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Juana Briones house saved from demolition

Original post made on Jun 7, 2007

The historic Juana Briones house won't be torn down in two days. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Leslie Nichols today ordered a "stay" on a demolition permit that had been issued by the City of Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (30)

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Posted by Interested Outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:24 pm

I am so glad I am not part of the group in Palo Alto which is doing this to the owners of this house. They should be ashamed of themselves. Either buy the house from the owners and do what you want with it, or leave them alone. Harrasing them like this does not put you on the moral high ground. You lost, fair and square, it is time to accept it.

It will be interesting for you if you ever want to remodel your home, and your neighbors "object" and block you at every point.

Karma may come into play.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Outsider - as a Palo Altan, I couldn't agree more. If its so worthy of preservation, then pay the owners for it.


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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Why doesn't somebody come up with the money to move the "historic" house to a museum. Usually, there is money around to pay for this type of thing. Then the property owners can build a home and the neighbors can get rid of the eyesore. Just because something is old does not make it historic. Just because something is historic does not mean it should be kept. Just because something has some history attached to it does not make it important. If this eyesore is historic as some believe it to be, then they should move it to a museum where it can be enjoyed by those who are interested. In the environs where it stands, it is not suitable for a museum as who wants to live next door to a museum. What the neighborhood needs is a tasteful home with a family living and contributing to the neighborhood, not a derelict eyesore and not a living museum.


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Posted by Katie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:11 pm

The owners of the land where Juana Briones sits should just give the surrounding land and house to the city. It would save time and money.




It was a complete oversight of the city not to buy the property when it was for sale initially.



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Posted by umm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:15 pm

umm, didn't the current owners take a special tax break when they bought the place and agreed to preserve the historic house or portion thereof? How about returning the tax break and getting to do whatever they want with the house, if you are so sure the house holds no value?


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Posted by A resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:42 pm

This ruling amounts to the temporary confiscation of the Juana Briones house by the historical zealots, and the order means ever more fees for the attorneys as the fight goes on and on and on and on. The taxpayers of Palo Alto are the big losers.

This old house needs tearing down so we can all get some relief from the unwanted publicity it generates.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:45 pm


It's been over 10 years since the owners acquired the Briones house, and thus far they have never even bothered to move in.

I believe they never planned to live in it until it was torn down and rebuilt.

They are cheapskates.

Knowing all too well it was a local treasure, they snagged this desireable property for a song and planned to tear it down all along.

How many people can buy a million-dollar-plus house, blow thousands on court costs, and not move into the house for over 10 years?



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Posted by mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2007 at 8:52 am

To whom was the Briones house a local treasure? I would be surprised if you could get more than 50 votes in favor of spending more taxpayer's money on it.

Calling people cheapskates is rather small minded. And ascribing motives to people you probably never met is not constructive or helpful in settling the controversy.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:31 am

once again we have an example of a vocal minority in Palo Alto getting their way and in doing so forcing their opinions on others. the city has wasted enough time and money on this dump and now a group, that refuses to put together the money to buy the place and "save" it themselves, have forced the homeowners back into the court where they will have to fight once more for the right to deal with their property as they see fit.
One can only hope that a judge will soon rule in the homeowners favor so that this eyesore can be torn down, to I believe, the cheers of the majority of Palo Alto residents


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:47 am


mike:

I'm a great admirer of Juana Briones.

On many occasions she risked her life for the well-being of others and she was a great communitiy builder.

It's important Briones be remembered for all time.

What have the current owners done to distinguish themselves other than dishonor a great person's memory?

And for what?

It's all for a little bit of money.

Yuck!






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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:52 am

Marvin,

Don't cry for the owners.

They're in this for the long haul.

They KNEW it would be a battle to tear down the Briones home.

They planned for this, knowing they had enough money to live elsewhere, and that once they succeed, they'd score an unusually nice piece of real estate with adjoined to a protected green space, but fairly centrally located.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Wait a minute!

Web Link

Above is the whole story. After reading it, see if you think the current owners are responsible for the damage done by the prior owners and earthquake.

No, I don't know them and I have no stake in this. Just don't like to leap to conclusions, and this story just came into my radar.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:59 pm

The current owners and their attorney KNEW BEFORE PURCHASING the Briones home that it was earthquake damaged and required a lot of work to restore it.

That's why they got a 90% tax discount and an overall bargain price in the first place.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Some interesting points I pulled out from the above story (with my commentary added afterwards):

"The old adobe, built in the 1850s, is considered valuable to history because early California settler Juana Briones most likely lived there. Today, the structure is considered unsafe to inhabit, with a "Danger Keep Out" sign warning visitors away."

