mean non tech workers who want to get rich in silicon valley, so they can buy huge homes to show off their wealth.


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Posted by Holman should resign
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

"Perhaps he does not appreciate that the rest of the country is watching this case and hoping for the preservation of the adobe."
Good one. I bet you if you ask people outside of the Bay Area about the Briones house they will give you a blank stare


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

"Nobody forced Mr Nulman to buy that particular piece of land."

Well, tell me sth I don't know, did anyone tell you that no one but Mr Nulman can buy that property?

For you or other preservationists (some of you are very rich), you could have bought it if you have the good intention of PRESERVING it. So don't become a preservationist only when someone else became an owner of it.

"And by rest of the country, we me mean non tech workers who want to get rich in silicon valley, so they can buy huge homes to show off their wealth."

If buying a home which you can afford with your hard earned money is showing off your wealth, then your living in Greenmeadow--part of Palo Alto is showing off your wealth to the majority of the country.

Any by the way, many tech workers can't afford a house in PA.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm

When this thing is distilled to its essence, it is about a few women who wanted to push their own gender identity politics. It is NOT about Juana Briones and local history.

It is time to take identity politics to task. The most effective way to do it is to sue for damages in civil court. It is coming, believe me.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm

"When this thing is distilled to its essence, it is about a few women who wanted to push their own gender identity politics."

Who are these women? Time to reveal their identity. So many city resources have been devoted to this mess. We as taxpayers deserve to know.


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Posted by humored neighbor
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

definition of a "Conservationist": someone who builds their house but won't let you build yours!


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Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Joyce, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood,
said "It's so nice to see historical buildings. This one is from 1840s. You folks should go to North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and learn a lesson how well they have preserved those 16th and 17th century plantation homes."

Have you seen the size of plantaion homes, as well as the beauty, doesn't really compare to what we are talking about here.

Palo Alto has a park on Arastradero dedicated to Juana Briones already. Maybe they should relocate the house there...


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm

""When this thing is distilled to its essence, it is about a few women who wanted to push their own gender identity politics."

Who are these women? Time to reveal their identity. So many city resources have been devoted to this mess. We as taxpayers deserve to know."

Just look at the following You-Tube video:

Web Link

It is essentially about womens's denied role in local history, focused through the lens of Juana Briones house mythology. Pay particular attention to Jeanne McDonnells's riff. Of course, Karen Holman leads the charge, from the beginning. See if you can find a single shout out in favor of private property rights (yon won't!). And don't miss the part about Mexican history via the mayor from EPA, even though Juana was the child of an imperial spanish empire that subjugated the indigenous peoples. BTW, Juana "bought" this rancho from a couple of "Indians"...care to guess how many beads she offered them? Or did she offer witch doctor medicine?

This entire sordid deal is a modern-day, self-serving political cause, derived from the identity politics of the the last few decades. If there is any history in it at all, it is modern self-serving history.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Hey Samuel, are you Jaim Zulman?
because you are answering every other post nonstop for 24 hours, about how the owner should sue and its all about gender politics, and how the owner plans to sue because he has been wronged..,
Hate much? If you look at the info on sites about Friends of Juana Briones, just as many men are in the group as women.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm

resident, no, I am not Jaim, and I do not know him, and I don't know any of his friends, and he does not have any connection with me, whatsoever. However, I can feel his pain, since he and his wife are victims of gender identity politics...and then ethnic identity politics.

If I put myself into Jaim's shoes I would sue, to recover costs and to establish a defense of private property rights. I might do it myself, as a class action.

The only thing I hate, in this case, is the egregious attempt to project identity politics against private property rights. Juana would be on my side.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm


A lot of us would give up if we are in this situation because we just don't have the energy and resources to deal with these preservationists. I am glad the owners of the Lincoln Ave property and this one were able to fight the long battles and prevail. I am sure a lot of people who commented on this thread in support of the owner agree with me on that.


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Posted by Briones Observer
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:46 am

HAHAHA!!! ENOUGH mud slinging!!


Pesky neighbors...they bought mud farm infested land to build THEIR houses on.... knowing that there was a MUD house still standing next door!!!


The people who have purchased the little mud hut probably purchased it with the idea that it was a "FIXER~UPPER". AND a tax break at that! Then deciding to upgrade. They should move~ not move history. Once that is gone, there is no going back. The history then would only be left in a few sparse pictures to show the local school kids ( At Juana Briones School in Barron Park) their history of this area.


