Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 27, 2011

News Digest

Palo Alto's oldest home coming down

The owner of the Juana Briones House has begun deconstructing the 166-year-old structure after 13 years of lawsuits that delayed its removal.

The 1844-1845 house, built by Palo Alto pioneer Juana Briones, contained remnants of a rare form of adobe architecture, of which there is only one other example in the state, according to architectural historians.

Juana Briones de Miranda was part of the California population of Spanish, Mexican and Native American descent. She was the daughter of members of the historic De Anza expedition into California in 1776 and became a prominent Palo Alto rancher, according to the Juana Briones Heritage Association.

The property at 4155 Old Adobe Road in the Palo Alto hills also contained a rock wall built by Native Americans that has been taken down as well, Kent Mitchell, attorney for property owners Jaim Nulman and Avelyn Welczer, said Wednesday (May 25).

Nulman, Welczer and the City of Palo Alto wrote conditions into the demolition permit after the first lawsuit with the city that allows preservationists and historians to salvage certain historical elements, including the rock wall.

Woodside-based Reusable Lumber, which specializes in historical sites, began work last Friday (May 20).

Clark Akatiff, a member of Friends of the Juana Briones House, said the group made a careful record of the home during a one-month window some years ago when they were allowed on the property.

He met with city officials and preservationists this week to discuss where to store the rock wall and a plaque.

Akatiff said the historic wall cribbing — a slat-style architecture into which adobe or dirt was poured to make walls — and other parts of the home might be made available to the group as the building is deconstructed.

Nulman and Welczer could not be reached for comment on whether they plan to build on the property.

VMWare plans massive expansion in Palo Alto

Palo Alto's information-technology giant VMWare is preparing to gobble up one of the largest and most lucrative research spaces in Palo Alto — a 1-million-square-foot property formerly occupied by pharmaceutical company Roche.

City Manager James Keene confirmed Wednesday night (May 25) that the deal is being finalized. The lease of the former Roche property, which makes up about 10 percent of the entire Stanford Research Park, would dramatically expand VMWare's presence in the bustling technological hub and allow it to nearly double its work force to about 6,000 employees, making it the largest employer in the city.

In the last few years, the Stanford Research Park has seen an infusion of hot, young companies such as Facebook, Skype, Tesla and Better Place. The park is also home to a long list of established industry titans, including HP, Varian Medical Systems and SAP.

—Gennady Sheyner

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