back to article Not OK Google: Tree-loving family turns down Page and pals' $7m

It seems that there is something that Google can't buy, beg or steal: a small piece of land right in the heart of its Silicon Valley campus. Like real-life versions of Up's Carl Fredricksen, the Martinelli family refuse to sell their one-acre lot even though the tech giant has offered $7m for it in order to expand its …

  1. cjcox

    Condemn?

    Usually if a property owner of idle land won't accept the outrageous offer, condemnation begins so that they can take the land away. Be warned.

    1. waldo kitty
      Facepalm

      Re: Condemn?

      the land isn't idle... there are renters living in the house, for one thing...

      1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

        Re: Condemn?

        It doesn't usually matter though I'm more familiar with the Government doing that.

        And if condemnation doesn't work, Google can always have the local government declare eminent domain and seize the property that way.

        Personally, I'd hook up with some shady chemical company and dump a fuckload of dioxins, PCBs, and radioactive materials and other fun things on the property, then take Google's money and run. See how much they like having a worthless superfund site in their name.

        1. Fazal Majid

          Re: Condemn?

          California law makes illegal Kelo-style land grabs under eminent domain for the benefit of a private party.

          1. Marshalltown

            Re: Condemn?

            Yep. No Balmedies here. DT doesn't appear to own any property in the Golden State.

    2. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Condemn?

      Given the surroundings, the value of the property could be re-assessed to an amount which would make paying property taxes damn near impossible. Of course, thanks to Kelo we could just watch the news for the inevitable eminent domain claim.

      (0-dark-thirty cannot sleep, post knee-jerk reaction, continue to read and find others with same thoughts, commence sleep-deprived paranoia.)

      1. thomn8r

        Re: Condemn?

        the value of the property could be re-assessed to an amount

        Nope: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_13_(1978)

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Condemn?

          Yep, interesting how a combination of liberal and conservative governments over the years has resulted in laws that actually protect the little guy from the corporate behemoth. The liberals gave them laws protecting against Google claiming "if you don't condemn this property by eminent domain so you can sell it to us, we can't create more jobs and boost the local economy" and conservatives gave them Prop 13 to restrict the government's ability to raise property taxes except when there's a transfer of ownership. In most places they'd be screwed, and Google would get their way.

          1. Marshalltown

            Re: Condemn?

            That is actually how politics should work. In fact, it is pretty much the evident intent of the authors of the constitution and the Bill of Rights, who were all major students of Locke, Voltaire, and Hume. The basic goals were 1) get religion out the governing business - all they do is fight, 2) protect the individual's right to live his life he sees fit, 3) protect property. That last came adrift in the late 19th C when the Supremes at the time were bribed to find corporations to have at least some of the same legal standing as actual human beings. Since then the SC has leaned on the precedent to support corporate entities right up to the point where they now have protection of free speech and can practically vote, which may be in the pipe line under Trump.

      2. Marshalltown

        Re: Condemn?

        The property can only be re-assessed when the the ownership changes. So, as long as the owners remain alive and do not change the way the title reads, the property taxes stay what they are. Since the family has owned that land since the 1940s, the taxes are probably the very same as they were when Prop 13 passed. In fact, depending on details ownership, the taxes could remain the same for their heirs. We experienced that with 20 acres in Central California when my father passed away. The taxes did not change until one of my sisters had her name taken off the title. Even then there is a limit to how much the taxes can increase.

  2. Brian Miller Silver badge

    Up Yours: Priceless!

    Edith Macefield refused to see her property in Ballard, near Seattle, and it became surrounded by a big shopping development. She had lived there for decades, and had no interest in moving out.

    So it's priceless when someone holds out.

    1. Mikel

      Re: Up Yours: Priceless!

      There's a mossy little two bedroom house in downtown Bellevue, Washington. The glass skyscraper is literally wrapped around it, towering over everything. With only a Northern frontage, sunlight has not struck that house since the tower was built.

  3. David 132 Silver badge
    Happy

    "what would you do with $7m?"

    Oh, I'd buy 700 million penny chews, and die of hyperglycaemia shortly thereafter whilst indulging my inner 6-year-old.

    Or for the lulz, donate it jointly to the KKK and the NAACP, with the stipulation that: they only get it if they unite in a spirit of harmony & brotherly love.

    What a silly question. A better one would be, "what wouldn't I do with $7m".

    1. RedneckMother

      Re: "what would you do with $7m?"

      @David 132

      Nice sentiment!

      My (tentative) answer: Errrrmmm... buy Montana?

      :)

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: "what would you do with $7m?"