Palo Alto should have purchased the Briones home years ago. Granted, it isn't such a showcase like nearby Winchester House or Rengstorff House, but this is OUR local history and it should be preserved. So should have the house on Addison Ave. that now is the famous HP garage startup.


History. It's ours. Let's not lose what can not be replaced. Sad the Stanford Mansion was not preserved. Or the Sharon Mansion on nearby Sand Hill road. (Anyone remember how beautiful that those mansions were?) Thankfully we have close by the Fioli Mansion that has been preserved.


Back to Juana Briones, the mother of Palo Alto Foothills..has an offer ever been presented to the present owners for the purchase of the property? Not just giving them tax breaks..actual blood money from the City?



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Posted by Not impressed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 29, 2010 at 8:37 am

"Palo Alto should have purchased the Briones home years ago."

Why should the tax payers of Palo Alto be expected to waste money on this tacky, dilapidated, termite ridden cottage? I'll be madder than hell if the City Council votes one penny for this deteriorated bunch of rotting timbers.

No, if Friends of Briones House want this useless structure, they should buy it and pay for it themselves.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

I am so so glad. I am so glad that in the beginning of the 2000's nobody bought a rusting old bell with a crack in it, purchased it and declared it to be rust infected and half broken and so with it to the foundry to be melted and made into another object.But not before a tax break was taken on its value...
So, I'm happy. Folks, you should rejoice. And go to Philadelphia. Maybe to understand what we became , when we assume ourselves to be a collection of individuals each of us with the notion that's ethical to do what we bloody well please with our old, rusty, falling apart, broken bells....


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Posted by go narnia
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

Narnia,

You've got a point. Please purchase the Briones House from the current owner. We are counting on you to save this piece of palo alto history!!


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm

It would be good if Karen Holman, who is on our city council, and who is in the lead to push the tsunami against private property rights, and who was just the one lone vote agaisnt the Old Palo Alto private property residental develpment, would come forward, of her own accord to demand a full acounting of the costs involved in the Juama Briones fiasco (on the city side).

That would show that Karen has political leadership, not just identity politics. After all, it was OUR money, as PA taxpayers, not her personal money.

Karen, will you take the lead on this fair and responsible request, on the part of Palo Alto citizens?


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Posted by lip service
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

All the preservationists, and those who supported them, e.g. narnia from Menlo park on this forum, are doing lip services only. When it comes to paying for the preservation, you CAN'T find them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jan
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I support Millie's perspective... (from this same chain of discussion)


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Lip service,
Please abstain from ad hominem comments. I am the owner of a townhouse in one of America's most historic neighborhoods. In that neighborhood you can't change anything on the outside walls of your house, nothing, not an iota. And if you buy there you know that you must respect the history of the neighborhood. It's the neighborhood that's historic, though most houses are not. They are just ordinary period houses. Some people change the interior an "glue " the old walls to the new house if they have to. They respect what they bought and the significance of not forgetting how we got where we are. Such townhouses are expensive to buy and maintain. But the owners know the fact that the ordinary tradespeople who build them are our collective past deserve respect for their role in the success of this country, Their houses are the physical expression of a period. That's why we preserve them as they are.
The founding fathers who walked the streets of my historic neighborhood were aware of property rights but they were even more aware of the power of collective endeavors and the need not to destroy the past as they marched onto the future.
Did the owners of the adobe house buy it intending to destroy it? I don't know.
If the city allows them to tear it down then they obviously can. But the Bill of rights, applies as much to them as to me. And so it's my right to state my opinion.


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Posted by Janet Gardiner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Anyone challenging the historical significance of Juana Briones--and her house--needs to read Stanford Professor Camarillo's research as a professional historian: go to brioneshouse.org/juanas_life.htm.

The Palo Alto city council should also have done this--long ago--and never have agreed to let the demolition go ahead (which is why the recent court decision is as it is).

At the very least, why could the city not have moved this house, restored it to its original state, and opened it to the public as an educational site? Mountain View did just that with the Rengstorff house.


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Posted by Sameul
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Janet,

Please try to do just a little bit of digging on our local history.

"Al Camarillo is widely regarded as one of the founding scholars in the field of Mexican American history and Chicano Studies." (this is from an official Stanford site).

He is a major driver of identiy (Latino) politics, if it suits his needs. His work on Juana Briones is full of holes. He maintains that Juana bought her rancho from a couple of Indians, but he does not mention what she paid for it, or what pressure she brought to force the sale. Since Spain, then Mexciso was a major imperialist exploiter of the orignal peoples in this area, who gives him the moral authority to make judgements about identiy politics?