--So she may not have lived there--for all we know it is an old adobe dump.

"Preservationists and neighbors of the Briones house were happy to hear that the city decided to take action. Both groups have been concerned that, over the past year, broken windows and doors have not been repaired. The city contends that Nulman and Welczer have neglected the house, allowing it to slowly deteriorate."

--even back in 1999, the preservationists were not willing to put up the money to buy the house and solve the problems they saw with it--they let it deteriorate for the past 8 years with their "we want to control the property without owning it" mentality

"The owners dispute the home's historic significance in part because previous owners made an illegal addition to the house and because a city report by a former historic preservation architect for the city was unable to determine conclusively when the adobe portion was built, Mitchell said."

--so who knows what was built by whom and who actually lived there.

It seems to me that people in PA, for whatever reason, have a need to have "historic" structures in their midst. Maybe it is the mindset that if they live in the city, it has to be historic. There is in reality little of anything "historic" in PA--making the attempt a few years ago to have everything 50 years old or more declared historic (and to hell with property owner rights at the same time) laughable.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 4:20 pm


Judge for yourselves if Juana Briones isn't distiguished by her compassion, ingenuity, drive, courage, and generosity:

Web Link

"Continuing her focus on the community, Juana aided those in need around her, traveling to Marin County to help manage a smallpox outbreak there in 1834."

Imagine a woman willing to sail north to Marin to help with the dead and dying.

Remember, she did this BEFORE anti-biotics were developed.

Ask yourselves: Would YOU be willing to risk your life helping in a deadly epidemic?

Isn't this someone we should honor, not just for her sake, but for the sake of our future?


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 8, 2007 at 4:34 pm

i am not disputing that Ms Briones was distinguished by her compassion, ingenuity, drive, courage, and generosity.
i am disputing whether the house is indeed historic and whether it should be saved. i still do not understand if it means so much toso many people, why after all these years, has money not been raised to buy the property and salvage the home?


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 5:02 pm


County census records indicate the property belonged to Senora Briones.

And it's especially unfortunate that the bickering over her property rights that she endured in her lifetime continues to this day:

Web Link

"With California's admission to the Union in 1850, new laws challenged land ownership and many families who owned land under the Mexican California government lost their properties. Not Juana. She astutely chose good people to represent her in the U.S. Land Commission Hearings. Her neighbor Maximo Martinez, who also served as the alcade or mayor, testified that Juana lived on the property and built a house there shortly after buying the Palo Alto rancho.

Juana not only held onto that rancho, she waged a tenacious fight to maintain title to another property in San Francisco that rightfully belonged to her and the children after her husband's death. That twelve-year battle went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in Juana's favor."


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Posted by mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm

Truth. With all due respect you continually bring up side issues such as that Briones cared for others. The question you avoid is, "why don't the people who want to save the house put up the money to buy it?" You apparently want the taxpayers to foot the bill without their consent.

You also do not address the problem of identifying the original house as separate from add-ons.

I submit that your group is very small and not representative of the vast majority of the community.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 6:26 pm


You must not have read my last post.

I mentioned nothing about Senora Briones's goodness.

In fact, I presented EVIDENCE that the Briones property in Palo Alto/Los Altos, did indeed belong to Senora Briones.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2007 at 6:55 pm

This issue has so much missinformation it is appaling. The only fact that really matters is that the city attorney or the preservasionist's ignored a law that would have protected the place or they were to busy at the time to preserve every house in the city over 50 years old that they missed a date to take action to save the house. This is like the comic strip characters (I forgot their names) that played games and changed the rules as they went along.

It's too bad that "Truth" leaves out truthful details as to why the effort to save the house failed.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2007 at 7:15 pm


I posted links to some of my claims.

Where is your link?


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Any house over 50 years old can be made into a "historic resource" with a little bit of effort. Just get some cute anecdote about how old Mother Hubbard lived there, went to church every Sunday, and served cookies to the neighbor kids. Or Prof. Blowhard lived there, and he taught at Stanford, and once helped discover the cure for chillblaines. Or Charles Evans Swellhead, the President of the Old Palo Alto Donut Factory, lived there. Run that by the Historic Resources Commission, and -- Bob's Your Uncle -- you have a historic property. Now form a committee -- "The Friends Of Old Blue" ("Old Blue" being a nickname for the house that you just made up, because it's painted blue). Now you block any effort by the rightful owner to rennovate the house by going to Court and demanding that the entire environmental impact report procedure be followed. This is how the selfish, elitist, hitoric preservation crowd operate, and no one in Palo Alto that owns an old house should tolerate it.


