Fremont City

Staff Report

REPORT TO COUNCIL ON REFERRAL OF FORMER APPLE MACINTOSH FACTORY HISTORY - Follow Up to Referral on Reviewing the Historic Status of the Former Apple Macintosh Factory on Warm Springs Boulevard


Category:Plans, Policies and Studies

Item Discussion

Executive Summary: This report responds to a City Council referral on December 20, 2011, to consider 48233 Warm Springs Boulevard, the former Apple Computer, Inc., Macintosh factory, as a place of historic significance in Fremont and process for listing the site as a Historic Resource. Staff has reviewed publicly available resources and records concerning the construction of the factory and its association with Apple Computer, Inc., and Steve Jobs. Based upon a review of the available information, it appears formal research and documentation would be required in order to proceed.  It is also possible that this further research may or may not yield sufficient information to justify the place as historically significant. As such, staff recommends that the project not be considered further at this time.


DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS: The subject site of 48027 to 48233 Warm Springs Boulevard (APN519-1743-11) is a three-building complex oriented internally around a common central driveway and landscaping (Informational Attachment #1).  The site was originally developed in 1970, according to building permit records.


In January 1984, Apple Computer, Inc. (hereafter “Apple”), opened a new 160,000 square foot factory on a 20-acre site at 48233 Warm Springs Boulevard, which was designed and built for the production of Macintosh personal computers. At that time, the facility was one of the nation’s most automated plants, utilizing manufacturing methods such as robotics, just-in-time materials delivery, and a linear assembly line.  The factory had industry-wide notoriety based upon a number of references to the factory as part of the stories written about the new Macintosh computer and Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.  The factory was designed with the highest level of automation for its time with a design capacity to complete a Macintosh every 27 seconds.  Steve Jobs personally worked with engineers in the design and layout of the production facility.  The facility produced Macintosh computers for only a short period of time, approximately two years, before operations were relocated to other facilities.  Apple continued to use the subject site for other activities through the 1980s and also produced other products, such as the laser printer and desktop software.  Apple closed the leased Fremont manufacturing facility in September 1992. In addition to a distribution facility it operated in Elk Grove, California, the company moved its personal computer assembly operations to Singapore; Cork, Ireland; and Fountain, Colorado. These changes were the result of a worldwide operations study which concluded that manufacturing and distribution operations should be located in the same place.  The Elk Grove facility was closed in 1994.  Today, no Apple computers are made in the United States.


Steve Jobs was the co-founder, along with Steve Wozniak, of Apple in 1976.  Apple became a public company in 1980.  Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985 and founded NeXT, a computer platform development company that also first manufactured computers at another location in Fremont. (Note: additional research would be required to ascertain the address of the NeXT plant, which was completed in 1987.) In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple after Apple’s 1996 purchase of NeXT.  Therefore, Jobs was associated with Apple, Inc., and the Fremont facility only for a short time during which the Apple facility operated in Fremont.


Historic Designation Process and Costs: The Community Character chapter of the General Plan includes Goal 4-6, Historic Preservation and Cultural Resources, that guides the conservation and enhancement of Fremont’s historic sites, buildings, structures, objects and landscapes.  The formal process for designating historic resources in the Fremont Register of Historic Resources is described in Article 19.1, Historic Resource Ordinance, of the City of Fremont Zoning Code. The City applies the criteria of the California Register of Historic Resources for consideration of significance at the state or national level, and includes an additional criterion for consideration of significance at the local level.  In general, historical significance at the national level requires that a site be at least 50 years old to allow for perspective on historical significance of the recent past.  State and local levels of significance also follow the general rule of 50 years of age for a site to consider historical significance.  Exceptions to the 50-year rule may occur when a site or event is associated with exceptional circumstances of great importance. 


In Fremont, buildings, structures, sites, objects, places, trees, and plant life are potentially eligible for designation as historic resources under one or more of the categories described below. In each case, the process begins with the preparation of a Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) form by a qualified professional historian. The preparation of a HRI form includes in-depth review of the historical patterns and time periods of association for a subject site.  A historic context, i.e., general background of events, provides the backdrop to measure historic significance as it relates to comparable events, location, structures, etc.  In the context of the subject Macintosh factory, a historic context would need to be developed that considers the broader industrial and manufacturing history of Silicon Valley and Fremont, as well as that of Apple.  Based on previous experience, staff estimates the cost for consultant services to prepare the HRI to be a minimum of $15,000 and upwards of $30,000 due to the relatively little professionally derived historic information currently available about recent Silicon Valley industrial development.  Additionally, staff costs would include time for managing the consultant contract, preparing reports and attending meetings of the Historical Architectural Review Board and City Council, at an estimated amount of $15,000. 


