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Juana Briones property up for sale

Original post made on Jun 1, 2012

The embattled property where Palo Alto pioneer rancher Juana Briones once built her home is up for sale for $5.3 million, following 13 years of lawsuits that ended in the home's demolition last year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 1, 2012, 5:35 PM

Comments (47)

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm

The article preserves the myth that in fact the demolished structure had any significant historic value. In fact it did not. The fanatics who made life miserable for the owners should be ashamed of themselves.


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Posted by T Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm

The couple bought that house knowing the restriction forbidding demolition — I saw the disclosures myself and thought they were too onerous to buy. For them to buy the house with the idea of turning a quick buck by trying to dodge the legal requirements gets no sympathy from me.


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Posted by paloaltotreewatch
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Howard -
doesn't the fact that the building dated from 1840 give it historic value in its own right?
How many other structures in this area are even half that old?


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 5:57 am

I'm afraid that Howard is one of those people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Build, build, build everywhere, demolish, demolish, cut down all the trees, drill baby drill.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

I've always thought it shameful that the two owners charged Palo Alto Stanford Heritage $30,000 for part of the adobe wall.


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Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

I can understand their point of view. This was a tough one - no winners in my opinion.


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

>I've always thought it shameful that the two owners charged Palo Alto Stanford Heritage $30,000 for part of the adobe wall.

Given the ordeal that these private property owners were forced to go through, I would have charged PAST even more for that piece of mud.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

If the city, or Friends, or whomever wants to preserve the property, they should buy it.


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Posted by yet another resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

So, these property owners went through an ordeal. Why did they do it? Obviously, not to have a house they could live in, as they are now selling as soon as the property is clear. As usual, it's $$$ behind this. They bought a historic home on a gorgeous large lot, knowing full well it was considered historic, jumped through all the hoops they had to in order to knock it down, and now the empty lot is worth quite a bit more because it no longer has that pesky historic status attached to it.

Sigh.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Marie is a registered user.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The most recent assessment was only 1.144K - meaning they are asking for a $4M+ profit for breaking the covenants on this historic property when they purchased it. Legal - apparently yes. Ethical, no.


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Posted by No thanks, Marie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 5:56 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You write with no basis of understanding of fact, you have no clue about what has or has not happened to the couple who own the property now, you have no idea why the couple is now putting the property up for sale, you have no idea why or how the land was valued for the asking sale price,and you accuse them of being unethical.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

Actually, we have a pretty good idea why the couple is putting up the property for sale. It's called GREED.


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Posted by no thanks,Marie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

daniel, i am sure if you ever find a way to make some money, you will think you are just being "greedy".

Soooo much better to NOT try to make money, don't you agree?

I have no idea who this couple is, but I am getting extremely tired of the constant bashing of anyone who actually tries to make money on which, btw, they will pay taxes which ..btw...support the very programs that the leftists adore..the very leftists who accuse anyone who makes money of being "greedy", and want to tax them even more or in some way punish them by making their lives he** while they try to make money.



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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

During the time they owned the property and home, didn't they get greatly reduced property tax assessment on some sort of basis that it was historic and the owner was agreeing to preserve this historic property -- so they had a real bargain compared to the REST of us who are taxed to the hilt -- therefore, those who mock and say it was NOT historic or worth anything are not in agreement with whoever makes that judgement. Was it Santa Clara County Assessor's Office? Those of you who say it was "nothing" are therefore disagreeing with the Assessor? If it was some other legal government entity that had the power of making this designation, then I stand corrected.
Sounds like the owner is cashing in, all right.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Sounds like the owner is cashing in, all right."

What do you want - a Palo Alto ordinance that prohibits property owners from selling their property except at a loss?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Not sure why "peter carpenter, resident of atherton" is caustic in his comment. The poster made a fair point I think - if the owner took advantage of a loophole and cashed-in, then perhaps, yes, there should be an ordinance against that. Not sure who would disagree with that.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" if the owner took advantage of a loophole and cashed-in,"

Sheer speculation - and loopholes are simply provisions IN THE LAW not evasion of taxes. You don't like the loopholes then have them changed. Of course, none of you deduct your mortgage interest in computing your taxes do you?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Again, not sure why "peter carpenter" is so caustic - do you speak to people you know like this in person??

Of course, loopholes are provisions in the law. But by calling them loopholes, we suggest they are either mistakes or something overlooked, that could be corrected. We don't commend people for exploiting loopholes, especially if we think that doing so was specifically against the intent of the law.