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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2007 at 8:12 pm

"It seems to me that people in PA, for whatever reason, have a need to have "historic" structures in their midst. Maybe it is the mindset that if they live in the city, it has to be historic. There is in reality little of anything "historic" in PA--making the attempt a few years ago to have everything 50 years old or more declared historic (and to hell with property owner rights at the same time) laughable."

Posted by Marvin

No kidding. There was a house down the street that was described as a crack house/termite magnet/fire department training structure/scrape off that qualified for the 50 year plan because no building permits had ever been pulled to modify it. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and that plan was dropped.

Truth should whip out his checkbook and buy the Briones house if it's so important. Put up or shut up.


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Posted by mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Truth. You said, "You must not have read my last post. I mentioned nothing about Senora Briones goodness". I am quoting from two of your prior postings.

"Judge for yourself if Juana Briones isn't distinguished by her compassion, ingenuity, drive, courage and generosity". Also "On many occasions she risked her life for well being of others, and she was a great community builder".

In my post I said you brought up Briones goodness as a side issue. I suggest you did indeed bring this up, and it is a side issue. Further you still choose to ignore the rest of my post, "why don't the people who want to save the Briones' house put up the money to save it"? Please stop evading some serious questions concerning this issue.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2007 at 12:58 am

Ummm guys, this isn't a johnny-come-lately mid-century house. That one link says it's the oldest building in Palo Alto. And it's not like the buyers didn't know what they'd bought.

Fact is, they could sell at any time and get back their investment. So why don't they? My guess is that they don't want to sell to preservationists or the city, because the land is worth more without the house on it. And if a developer could build some townhomes . . . well, lots of transient loot to be made.

It reads like speculation. Particularly as it sounds as if they've never tried to shore up the place.


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2007 at 4:04 am

mike:

Why are you mischaracterizing what I wrote and when I wrote it?

Are you in the employ of Briones homeowners Jaim Nulman and Avelyn Welczer?

Are you a member of their legal team?

You wrote: "With all due respect you continually bring up side issues such as that Briones cared for others."

I challenged you to read my proceeding post, where I had made no mention of Senora Briones's character.

I had written:

"County census records indicate the property belonged to Senora Briones.

And it's especially unfortunate that the bickering over her property rights that she endured in her lifetime continues to this day:

Web Link

"With California's admission to the Union in 1850, new laws challengedk land ownership and many families who owned land under the Mexican California government lost their properties. Not Juana. She astutely chose good people to represent her in the U.S. Land Commission Hearings. Her neighbor Maximo Martinez, who also served as the alcade or mayor, testified that Juana lived on the property and built a house there shortly after buying the Palo Alto rancho.

Juana not only held onto that rancho, she waged a tenacious fight to maintain title to another property in San Francisco that rightfully belonged to her and the children after her husband's death. That twelve-year battle went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in Juana's favor."

------------

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2007 at 12:53 pm

99% of what TRUTH says is totally irrelevant. Maybe even 1% isn't revelant. The law wasn't followed.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2007 at 4:41 pm

How many foothill firemen would the money the city is wasting on this issue hire?


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Posted by Honor
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 31, 2007 at 12:06 am

How nice to return from summer vacation and find that this thread has not been yanked due to nasty postings. Truth managed to keep cool under duress. I also noticed that there are the usual assertions that are made on this topic:

1) That Juana didn't actually live here. She did, at least according to the census records...for at least 30 years.

2) That nothing is left of the original walls. They are there, and they deserve further study. They are just not visible because in 1906 they were covered with concrete by the owner, Mr. Nott, who added the arts and crafts style wings.

3) That the "few preservationists" who are trying to keep the home from being demolished should just buy the place from the poor owners.
Unfortunately the owners have been unwilling to sell or even swap for another property.

I am left to conclude that OhlonePar correctly uses the term "specul-ation". Especially since the owners have built a home on another property they own closeby in Los Altos Hills. Well, I guess we want to honor their right to do what they wish with their private property, ... except when it is the oldest building in the area and they bought it with a Mills Act Contract on it.

I think we should honor instead the people who built the house before 1850 and who decided in 1906 to keep three rooms; those people who struggled to make a living from the land when this was a very different kind of place. It would be good to remember and to be able to show our children what life was like then.



























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Posted by opinion
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2007 at 6:04 am

How much did your group offer for the property? Just curious if it was enough to cover all the costs they have incurred in the past years. If so, and they still didn't sell..well, then my pity is gone and it is their bad.

If you didn't offer enough to at least have them break even, well, your bad.


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