April 23, 2009

The ongoing controversy about the effort by Steve Jobs to build a new residence on the site of the historic Jackling Estate will take another turn on April 28th when the Town COWncil reconsiders the issue of demolition permit.

As we reported when the San Mateo Superior Court and the Appellate Court ruled against the Town and Steve Jobs with regard to the EIR for the demolition of the Jackling House, the issue for us is not so much whether the house should be demolished or saved but why the Town couldn’t do it right. Go here and here to see our 2 prior articles.

Hope Sullivan had recommended against the demolition, but both the Planning Commission and the Council approved the demolition permit. Maybe because they were not properly advised, the COWncil failed to adopt an EIR resolution with supportable findings. Although we weren’t surprised since we have pointed to the Town’s arbitrariness again and again, it is troubling when a Judge finds that our COWncil acted arbitrarily and capriciously and that they abused their discretion. Now the COWncil has an opportunity to do it right this time.

The new Planning Director makes no recommendation this time but the staff report gives a careful outline of the process. An EIR Addendum has been prepared making changes to the Final EIR to evaluate demolition of the existing Residence and construction of the new home; the Project objectives in light of the renewed application and plans for the new residence; and a new, more comprehensive restoration alternative; as well as assessing all of the alternatives in light of the comparative cost data of building the new home.

Staff advises COWncil to focus its deliberations on whether there are any viable alternatives that would avoid the significant impact, accomplish most of the Project objectives and be feasible to implement from an economic, legal and technological standpoint. Second, if there are no such alternatives and the COWncil wishes to approve the demolition permit, the COWncil should consider whether the Project has specific benefits that outweigh its significant unavoidable impact on the environment, thereby justifying adoption of a statement of overriding considerations.

Opponents of the demolition have asked that the matter be continued to give them more time to study the Addendum. We strongly suggest that COWncil give the opposition full opportunity to make its case and carefully consider if more information or analysis is needed. The decision is ultimately COWncil’s to make but the last go-round had a substantial cost to all of us in staff and attorney time even if Steve Jobs paid the over $400,000 attorney fee awarded to the Plaintiffs, Uphold Our Heritage. This time, hopefully the COWncil will proceed with care and thoughtful consideration.

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