To build the new, Google must tear down the old. As must its billionaire cofounder Larry Page, whose neighbors believe he's illegally tearing down houses in Palo Alto to make room for a gargantuan eco-mansion.
Page, whose home address was accidentally revealed by a pro-privacy group last year, lives in Old Palo Alto. With homes more than a century old, it's what passes for historic in Silicon Valley, at any rate.
The new, 6,000-sq. ft. house observes all the green shibboleths: organic building materials, low-volatility paint, and so forth. (Never mind that lighting and heating such a large house will inevitably have more environmental impact than a more modest dwelling.)
Records for Santa Clara County show that 111 Waverley Oaks, a property adjoining Page's current residence at 111 Waverley Oaks, was transferred in September 2008. It was most recently assessed at a value of $3.3 million.
But the real environmental impact is on the neighbors, Palo Alto Weekly reports:
Ralph Britton, a retired electronic engineer and board member of Palo Alto Stanford Heritage, was walking the neighborhood when he noticed demolitions on four separate properties in Page's block.
"I noticed a house coming down, walked and saw another, and realized they were contiguous," Britton said. He described one house as elegant with a lot of land around it, a swimming pool in back and nice landscaping — much of which is still there. Another former home around the corner he called "imposing."
Britton's description of the property matches a satellite photo of the property available on Page's own Google Maps. Britton goes on to describe heavy construction on the block:
... neighbors are also concerned with the mess of construction, as well as possible damage to streets from heavy trucks.
"There's constant noise and confusion; when one finishes, the other starts," Britton said.
But fences are already up on the Page property, including mesh around protected trees, in preparation for construction. The work cannot begin until the city approves a permit.
A spokesman for Page told the Weekly that Page would seek a permit this week. Seems a bit late, with construction already underway. But since when have billionaires had to obey the law?