Francis Drake was here long before the Spanish invasion of California. Should we automatically delcare private property along the coast of Califonia an hisotic site, or should we just put up a plaque denoting his arrival?

Don't forget the Russians. Yes, I know there is Ft. Ross, but there are also all those Spanish missions.

Juana Briones was part of the Spanish/Mexican land grant system, which followed in the footsteps of the disaserous (to the indigenous peoples) missions system.

Now we have Al Camarillo claiming that Juana was some kind of heroine. We don't need hagiography and victim status to understand that Juana was an opportunist, who exploited her opportunities. She also built a mud house. Then she (or her family) sold it. That is called the real estate market. End of story.


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Posted by Janet Gardiner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Samuel:

Local history should be explored and written according to the same standards (accurate presentation of evidence and reasoned assessment) as regional, national, or international history.

If you read Professor Camarillo's analyis (brioneshouse.org/juanas_life.htm), you will see that it's not to do with "identity politics" (your expression)--and it's not a hagiography. It's an evidence-based statement of who Juana Briones was and what she did, and it places her and her house into a historical context--one that has been neglected (a fact) until the historians of Professor Camarillo's generation.

You complain that the price Juana Briones paid for the property has not been specified: have you asked Professor Camarillo about that? Is that evidence in the archives, or did it get destroyed over the decades?

If Juana Briones did in fact exert pressure in order to make the purchase, then that should be included in a present-day account; again, you need to talk with the professional historian here.

Francis Drake didn't stay in California for more than a few weeks, and built no historical structure; therefore there is only a plaque to him. By contrast, the Russian presence (Fort Ross, as you said) and the Spanish presence (the Missions, as you said)were longer-lived and buildings remain; therefore those structures are denoted as historical sites.

For the same reasons, the Juana Briones house should be preserved.

Juana Briones MAY in some ways have been as much an opportunist as the Franciscans were (although the evidence for her life doesn't support that as an over-arching characterization of her), but that doesn't mean that she and her house aren't part of this region's history, or that we should obliterate any extant elements of that history.

And if you read Professor Camarillo's observations and research about the "mud house" (your words), you'll understand that its unusual mode of construction is another good reason for preservation.

To conclude that this whole issue is "the real estate market. End of story" strikes me as sadly reductive and shallowly presentist. Are we going to hand on to future generations little else but mansions and malls?


















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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Janet,

If you want to get a fix on Al Camarillo, you can look him up on You-Tube, as he pompously addresses a class of naive students at Stanford. It is the standard leftwing, connect the dots, identity politics nonsense. There is one where he makes fun of Sarah Palin, yet she is MUCH more accomplished than Juana Briones. And I don't even support Palin.

Juana Briones was an illiterate witch doctor opportunist, a daughter of imperial Spain. Did she have a kind heart? Maybe...at least while it was in her best interests to exploit her opportunities.

She had a mud house made for her out of pounded earth, between redwood planks. So what? Did she 'hire' Indians to do the pounding? If so, what did she pay them? Indians were pretty desperate in those days, and forced to do near-slave labor. I don't think she pounded it herself.

The hagiography of Juana Briones by Al Camarillo and various of his uncritical followers, is reason enough to cast doubt on the entire myth being sold to us. I doubt that she even deserves to have a local park named after her, but she certainly does not deserve to have private property rights violated in her name. I think she would agree with me, once she stopped laughing about the entire affair!


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Posted by Nan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Dear Samuel,

Juana Briones supported herself and her 10 children in an age where a majority of people (including, but not limited to, women) had no voting rights, and limited property rights. She was industrious enough to acquire a large property, and energetic enough to hold onto it through a long court battle once California became a territory of the United States. The beginnings of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley perhaps? I should think she would be one of your heroines!!

Cordially,

Nan


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Posted by Janet Gardiner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Samuel:

In response to your most recent comments:

1. You-Tube is hardly the only or the best way to assess the abilities of a historian--ask Stanford University, Professor Camarillo's employer.

2. There is historical evidence that Juana Briones was unable to read or write?

3. People who use herbs for healing are automatically witch doctors?

4. Relevance of quite who did the work of building the house?

5. Your opinion, thoughts, and doubts are all justified by the historical evidence?

6. The current owners of the Juana Briones house had no idea when they bought it that it was considered significant to local, regional, and state history?


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:11 am

Nan,

If it was Juan Briones, rathar that Juana, the women's identiy politics would evaporate, and that old mud house would have been long gone.