      Or for the lulz, donate it jointly to the KKK and the NAACP, with the stipulation that: they only get it if they unite in a spirit of harmony & brotherly love.

      It's bad form to respond to my own comment, I know, but I am kicking myself for not adding:

      "... to release a Christmas single, perhaps a cover version of 'Ebony and Ivory'"

      What a lovely mental image that is!

  4. vir Silver badge

    Sorry, Ted Turner bought up all the land in Montana. I hear Idaho is nice.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      I heard Idaho is a total sh*thole.

      My cousin's wife was bought up there, and hasn't been back in 30 years or so.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Love to see the owners manipulated Ads/Google Search results.

    You can bet Google know everything about this guy and have tried everything, including manipulating his ad/search engine results.

  6. ratfox Silver badge
    Windows

    I would retire

    It's a boring answer, but with the current rates, I would get about the same income from the money as my current salary, and I'd get nearly three decades of freedom. These days, I lack time far more than money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I would retire

      Ouch!

      ... do you want a hug? :)

  7. Tromos
    Joke

    Worth a lot more than $7m...

    ...as soon as the advertising hoardings for Bing go up all round the border.

  8. LaeMing

    Half a million into a modest block of land and a nice tiny bungalow on it. Half a mil, to live off for the rest of my life. 6 million to .... um .... Probably pay my favorite OSS projects to implement the features I personally value and fix the bugs that most annoy me as a priority.

    1. AdamWill

      you're not going to get anywhere *close* to living the rest of your life off half a million dollars, unless you're very old or extremely frugal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Depends.

        If you've paid your mortgage (your biggest bill), bought a few cars (in reserve), added solar panels. It could be done.....but I'd allow more like 1 million.

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Pirate

        "you're not going to get anywhere *close* to living the rest of your life off half a million dollars"

        Oh, you're so funny. I not only could, but actually will, off a HALF of that. And I'm not that old - barely past the answer to everything. But most likely, I'll only actually get to spend HALF of HALF of that - I'm not expecting to make it anywhere near the octogenarian crowd.

  9. FF22

    Translation

    "We don't need the money. Right now it's not for sale."

    Translation:

    "We want more money. We won't sell until you offer much more."

    1. Blake St. Claire

      Re: Translation

      Precisely. And I don't understand the down vote.

      Everyone has price. A thing is (only) worth what someone else will pay for it. They know what they've got, and they know Google can afford to pay a lot more, thus making it worth a lot more than $7M. It it were mine, I'd hold out for a hell of a lot more than a measly $7M.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: Translation

        People like Trump do think "everyone has a price," but here in the US and apparently in Scotland and Mexico, sometimes the price is "go away and die," not a higher bid. All those big megacorps have made life incredibly difficult in the Bay Area for the majority of the people who live there. Among other processes they forced families to make a choice between lowered living standards and a long, literally life-endangering commute, and a concomiitent degradation of quality of life in the regions where the commuters relocated to: stupidly higher prices, urban thinking (it is commonplace to think of of city dwellers as regarding rural people as hicks), Walmarts and Home Depots.

        Those same city folk ("slickers") are often surprised when they discover that country folk don't look up to them and will stand and watch them wade through poison oak after, they ignore a polite, but laconic warning about the plant. There's some satisfaction in telling a "slicker" who demands, "why didn't you warn me?" while heavily slathered in calomine, that you did, and were told to eff off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Translation

      Why the down vote?

      I know a fair few people who could earn far more than they do, but they choose quality over life over money. I even know a couple that gave up a lot of money as they thought it ruined their life, they knew they could have almost anything, so nothing was worth doing.

      Not everyone's aim in life is to buy shiny.

      1. Blake St. Claire

        Re: Translation

        Just because you hold out for fair market value doesn't mean you're going to spend it all on shiny stuff. Médecins Sans Frontières, e.g., takes cash. As do plenty of other worthy causes.

        But there's no reason to be stupid about it. Do you think Google will be equally stupid about it and donate to MsF in lieu of the bargain you want the Martinelli's to give them?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Translation

          "Many stories are told of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s journey to the Frogstar. Ten percent of them are ninety-five percent true, fourteen percent of them are sixty-five percent true, thirty-five percent of them are only five percent true, and all the rest of them are… told by Zaphod Beeblebrox. Only one wholly accurate account exists - and that is locked in a trunk in the attic of Zaphod’s favourite mother, Mrs. Alice Beeblebrox, of 108 Astral Cresent, Zoofroozelchester, Betelgeuse Five. Though countless people have tried cajolery, bribery, or threats to get hold of it, she has carefully guarded it from all eyes for many years. Waiting for what she calls… the right price."

