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sad news about Briones house

Original post made by joyce, Crescent Park, on Mar 9, 2007

Sad news about the Briones house. The owners should be shunned by any responsible person.

Comments (37)

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2007 at 6:13 am

So what is the actual news--you posted no link.
But if it means that it will finally be torn down and the owners will be allowed to do with the land what the wish, then I applaud the news.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2007 at 8:03 am

OK, if you support letting them tear the house down, then my understanding is the property owners should make payment to the government (presumably the County) because they were given a tax reduction at time of purchase of the property because there was a known historic structure on that property that was supposed to be maintained. There is some sort of special financial arrangement that occurs when a historic property is involved. I recall hearing that Juana Briones was a major figure around here, if you're interested in history.

Posted by Random Reader
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2007 at 8:33 am

Story here (Web Link

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2007 at 8:46 am

Thank goodness this is finally over. It is about time that eyesore was torn down. i noticed none of these preservationists offered to buy the house themselves--always better to control other people's property, while not having to use your own money.

Also note this item from the story:
"As part of the final court ruling, the city will have to pay the homeowners $313,119 in legal fees. "

Another waste of money due to the city of PA being lead around by the nose by "preservationists" and "everything is historic in PA fanatics".

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2007 at 11:26 am

That $313K legal fee, to be paid by the City, caught my eye, too. The City has plenty of money to throw around - why should we vote for a bond issue?

If I was the property owner, I would probably sue for punitive damages, in addition to legal fees.

Preservationists: If you want to preserve it, buy it!

Posted by Dave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:43 pm

You guys are right: the City always seems to find money for Quixotic lawsuits against private property owners or funds to pay off Enron for the bad choices they make in the market place. They've got lots of money to grant employees nice salaries and benefits every time the Union Contract is up for renewal. And they easily find money to pay for the City Manager's property taxes. They find $6 million to build a fancy tunnel under the railroad tracks that almost no one can use because they screwed up the traffic planning for it. They got wheelbarrow's full of cash for consultants on all sorts of subjects that they should be deciding themselves. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating why Utility Employees could steal from the city systematically for two years without being caught (and now some of the fired employees are back on the payroll.) The city has lotsa money when politicians want to galavant around the country telling others how good a job we do here in Palo Alto fighting global warming. They got money to spend on looking at putting fiber connections in our homes - even though nobody thinks many of us will voluntarily pay for them.

The City has all kind of money for cool stuff. But when it comes time to pay for stuff that cities usually do, like repairing streets, maintaining its infrastructure or building libraries...the coffers are empty. We need to tax ourselves some more for that boring infrastructure stuff - even though we aleady spend 1.5 to 2 times more per resident than most neighboring cities.

Yeah...ask me if I'll vote to give them more money when their tax paid consultants tell me how much we "need" a bond to pass...just ask me.

Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Well said Dave; you can also add to the list the Roth building that the city bought to preserve that - why didn't they also buy the Briones House?

Another $313,000 spent to satisfy a special interest, part of the "in crowd". I'm sure if the city had conducted a poll like they for the library & public safety building, versus listen to the special interest group, they would have saved alot of money.

Posted by theopaul
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Honestly, I like old buildings. I like ghost towns too. But were not livin' in Bodie folks. Lighten up. Let's move on with it. Find another bone to chew on, but I say that the owners should be treated with respect, llike anyone else.

Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 8:55 pm

I am for historic preservation, not mandated by the government, but rather voluntary, and encouraged by government incentives. The Palo Alto activists who pressed the issue on the Briones house were out in left field. Note in particular that the State Historic Preservation Board declared that there was no historic value to that property. The local activists essentially fabricated the historic significance, playing up on politically correct feminist and hispanic issues.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2007 at 9:10 pm

I don't know the house. Can anyone post a pic?


Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2007 at 5:48 am

There's info about the house here:

Owners got "an almost complete waiver of the property taxes" by agreeing that it was a historic structure subject to Mills Act provisions, then after years of tax benefits, went to court to demolish it.

The moral financial debt here is from the owners to the city, big time.

Why people who want to build McMansions buy historic properties to tear down is beyond me. It is either a deliberate vandalism or just a complete lack of values.

Posted by Open Mind
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2007 at 7:36 am

Well, if that's the case, as you say Trudy, perhpas we should hog tie these outlaws afterall.
Thanks for the lowdown about how low down some of these folks can be. Perhaps they are desrerving of some healthy ostracization after all

Posted by IMHO
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:16 am

It seems the Briones house owners have been up to a lot of serious mischief.:

Web Link

"In 1988, the City of Palo Alto and former owner Susan Berthiaume contracted for preservation under the Mills Act, but in the following year the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 damaged the adobe walls central to the building. A later property owner, Dr. Daniel Meub, made illegal alterations to the Craftsman style wings which seriously compromised their historic integrity, and in 1996 the Palo Alto Building Official banned occupancy because of its deterioration and unpermitted alterations. Since acquiring the property in 1997, the current owners (Jaim Nulman and Avelyn Welczer) had left the home in a deteriorated condition and ultimately sued the City to allow them to demolish it. Palo Alto countersued to enforce the historic preservation duties under the Mills Act Contract."

