Apple's Jobs can pursue apricot dream

Publication Date: Friday Aug 22, 1997

HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Apple's Jobs can pursue apricot dream

City will allow him to merge neighboring lot so he can tear down house, plant orchard

Thanks to a legal loophole, Steve Jobs, the Apple Computer co-founder and CEO of Pixar Animation Studios, has been granted initial permission to bring a slice of old Palo Alto to Old Palo Alto.

The Public Works Department issued a certificate of compliance Monday that will allow Jobs to combine his property on Waverley Street in Old Palo Alto with the neighboring lot at 440 Santa Rita Ave. that he purchased in May.

But Jobs only wants one house--his current medieval-revival mansion, which the city considers a "landmark" historic house. He plans to demolish the house on Santa Rita, a one-story Crafstman style bungalow built in 1928 that he reportedly bought for about $1 million. In its place, Jobs plans to plant apricots.

However, since the bungalow is also considered a "contributing" historic home, to demolish it the city's new historic regulations require it be replaced with an architecturally compatible structure. Jobs and his attorney have cleverly maneuvered around this minor bureaucratic obstacle by combining the lots. Since a single lot can only have one primary residence on it, that allows Jobs to offer his "landmark" home as the replacement structure.

To guard against the lot ever being resubdivided, the city required Jobs to place a restrictive covenant on the property to ensure that if he or any future owners want to build a new house on the site that it comply with the compatibility standards.

Debbie Cauble, senior assistant city attorney, said in a letter to Jobs's attorney, Jonathan Rattner, that in developing the city's interim regulations governing historic homes, city staff had not foreseen a situation in which a contributing structure would be torn down and not replaced.

Before Jobs can begin planting his apricot orchard, he will need to get a demolition permit, which can't be issued until the certificate of compliance is recorded in the city attorney's office. From there, it will take about two weeks for a demolition permit to be granted, a building department official said.

"It's at its very final stage," said Public Works Engineer Jim Harrington.

Harrington said that while property mergers are less common, particularly with today's land values, adjustments to property lines are routine.

"It happens everyday," he said.

However, it's unlikely he'll ever see another property owner clone Jobs' apricot plans.

--Elisabeth Traugott 

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