If it was Jane Williams, instead of Juana Briones, you would never have heard from Al Camarillo. He exists in the stew of Latino identiy politics. You wouldn't see the mayor of EPA anywhere near the place, either.

I wouldn't mind having a beer (or an herb brew) with Juana Briones. She sounds like an intersting gal. She would have a gas about the hagiography on her behalf! She probably wouldn't like the divisive identity politics, though. And I can only imagine that if an earthquake wrecked her mud house, she would have the common sense to move somewhere else and build or buy a new house.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:50 am

Janet,

Stanford history professors have a well-deserved reputation as leftwing revisionists. That OK by me, but I never take what they say as serious history, espeically if there is any political issue connected to their utterances. Al Camarillo is probably quite comfortable at Stanford.

I am not going to do your homework for you, Janet. Every fact that I have stated about Juana Briones is from the historical record. You can look it up.

The relevance of who built Juana's house, and what she paid a couple of Indians for it is that the indigenous people in California were the survivors of a holocaust brought to them by imperial Spain, then Mexico. Juana benefitted from this exploitation, and it is fair to ask about the degree to which she exploited her position. Of course, both you and I are still benefitting from this holocaust, so I am not one to hold moral sway over Juana...I just don't see that she should be seen as a moral icon. She sounds like a tough broad who got the job done, especially if it benefitted her.

The current owners of the house appear to have played by the rules, but the rules were shifted under their feet, AFTER they bought the property. You need to do your homework, Janet.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 11:28 am

Samuel,

You're implying that it is somehow insidious and conspiratorial to study women's history and the history of the Californios. Why is this not legitimate history, and what is, in your mind? Why shouldn't we hear from Al Camarillo? And I don't agree that this house would have been automatically torn down if there had been a Juan or a Jane there. After all, there are Peter Coutt's original buildings (many of them utilitarian, like the dairy barn, but modernized for current use) at Stanford, and the Greer house (now offices) and barn at PAMF. As for the house being "mud," that's part of history, too--ever seen a sod house on the prairie? Not very grand, but part of how we got here as a nation.

The Nulmans could have avoided this whole thing if they had gone about this purchase with some integrity. They bought this property with a Mills Act preservation contract on it that allowed them big property tax breaks for preserving the house. They saw an opportunity to buy at a below-market price, and then gamed the system. If they were so concerned that they didn't have the wherewithal to fix the structural problems of the house, they should have sold it to someone who could. If they'd spent the money on remodeling instead of lawyers, they'd have been finished years ago. And don't tell me that it was impossible to save; a good architect working with a good structural engineer who are both familiar with the historical building codes can work wonders. Somewhat more expensive to be sure, but that's what the tax breaks are for.

Nan


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Posted by Janet Gardiner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Samuel:

You mix academic studies with politics, you cite your opinions as if they were facts, and you don't answer any of my questions specifically or directly.

I submit that you are demonizing Juana Briones MUCH more than anyone is considering her to be "a moral icon" (your words).

Please understand that Juana Briones and her house need to be known about--their existence is a plain historical fact, whether or not we personally and individually approve of them. Our society needs to acknowledge and make accessible its history, not obliterate it if it's disapproved of. That would be revisionism.

As for the current owners' strategy, Nan's statement is accurate; yours is not.



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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Nan and Janet,

Please go back and read the link I provided on the legal case. Here it is again ( Web Link }. Until you have a grasp of the issues, there is little point in trying ot have a rational discussion.

Janet, have you actually read the history of Juana Briones, as I have?

My opinions are based on a reading of the history and the legal case. I can defend my opinions, can you?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA-oldtimer
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Once again Samuel, why are you so interested in this property that you would spend all weekend attacking other posters who want to save the building? You can have your opinion just as they can have theirs. The Nulmans were aware of the Mills Contract over the house, and went ahead and bought it anyway. The two chose spend 15 years battling the city over this issue, instead of moving on and getting another property, again thats their choice, you have your opinion as do they. It's a free country and we all have a right to disagree with you and your opinions as to the status of the house and who Juana Briones was.
Educate yourself and go up and take a look at the house sometime, and please come back and tell us why you are so personally involved with this issue if you are not the owner.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Oct 31, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Haha,PA-olertimer,

Samuel has stated that he was not the owner in a prior post. I think he told the truth. Think about it. The owner has spent 10+ years dealing with the city and the "friends" about this issue. He must be really tired of arguing with you guys again on the internet. If I were the owner, I would work on the next step to build the new house ASAP.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2010 at 4:25 pm

PA-oldtimer,

All you have to do is to read the legal summary, which I have provided twice on this thread. You would ralize how wrong you are about the facts. Take ten minutes and READ it! The we can discuss such things as the Mills Act.