I don't know the facts well enough in this case - it certainly is "speculation" - but I don't know why that makes the comment worthy of such a retort.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Calling speculation speculation is simply stating the truth - if you do not like the truth then perhaps it will go away by labeling it as caustic. If you don't want to be held accountable for your statements then don't make them. But since you made them anonymously then there is no accountability.

Are you suggesting that the mortgage interest deduction is a mistake or something overlooked? Or are loopholes just things that 'other people' use?

And what exactly is "caustic" about my question "What do you want - a Palo Alto ordinance that prohibits property owners from selling their property except at a loss?" And what is the answer to that question?


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Neighbor-your postings will probably be deleted. You are not allowed to say today another posters comments are revolting, caustic, rude or anything else that is not complimentary. That is the way things are at the weekly and in Palo alto-.only happy thoughts. And if you do not like it post somewhere else.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I just hope that neighbor has the courtesy to answer my questions.

I am not offended by having my remarks called caustic simply because I believe that no linguist would feel that the term caustic applied.


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Posted by ne
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Mr Carpenter, perhaps you will answer my question - do you talk to people you know like this in person?

I have never had someone I know respond to a comment of mine with something like "Sheer speculation." or "Wrong." as I saw you put on other post, or "What do you want - a Palo Alto ordinance that prohibits property owners from selling their property except at a loss?" That level of sarcasm and abruptness seem out of place in a constructive conversation. Along the the lines of Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain on the old SNL's if I am not dating myself too much.

You can make the same comments without the abrupt and confrontational (I'm right and you're wrong) tone. Who knows, we might both learn something.

Yes, those remarks seem caustic to me - as does your suggestion that I am just "labeling it" so to win an argument. The opposite - I am happy to be wrong on this argument and many others (I'm often wrong! no shame there), if we could have a more constructive tone that did not drive people (like me) away from the discussion.

In answer to your questions - I don't really have much of an opinion about mortgage interest deductions, I'm afraid. Mine is phased out by AMT, I believe ;-), as it is with many of the upper-middle income bracket. And I take your comment about a Palo Alto ordinance as rhetorical sarcasm, not requiring a response.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I take your comment about a Palo Alto ordinance as rhetorical sarcasm, not requiring a response."

Yet you state "by calling them loopholes, we suggest they are either mistakes or something overlooked, that could be corrected" - how do you propose to correct these mistakes? By an ordinance - that was my question.

I am sorry if you cannot engage in a discussion without resorting to name calling - just answer the question and move on.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I have never had someone I know respond to a comment of mine with something like "Sheer speculation." or "Wrong."

You have lead a very sheltered life if you if no one has ever challenged your erroneous statements and your undocumented speculations. It is time that you be held accountable for what you say.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Yes, mistakes or oversights in laws would be fixed by amending the laws. That seems obvious, so maybe you are asking a different question?

Do you want to answer the question I've asked a couple times - would you address someone you know like this in person? "Just answer the question and move on" - again, I personally can't imagine saying that to a friend or even an enemy in person, except perhaps in anger (and then would later regret it). How can we have a constructive discussion treating one another that way?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Sorry Mr. Carpenter, I did not see your last post before posting mine.

No, my life is not very sheltered - I have an active life in business, politics, and the community. I have encountered a handful of people with that kind of jarring and caustic approach, but they tend to do so primarily through lawyers, or over the phone, or some other way than in person. I have not found anyone (other than litigation attorneys) who does it in person, which is why I inquired. You actually did not answer my question, by the way - do you treat people you know like this in person?

I usually find there is something useful or productive in what most people say, and I try to find it and build on it. Most discussions are not zero sum, and my goal is to learn something and impart something. I find most people think the same.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"would you address someone you know like this in person? "Just answer the question and move on"

Of course. Intelligent discourse is not a tea party but a straightforward exchange.

You have belatedly admitted that you would change the property law to prohibit a sale that resulted in a profit. Since that is the operational definition of communism I emphatically disagree with your position. Or would you prefer me to say Dear Neighbor your position is very commendable but I beg to differ?

Remember that you began this entire discussion by stating "Sounds like the owner is cashing in, all right." How rude of you.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Mr. Carpenter, you are something, no doubt about that. Perhaps you missed your calling as a litigator. But I'm looking for constructive discussion, not just argument, and word twisting and sarcasm won't get us far. I'll guess I'll look elsewhere. Good luck with "holding people accountable."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Remember that you began this entire discussion by stating "Sounds like the owner is cashing in, all right." How rude of you.

Or would you prefer I say Dear Neighbor your groundless and thoughtless comment about your neighbor cashing in was an allegation without verification and very naughty - you should be so ashamed.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Actually that was another poster who wrote that (I'm from Evergreen Park, the other was from "another Palo Alto neighborhood"), Mr. Carpenter, but I'm sure it makes no difference. Enjoy your toxic stew!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

All these posters running around with the same anonymous name certainly confuses the situation and cleverly avoids any accountability. What are they trying to hide?