They must have some friends in high places to get away with this nonsense.

Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:39 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 10, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Here is a breakdown of the 6th Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal:

Web Link

5 of 7 justices are Republican appointees except for 2 Gray Davis appointees (Justices Rushing and McAdams).

Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 10, 2007 at 5:38 pm

According to, Nulman and Welczer understood the "significance of the property and the ramifications of the Mills Act Contract".

And yet they purchased the house anyway and left it in a deteriorated condition since 1997.

To buy a home and not live in it for 10 years would be impossible for most citizens. It seems these two have some extra resources, including enough money to hire one or more attorneys who could help them navigate around the Mills Act. My guess is these attorneys knew full well that the statute of limitations would eventually run out, all legal expenses would be reimbursed by Palo Alto, and the house would be demolished.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Here's more from

Web Link

"Mr. Jaim Nulman and Ms. Avelyn Welczer purchased the historic house from previous owners, after holding an option for several months during which time they made a thorough investigation of the history and significance of the property and the ramifications of the Mills Act Contract. That Contract is a state property protection plan that gives owners an almost complete waiver of property taxes in exchange for maintenance of the historic property and opening the facility to public tours 20 days a year. The Nulman/Welczers never moved into the house, and the house has remained vacant from 1997 to the present.

Mr. Nulman and Ms. Welczer met with the Palo Alto City Staff, the Historic Resources Board, and contacted the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) before purchasing the property in 1997. Soon thereafter, they requested a demolition permit from the City, and when the City denied the permit, the owners sued the City. The City countersued the owners to enforce the Mills Act Contract. Mr. Kent Mitchell of Mitchell and Herzog has represented the owners in this lawsuit."

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Let me see... If I read it correctly, Nulman and Welczer identified a potential abuse of Mills act, and a business opportunity associated with the Briones house. They purchased the property and attempted to take advantage of the opportunity. City of Palo Alto dug in its heels and opposed them for years, despite the rather obvious weakness of Palo Alto legal case. Now that Palo Alto lost, Just Sayin' is trying to whip public anger against them, rather than admit that Palo Alto erred in their bone-headed but politically correct posturing. Did I miss anything here?

While at that, what is the relevance of the fact that most of Calif. supreme court was appointed by republican governors? Are you trying to point out the stupidity of California public for selecting republicans for governors, or are you implying that the governors should have not filled vacancies while in office? Just curious.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Yes, the City seems to have a lot of frittering money. Just received the March, 2007 "City Pages. Every bit of this publication has either been in the press or could be.It could be an ad in the Daily or Weekly. This costs money to put together and mail, and at least one councilmember spoke against its continuation when running for a seat in the last election. Take a look at the bottom of Page 3 - "Coming Up! The City's New Webs Site". I remember seeing something for that on the Council Consent Calender for $250,000.

Posted by Just Sayin\'
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 10, 2007 at 8:31 pm


Are you suggesting Nulman and Welczer, consulted with attorneys BEFORE purchasing the Briones house, and, on advice of those attorneys, were confident the Briones house could be torn down?


Now we've identified more opportunistic vermin, this time it's attorneys who go wild charging up $275,000 in legal fees, knowing full well Palo Alto has no choice but to fight, lose, pay all legal fees, and the house is toast. Cha-Ching.

And be sure to check out the whitewash job Kristina Peterson [Palo Alto Daily News] did [portion removed by Palo Alto Online]:

Web Link

With reporting like this, no wonder this happened.

And also, if anyone can provide links to the names of these attorneys, it would be appreciated.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2007 at 1:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 11, 2007 at 2:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by other options
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2007 at 2:34 pm

OK, so the house is going to be demolished. If it really is worth preserving, has there been any consideration to moving the house? Has anyone offered the current owners that option rather than having it demolished? If land is an issue, maybe it could be placed on public land such as foothills and used as an information center.

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 12, 2007 at 7:20 pm

It's over--the preservationists and "everything in Palo Alto is historic crowd" had their chance to buy the property and do with it what they want--instead they preferred to try to control the house without investing a dime--typical of our local historical buffs (what's mine is mine and what is someone else's is mine also if we deem it historic).
Tear it to the ground ASAP.

Posted by princess
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2007 at 10:39 am

Jaim Nulman and his spouse purchased that land knowing of the restrictions. In typical Jaim Nulman dishonest fashion, he thought he could cheat after the fact, in order to get what he wanted, without regard for how his actions might affect others. Typical Nulman. He should be shunned for his lack of respect and honor.

Posted by wishing they'd leave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2007 at 10:55 am

In answer to some of the noted questions regarding the owners:

- Yes, Nulman has lots of extra money to throw around. He "earned" it by stabbing people in the back at Applied Materials where he "worked".