I am interested in this issue, because I support private property rights. That's it. BTW, I wouldn't mind having a beer with Juana...she sounds pretty interesting to me!


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Posted by Nan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:29 pm

While the previous owners of the Briones property treated it badly, to be sure, the Nulmans took title to the property knowing its problems full well, and before receiving any assurance from the city that they would be able to do exactly as they wished. Those are the facts.

The Nulmans took the gamble with their eyes wide open, and cost the taxpayers plenty.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 9:08 am

It's not the fact the of who juana Briones was or wasn't. It's not the fact that that neighborhood is or isn't (it isn't) historic. It isn't because the house is or isn't beautiful. It's because the briones house is one of the very few examples of made-in-california structure of a specific historic period. After that house is GONE there aren't anymore in PA that can give us a sense of the different and successive times in California development. For those who do not care about our common history that might not relevant. But I find it quite philistine the argument that claims that the house is not historic, for the reasons stated above. I also find the wanting to make disappear one of the few local examples of hispanic historic living the Peninsula is a denial that it existed. And perhaps some people would welcome that.


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Posted by AgreeingwithNarnia
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

Narnia you hit the nail on the head. This straw horse discussion of "property rights" when the Nulmans went ahead and purchased, knowing full well what the property's limits were, is a red herring. Would these neocons be crying so loudly if the Nulmans went ahead and purchased some land used for hazmat storage, that had been fully disclosed at the time of purchase, and then the Nulmans sued for not being able to use the property? No, this is a thinly veiled ruse to root out any vestige of prior history or cultures on the peninsula. Yes go ahead, and tear it down to make the property just like the other faux tuscan mansions on the street.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I only wish there was this concern for preservation of Hangar One or for the Stilwell Hall, Fort Ord's Soldier's Club, with its 25 cent pitcher of beer, my sustenance through Basic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

"when the Nulmans went ahead and purchased, knowing full well what the property's limits were"

From the legal record, the Nulmans were fully compliant with the restrictions on their property. Once the Mill Act covenant had expired, as was allowed by law, they were free to develop their property. They appear to have followed the law. It is the "Friends" group who then brought a fraudulent CEQA challange (and who got the city of Palo Alto to spend tons of money to defend the action in court). The appleate court has ruled that the Nulmans were within their rights, and that the permit to demolish should be granted. It also left open the compensation of legal fees, charged to Palo Alto (us!).

I have no connection whatsoever with the Nulmans, but I would think that there will be more legal actions, once the mud house is demolished and a new house built, to sue for legal fees. The more CPA fights it, the more it will cost all of us taxpayers. It is time to apollgize to the Nulmans, and to cut our losses.

It is also time to learn the lesson that identiy politics can be VERY expensive. It is also time to learn that CEQA challenges can be disasterous to all parties.


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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Juana is up in Heavan tonight, rooting for the Giants, as well as the Nulmans. She likes those who fight for their own interests! Howver, she might not be too disapointed if the Series comes back Yerba Buena...more the better to buy her herbs! I LIKE her!

Now...if we can only honor Juana by being realistic about her own interests.

How 'bout dem Giants?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna Buchinski
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 3, 2010 at 1:20 am

To answer question about Jaime Nulman (with an N, not a Z). He did work at Applied Materials from early 90's to sometime around 2001 or so. Many people knew him there but it is a big company so I'm sure many who are there today don't remember him. And I agree, he and his wife knew EXACTLY what they were getting into when they bought the house. I also looked at purchasing it when it was on the market, and it was abundantly clear that the owners would be required to maintain the house with historical accuracy (and not bulldoze it). The Nulmans live in South Palo Alto ironically not far from Juana Briones Park.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Malfoy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 3, 2010 at 9:05 am

Who cares about the Juana Briones house and Shallow Alto history...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 3, 2010 at 10:05 pm

"he and his wife knew EXACTLY what they were getting into when they bought the house".

According to the legal record, they knew what they were getting into, and they fulfilled their part of the contract, which was controlled by the Mills Act, which they inhereted from the previous owner, but only to the extent that the 10 year period had not expired. Once the ten year period had expired, they were free to bulldoze the earthquake damaged mud house.

The victims in this case are the Nulmans. The perps are the "Friends" group, as well as the city of Palo Alto, which has misspent a large amount of our money trying to prevent the Nulmans from exercising their private property rights. This is a prime example of identiy politics gone wild.


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