The Fake 'Exclusive' on Steve Jobs' House

Steve Jobs's new home plans turn out to be fakeBillionaire mansions come and go, but those of America's technology kings have a unique hold on the imagination -- so much so that hungry tech blogs can easily speculate on the real estate follies of the tech gods, regardless of the reality.

Take, for example, Gizmodo's"Exclusive: The Plans for Steve Jobs' New House."

Nearly everyone knows that in August, after almost a decade of delays, the Apple CEO was finally granted a demolition permit to tear down the now-dilapidated 1920s Woodside, Calif. estate of copper magnate Daniel C. Jackling, where he plans to build his own house. On Tuesday, Gizmodo released what it said were exclusive blueprints of the mansion.

There's just one problem: The plans that the site chose to show (see below) were scanned from Woodside's June 2009 Town Council Agenda, and were for the sole use of estimating the environmental costs of various demolition alternatives for the Jackling House.

Designed by famed California architect George Washington Smith, the 17,250-square-foot, 14-bedroom Jackling House was once a pristine gem of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Jobs bought the six-acre property in 1983 at the tender age of 29, with the explicit intention of tearing it down. "[It's] one of the biggest abominations of a house I've ever seen,'' he was quoted as saying in The New York Times in 2004, when he first applied for a demolition permit. The house was ''poorly built. It was never really a very interesting house to start with, so I think I could build something far, far nicer and far more historically interesting down the road."

Although Jobs was granted that demolition permit, local preservationists and fans of George Washington Smith fought back. While Jobs' representatives pressed his case to the Woodside Town Council, groups such as Friends of the Jackling House protested. The documents that Gizmodo copied date from 2006, and were presented as part of a 2009 cost estimation of the environmental impact of various demolition scenarios -- hardly an exclusive look at Jobs' future residence.

"Mr. Jobs' representatives haven't submitted anything in years," says Susan George, Woodside's town manager. "This looks like a rehash with a bunch of assumptions added to it." The plans were prepared to show how "someone could take this house and essentially bring it up to modern standards without denigrating the original," she says.

Now that Jobs has been given the go-ahead to demolish the house, she says, "That's not going to happen. You know that, right?"

No doubt, those hungry for a few morsels about the new house Jobs may build will find their curiosity whetted by the drawings. If you've ever been in an Apple
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store, you'll appreciate that the plans were authored by the firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, architects of many Apple retail outlets. The plans say that Jobs' new house will be a modest 4,910 square feet -- a third of the size of the Jackling House, with just five bedrooms and a simple three-car garage. And while the plans suggest that there will be plenty of windows and decks (no doubt furnished with the dappled glass and bleached woods plentiful in Apple stores), they are far more explicit about how Jobs will landscape the property and protect the local flora and fauna than what the house will look like or contain -- just what you'd expect from a dated environmental impact analysis.

You can't blame Gizmodo for trying. After all, who can forget Jobs' neighbor and friend, Larry Ellison, and his 8,000-square-foot pseudo-Japanese estate, replete with two wings, guest home, three cottages, five-acre lake, two waterfalls and two bridges?

And what about Bill Gates's 66,000-square-foot mansion, so gigantic that its 2009 property taxes were reported to be $1.063 million on a total assessed value of $147.5 million? Nicknamed "Xanadu 2.0," Gates' home is supposedly the test case for the Microsoft future, featuring a Windows server that adjusts temperature, music, and lighting based on guests' preferences. (No word on whether it runs XP or Windows 7.)

While this suggests that Jobs' home may not be as grand as these, it will undoubtedly be the standard bearer of all Apple goodness. But when that will be is anyone's guess.

According to Woodside's town manager, it will be at least another 60 to 90 days and possibly a year before Jobs' team even completes the process to get a demolition date on the books. And there is much to be done, including figuring out how to ship off whatever architectural gems are to be salvaged to the town of Woodside, the San Mateo Historical Society and the George Washington Smith collection at UC Santa Barbara.

"Some people in town are sorry that it's going to be taken down," says George, "but frankly most people don't care."

Most people, she might have said, but not the editors of Gizmodo. They may have had other kinds of payback on their mind.

With reporting by Stefanos Chen

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The "Landscape Description" reads, in part: "The landscape plan is viewed as a land stewardship and restoration project. The primary goals of the design are to preserve the existing trees and plants on the site, and to provide new native trees and plants for the screening of new structures and for the re-vegetation of the areas of structures and paving being removed."

First Floor Plan

Roof Plans

Site Development Plan

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