    3. ckm5

      Re: Translation

      Despite what you think, some people really don't need the money and they find more value in things other than money.

      Plus, if it's the same family Martinelli's that has the apple juice empire, then they really don't need the money. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martinelli's

  10. TimeMaster T
    Thumb Up

    There are some things money can't buy

    While I can think of a lot of things I would do with 7 million there are also some things that I wouldn't sell for anything.

    Glad to hear there are others who don't value money above everything else.

    Sadly those who do value money will do whatever it takes to get it from those who have it. I wouldn't be surprised if some new city regulation or ordinance gets passed that will either force the land to be sold, or simply seized, shortly after some "contributions" to the local city government.

  11. Johnny Canuck

    what would you do with $7m?

    I'd spend the bulk of it on booze, women and gambling...then I'd spend the rest foolishly.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: what would you do with $7m?

      The three W's. Wine, Women and Wugby.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what would you do with $7m?

      are you Georgie Best re-incarnated ?

      He said something like " I spent all my money on women, booze and fast cars, the rest I just wasted "

  12. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

    Almost kind of like what the Air Force is doing to the people who own Groom Mine, which faces Area 51 with an unobstructed view, so much so that the schedule at the facility was determined by whether or not the family was there as they used it as a vacation property.

    Tyler Rogoway has done a couple of stories on them, including a follow up a couple of days ago. You can check it out here

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    IT Angle

    What would I do with $7 million?

    Well, I live in Silicon Valley, so for that amount I could afford a house with a swimming pool in the backyard. I might even be able to afford to keep the pool clean and heated, without having to work a second job on weekends.

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: What would I do with $7 million?

      Yeah, seems counter-productive to cram in a third job--particularly into the weekends--when, presumably, you'd expect to be able to enjoy the pool in the backyard. Priorities, priorities.

  14. Androgynous Cow Herd

    Good for them

    The Martinellis are a LONG time pioneer family in Santa Clara county...and if the family wants to keep that property that was worked and farmed for over a century, I applaud it. maybe Google can work out a deal to build the new buildings on Martin's Beach?

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Good for them

      Over a century eh? Modern immigrants by European standards then.

    2. Michael Thibault
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Good for them

      Once the land surrounding that lot is occupied by any construction whatsoever, the site loses all charm, becomes locked forever to a very different 'horizon' and view, and will be nowhere near as bucolic as it once was. Location and what's at that location are, obviously, seperable; Google can afford to move the entire lot, including the soil, using the most extravagant heavy lifter available, to some other nice location 'nearby'. Google--which is in a position to splash billions just to hear the sound it makes on contact--is being excessively tight-fisted. And thick.

  15. Mephistro Silver badge

    Hmmm...

    "The Martinellis no longer live there but they did as kids when their father bought the land back in the 1940s..."

    So the second generation of the family are either in their seventh decade or dead, and -given the size of families in that era and in the seventies- there are probably a few dozen owners/inheritors nowadays and therefore each of them will receive a pittance.

    In my opinion, it makes sense for them to either keep the property or wait till Google rises the offer to, say 70 or 100 millions. The part about sticking it to Google is an added bonus! :-D

  16. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Huh

    As such, Google, cofounded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin

    Anyone else read that as confounded on the first pass through?

    1. nathanmacinnes

      Re: Huh

      When you put it in bold just then, yes I did. Reading the article, no.

  17. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    $7M you say?

    Hell, I'd stand up from my desk, not even log off, leave everything, and just walk away to retirement....

    Heck, I'd do it for $700K...at my stage in life.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: $7M you say?

      "Hell, I'd stand up from my desk, not even log off, leave everything, and just walk away to retirement...."

      Nah, keep quiet, work like normal... but buy your boss's mortgage.

      Then when he acts the ass, threaten to foreclose. ☺

  18. jake Silver badge

    If you eyeball Wikimapia, I think ...

    ... you'll understand the Martinelli mindset.

    Old Silly Con Valley family, good folks. More power to 'em. Makes me wish I hadn't sold out when I did.

    By way of reference, the first house I bought was in Palo Alto's Johnson Park neighborhood (North of University Avenue, West of Middlefield Road and South of San Francisquito Creek). Purchased for an exorbitant $US140,000 in 1980. Sold for an astonishing $US1,500,000 in 1995. It sold about a year ago for 3 million (asking price was $2,750,000). It's on the market now for $3,850,000. (Seriously? A .25 lot, three bed, single bath, attached single car garage, bungalow? Really? WTF!)

