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Deal between Jobs and investor would pave way for dream house

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who was recently given an "excellent" prognosis by the doctors that performed his liver transplant, is reportedly close to a new deal that could signal an end to a decade-long legal tussle over a mansion he owns in California's Woodside Hills and finally allow him to build the home of his dreams in its place.

Jobs purchased the 17,000 square-foot Spanish Colonial mansion in 1983, when he was just 29 years old, and lived in it for roughly 10 years before renting it out and then leaving it to deteriorate. It was originally built for copper mining magnate Daniel C. Jackling in 1926 by George Washington Smith, the architect who created the look of Montecito and Santa Barbara in the 1920's.

In 2001, Jobs filed for a permit to demolish the property, which he described as "one of the biggest abominations of a house" that he'd ever seen. Recent photos of the property, which sits on six wooded acres, show a structure with crumbling walls, blown out windows, decrepit ceilings, and debris strewn about. In its place, the Apple co-founder wants to build a smaller, contemporary-style home for his family.

Standing is his was have been preservationists, such as the Uphold Our Heritage (UOH) organization, which has argued before the Woodside Town Council on numerous occasions that the Jackling mansion represents one of few remaining examples of a Spanish Colonial Revival style home, and is therefore too important to destroy.

For his part, Jobs offered many years ago to give the home away to anyone who was willing to relocate and restore it. When those efforts failed in earnest, he successfully moved to acquired a permit to raze the structure, only to have it overturned by the UOH three years later. The Apple luminary more recently made a second bid to demolish the structure, outlining in documents for the local town council that it would cost him approximately $5 million more to restore the house than it would to tear it down and build a new one.

The council again OK'd Jobs to move ahead with demolition earlier this year and held a final town council vote Tuesday on his permit to do so, which favored Jobs' motion 5-2. With UOH again expected to contest any vote in Jobs' favor, an attorney for the Apple executive, Howard Ellman, revealed before the council that Palo Alto-based angel investor Gordon Smythe of Propel Partners has recently drawn up an agreement with Jobs that would allow Smythe to dismantle the Jackling house and reassemble it on another piece of property.

Steve Jobs' Jackling House
Steve Jobs' Jackling House
Steve Jobs' Jackling House

According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, the council agreed "that it's the best preservation-oriented solution to emerge" in the municipal fight that has occupied much of the decade. Under the proposed deal, Jobs would be responsible for the $604,000 cost of demolishing and removing the parts of the house that can be saved, the newspaper reported.

Still, Ellman reportedly warned that the agreement "could be derailed if Uphold Our Heritage decides to pursue further litigation to block the demolition." He said Jobs' contract with Smythe includes a clause that would allow the investor to renege his offer should the legal saga over the property continue.

"I don't want to get caught up in this," Smythe told the council. He said he wants the house because he's a fan of its architect, but added that he's had little success finding a piece of land to reassemble the structure. While he proceeds with his search for a space to re-locate the house, he'd be responsible for storing the parts at his own expense.

"I don't think a house like this deserves to be thrown just anywhere," Smythe said.