- Nulman and Welczer are immigrants and do not care about the history of the U.S., only how to take advantage of what the country has to give to them.

- You can bet your boots they consulted attorneys with the specific intention of finding a loophole in the Mills act. It is the Nulman way.

- They will absolutely build a McMansion. The reason? To impress others.

Get to know these people and you will wish you hadn't.

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:11 am

The last two posts by Princess and Wishing They'd leave border on xenophobic and are full of innuendo and character assasination without providing any proof.
I suggest that if Princess and Wishing They'd leave are so concerned about the Briones house that they would sell their homes, raid their retirement accounts and pool their money together to buy the dump and do with it as they please.
Jaim Nulman is my hero

Posted by wishing they'd leave
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:21 am

dear what's news:

i suspect you may BE jaim nulman. he is no hero.

if nulman has enough money to hire attorneys who will help to destroy a piece of california history, why not spend the money to restore the property and help the visiting public to see and understande a local piece of history and go to live in some other area...there are so many! what is next? shall we tear down san juan bautista? the santa barbara mission? the legion of honor? build condos on half dome?

clearly nulman's interests lie only in himself, and have NEVER lain in the truth, concern for others, or in doing what is right. if you truly know this "man", you know what i'm talking aobut. and yes, i do truly know this man and wish i did not.

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:30 am

Wish they'd leave--please provide some proof for you outrageous allegations regarding Mr Nulman.
it sounds to me like it is sour grapes on your part--not unexpected here in PA--where there is a sizable contingent of "preservationists" who feel that they can control other people's property in the name of "historic preservation". You want to control property without having to make any financial investment. People like you as well as the city of PA had plenty of time to buy the dump over the years--they did not.
You lost in court and now it will be demolished--get over it.

Posted by wishing they'd leave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:34 am

yes, well, that certainly sounds like a reasonable response. good for you. do you teach your children to behave this way? seriously, you should be ashamed.

Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:47 am

Wishing they'd leave--do you teach your children to make outrageous allegations against people you do not like and then refuse to provide any proof when asked?
My opinion about the "preservationists" in PA was just that--an opinion.
Sorry it goes against your beliefs and therefore should not be expressed, according to your value system.

Why don;t you chain yourself to the front gate at the Briones dump and start a hunger strike.

Posted by Princess
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2007 at 11:51 am

Now, now. Let's take a higher road here Wishing They'd Leave and What's News. I think that, for some of us who have dealt with Jaim Nulman in the past, we believe his methods to be less than above board. Is there proof? Certainly. Is it sour grapes? Probably. That comes from dealing with somebody who is interested only in the legal "right" and not the moral "right".

That said, winning or losing in court will be the result of the court system determining what is "right". Unfortunately, it may not be the morally right thing.

It would be nice, if necessary, to move the "eyesore" (let's face it...the thing is really run down) and "historic landmark" to another location where, when restored, people can read about and see something of interest in local history.

Cheers to remembering and commemorating our history and living for the future.


Posted by What news?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Princess--thanks for a more balanced posting.
I have no problem with someone buying the home and having it moved.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2007 at 6:08 pm

An interesting discussion. Thanks Princess for helping all to raise the tone.

It is worth noting, as all know, that we do honor the memory of Briones with a school and park named after her in Barron Park.

Personally I think the memory of her role in history is more important than the homestead building itself - but obviously there are very involved issues surrounding the building.


Posted by Princess
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Good point Fred. How nice it would be to move the house (it does show some rather interesting building techniques peculiar to the era)to the park to be used as a small historical museum.

Posted by Rob D
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I've known Jaim for 18 years, though I haven't spoken with him in the last 7. He is a very determined man that will not be taken advantage of, but the attacks on his character here are completely unfounded. The "stabbing prople in the back at AMAT" coment sounds like petty jealousy to me.

Posted by ProBriones
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:10 pm

I think their behavior with respect to the Briones house is proof enough. I believe the people who say they have known him. I don't need more proof.
I agree with the person who said why do people buy a historic property and then demolish it? People with that much money can buy lots of different properties. But they are motivated to destroy as well as to build. And the sense of entitlement is out of control. yuk.

Posted by someone who reads
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

It's not "an old house" it is the "oldest house" house in the area. And when I say "area", I don't mean your little neighborhood. I mean a large chunk of the San Fransisco Peninsula.

This was the first house not only in Palo Alto but most of the cities which surround it.

I'd imagine the interest in history for the people who want this "eyesore" torn down does not extend back beyond the day they were born.

After the day you all eventually part from this world you will be forgotten while the Juana Briones house is a large part of the history of the bay area.

If Parisians had the attitude that you Americans do, Paris would would be a city filled with buildings no older than 30 years.

It's too bad that such historic monument which has lasted 170 years will be torn down by a couple of yuppies so they can erect some 5 bedroom boring house with a pool out back (which will just be torn down 30 years later so a new even more boring house can be built)

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