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "Like real-life versions of Up's Carl Fredricksen,... "

    Or Batteries Not Included, Joe's Apartment, and probably another dozend. Nice to watch anyway.

    @jake: some say it's just a market economy thing.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Not market economy, it's more base than that. I prefer supply & demand, although that might be a trifle ontological for the economists in the audience.

  20. AIBailey

    Strange

    A quick check on streetview would suggest there are at least two different properties on that area of land. One outbuilding certainly looks like it would fall down of its own accord.

    <Conspiracy> Oddly it's quite difficult to get a decent look at the houses themselves, are there appears to be a couple of busses on the road with the express purpose of preventing a good luck. Reminded me of The Truman Show in a way </Conspiracy>

  21. cortland

    Definitely not the right picture

    From the cited article:

    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5c3dfe11b4587af8af80bd94c82acca020a84141/0_185_5189_3113/master/5189.jpg?w=620&q=20&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&dpr=2&s=78a45c72c1feb5c71f2da4e66981a74d

  22. paulf Silver badge
    Terminator

    What's happened to El Reg these days

    There was a time when "..tens of thousands of wide-eyed Googlers.." would have made reference to Oompa Loompas at the Chocolate Factory.

    Now, where did that El Reg tombstone icon go?

  23. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "Most expensive is New Jersey, which has the highest proportion of developed land in the country and as a result one acre there will set you back $196,000"

    That's dirt cheap compared to around here in Britain.

  24. Milton Silver badge

    Current purchasing power

    So, let me see, using the current spreadsheet from Google HQ ... that $7m would buy you nine Democrat representatives, or you could go for the Buy Two-Get-a-Third-Free offer on Republican senators?

    Probably still better to purchase wholesale, though.

  25. flearider

    get rid quick

    within the next few yrs it's not going to be worth much after the quakes ..take the cash and move to Australia ..that is after you have asked them to double it .. :)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: get rid quick

      Quakes? What are these "quakes" you mention that'll make the property disappear?

      Try to remember, the first thing the gootards will do after purchase is send in the dozers ... which will cause a LOT more damage than any earthquake at the San Andreas/Hayward fault system is capable of producing.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google could build an earth bank around the plot so that it is not visible from the outside - they could quote inspiration from their president-elect's behaviour towards similarly awkward home owners next to his golf course near Aberdeen.

    1. jake Silver badge

      That earth bank would take up room on property not owned by google. I suppose the gootards could pay off the owners to not complain. But even then, there are two public road frontages on the property in question, pretty much ensuring 180 degrees of freedom.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going rate?

    But what is the going rate for 1 acre of prime real estate in California?

    The land price figures quoted in the article I'm certain is not for prime real estate.

    We happen to live in a house in the UK which has large (not massive) gardens of about 0.15 acres. A developer has offered us nearly $1M dollars which equates to $6.67M an acre. It is less than a 20% premium on the house value. So $7m sounds like little, if any premium over normal develop-able land value.

  28. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Vanity show

    Let's see; I have an anime series I'd like to produce. I could hire Leiji Matsumoto, Hayao Miyazaki, and Ryoko Yamagishi to personally help me produce it.

  29. JLV Silver badge

    Maybe a tad more useful holdout

    http://boppin.com/delmar.html

    Guy made money in Vancouver, set up house as low income tenant hotel. Big utility compmay wants land. Guy says he wants to give back to community. Still going on, decades later.

    Personally, it'd make more sense to sell and redo the same charity elsewhere, but I can see the principle behind his thinking.

  30. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Three things

    Ask a Realtor* the three most important factors in property value and s/he will tell you, "location, location, location."

    * American for "estate agent"

  31. Grumble

    Acre?

    There's no way that plot is an acre.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Acre?

      Look again. Remember, an acre is not quite 210x210 feet.

      It's almost exactly an acre.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What would I do with $7M (well pretty much £7M soon) ?

    Go and exercise my inner Jeremy Clarkson and drive around in silly cars ...

  33. Oengus Silver badge

    Par for the course

    Just up the road from my place in Sydney we had a 5 acre block sell for $45million (when the Aussie dollar was at about parity with the US dollar). My quarter acre block is valued at over $1million and my neighbour wants to buy it to add to his half acre. If I hold out I can probably get nearly $2million. Land prices in in Sydney are over the top. Basic residential blocks (about 1/10 acre) are over $600K.

  34. cjmpe

    What would I do with $7M

    Well, I've just scanned the "Large Catamarans for Sale" listings on the 'net. Lots of 20m yachts for sale in the Eur700 000 to Eur 1 300 000 range

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