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm

We have a very nice neighborhood, including a public park that is almost like a private glen. We don't need a magnet for tourists and school children to visit a mut hut. Go to PAST if you want to visit a mud wall.


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Posted by James
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

There are certain structures that are deemed worth preserving for the best interest of society at large. Voters and legislators have passed tax laws that provide tax benefits to reward the preservation of these historic structures. It is legal and ethical to take advantage of these tax benefits. However, it is morally questionable to take advantage of the tax benefits that reward preservation and then demolish the historic structure.

A rational property owner should not expect the maximum profit that the market will bear if the property owner has chosen to accept tax breaks in exchange for preserving a structure. They are receiving something of value for giving up something of value.

There's a difference between what is legal and what is moral.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2012 at 7:49 am

"No thanks Marie"a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood,
"I have no idea who this couple is, but I am getting extremely tired of the constant bashing of anyone who actually tries to make money on which, btw, they will pay taxes which ..btw...support the very programs that the leftists adore.."
Yeah, like a trillion dollar a year military and wars of choice in distant parts of the world, those are the programs "leftists" really adore..


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Posted by Old Town Paly Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

So very sad that the history and heritage were not viewed as something that should have been preserved...THAT is the bottom line...if the courts would have upheld the first decision the building would still be standing and history could have been preserved. I hope someone who appreciates the land is able to buy it.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:46 am

I continue to be always amazed at how strident people can be in their opinions of others who legally make a profit in their business or personal lives. And if it is legal, then it is immoral.

Live and let live folks.


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Posted by What you might not know...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

You who are critical here are all so awful. These people were delayed in costly legal battles because a group of zealots who didn't agree with what the courts had determined. There was no one who ever indicated they were willing to come forward to purchase the property, save this structure and give it to the city. That is the fact.

There are other personal issues which are effecting this family's ability to move any further forward and they are just trying to recover and move on. Leave them alone - it's really enough.


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Posted by area resident
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:08 am

I followed this story, and now to read that the property is being sold after all is so so sad - the house was demolished for naught :(


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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thanks so much, Palo Alto, for continuing to do everything possible to wipe out any residual homesickness I might have after moving from Palo Alto a few years ago. I really appreciate all your considerable efforts on my behalf.


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Posted by lives near owners of property
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm

The lot should be used for low income housing, or at least part of the large lot, it's near a bus line.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hi litebug -- I've been here over half a century and we've always had our share of opinionated argumentative people. Or was it specifically the Juana Briones House for which you were homesick? Or the bowling alley? Rickey's Swiss Chalet? The Varsity? Piers Dairy? Ok, now I'm getting homesick.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Thanks you James for so clearly stating the difference between moral and legal. I agree completely.


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Posted by NM
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Everyone of you is wrong. This couple that you think is greedy had good intentions when they bought the property. They where going to make it a public museum. However, the City of Palo Alto and the Historic Preservation demanded to furnish the house the way Juana Briones had it furnished. They couldn't find the authentic pieces. And then building was condemned because of the 1989 earthquake. It took the couple 10 years of fighting in court. Easy for you to sit back and be a critic of others. Also, is it a crime to have a free choice to do what ever a person wants with their own property?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Everyone of you is wrong."

Not everyone - read ALL the postings. A number of us supported the owners.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 5, 2012 at 8:34 am

It seems that this house was worth saving only if Palo Alto could force the property owner to pay for its restoration. Where was the monetary support from the community to preserve this "very important" building? Are old houses only important if somebody else has to pay for maintaining them?


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Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm

I THINK Its sad when people refer to her home as a mud wall. I wonder how many people leaving comments know anything about the original owner and her life WITH OUT looking it up before you post. Just because it is not your history does make it of lesser value. I was sadden to see the home destroyed. I was happy to see it before this happen and also the exhibit of the wall is a real tribute to the Briones family. If all you see is a mud wall then I feel sorry for you. She was an amazing woman in her time and I am thrilled that if anything this is making people more aware of her history , her life. It's about time it is just a shame a part of history was destroyed out of greed.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2014 at 12:03 am

Jim Steinmetz of Recycled Lumber received part of the structure as partial payment for recycle and deconstruction of the house. Jim sold it to
PAST. As being part of the recycle process I personally witnessed what was left of the Mud Wall. It appeared to me that there was lumber inside the wall that was mechanically cut. It seems odd to me that this was possible in 1840.

Just my opinion.


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