The following list describes the range of historic significance listings that may apply to a site. Informational Attachment #2 includes a summary of State historic programs.


1.                 Fremont Register of Historic Places: The Register is the official list of Fremont Historic Resources. The list includes national, state, and locally significant resources and requires a HARB recommendation and City Council approval for listing. As noted in the Community Character Chapter of the General Plan, the Fremont Register does not currently list any post-1950 resources. Written consent of the property owner is required for a property to be listed on the Fremont Register.  According to City of Fremont records, the property is currently owned by Warm Springs Properties, LLC.  The property owner was not contacted as part of the referral review.


2.                 California Historical Landmark:  Evaluation of eligibility for listing would likely be under the criterion of “associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California.” Written consent of the property owner(s) is required for listing. The State places a bronze plaque with text at the site and a highway directional marker (without text). The website of the State Office of Historic Preservation lists the 2006 price for a State Landmark plaque at $2,875, plus tax and $100 freight. Current prices may be higher.


3.                 California Point of Historical Interest:  Same eligibility as for landmarks, but more focused on local influence. Written consent of the property owner(s) is required for listing. The State places a highway directional marker without text; the property owner may place its own plaque or marker at the site.


4.                 California Register of Historical Resources: Same as above; resources listed as California Historical Landmarks or Points of Historical Interest are also listed in the California Register. The California Register of Historical Resources requires preparation of a State Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Form 523 for evaluation of a property.  Consent of property owner(s) is not required for a determination of eligibility, but the site cannot be listed if the owner(s) objects.  The criteria for this category are as follows:


(Criterion 1). Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history or the cultural heritage of California or the United States.  (May Apply)

(Criterion 2). Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history. (May Apply)

(Criterion 3). Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region or method of construction or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic values. (Not Applicable)

(Criterion 4). Has yielded, or has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or history of the local area, California or the nation. (Not Applicable)

5.                 National Register of Historic Places:  Sites listed in the National Register are automatically listed in the California Register. Each designation also confers certain benefits to the property, such as the granting by the local building inspector of code alternatives under the State Historic Building Code, if and when building alterations are proposed.  The site could be evaluated for listing under one or both of the following criteria:


a.      “Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

b.      Associated with the lives of persons significant in our past”.

Placement of Plaque on City-owned Property:  The City could place a plaque describing the site’s importance on City-owned property, such as the planting strip adjacent to the sidewalk, instead of on private property.  Neither owner consent nor formal designation of the property as a historic resource would be required when identifying a location. A funding source would be needed to pay for the design, construction, installation and maintenance of the plaque.


Historic Assessment:  Overall, the subject site is relatively new with its association to industrial patterns of Silicon Valley, and it operated for a relatively short period of time in production of the original Macintosh computer.  Steve Jobs has prominence at this time in association with personal computer development with Apple.  The subject site has some level of association with Steve Jobs in development of the factory, but he had only a short amount of time associated with Apple during the life of the factory.  The main Apple headquarters is located in Cupertino, California.  The question of whether Mr. Jobs actually worked at the Warm Springs site would need to be explored and verified for preparation of a HRI form.  Based on available information, the site would not be eligible at the national level due to the 30-year age of the site and lack of historical context for industrial uses in Silicon Valley.  Staff believes that securing approval at the state or national level for historic designation of a property based on a person or event, rather than on a building, would be more difficult, and therefore more costly, to accomplish.


FISCAL IMPACT: As discussed previously in this report, retaining the services of a qualified professional to prepare the Historic Resources Inventory form would cost a minimum of $15,000 and upwards of $30,000.  Internal staff expenses for managing the consultant contract, preparing reports and attending public meetings would be in addition to this cost, and are estimated at $15,000, for a total cost of $30,000 to $45,000. Finally, if a plaque is desired for the site, costs would be incurred for design, manufacture, installation and maintenance.  A funding source would need to be identified in order to proceed with studying the proposed site or creating a plaque for the site.


ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW:  Not applicable to this referral.  However, if the property is listed as a historic resource, future modifications to the exterior of the buildings on site would be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Document Comments

RECOMMENDATION: Receive staff report and not proceed with further consideration.