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California and the West

Up in Arms Over Proposed Palace

PeopleSoft founder David Duffield aims to build a Bay Area home that is 72,000 square feet, but some neighbors are opposed to the project.

October 06, 2005|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the computer software industry's richest moguls may soon be dealing with a case of palace envy.

David Duffield, a billionaire who amassed most of his fortune by selling PeopleSoft Inc. last year, has submitted plans for a 72,000-square-foot home that would eclipse the mammoth mansions custom-made for his more famous peers Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, whose Oracle Corp. completed a $10.3-billion takeover of PeopleSoft in 2004.

But Duffield's palatial vision may never be realized.

The project already is facing intense opposition from the neighbors who would have to live in the shadow of the proposed three-story home in Alamo, a tony suburb about 30 miles east of San Francisco.

Alamo resident Bruce Smith, whose family previously owned the 8,000-square-foot home that Duffield hopes to demolish to make room for his new house, said the land was never intended for a residence that would dwarf the 60,645-square-foot Hearst Castle and the 55,000-square-foot White House.

"I really don't have a problem with a man pursuing his dreams, but this is just too much," Smith said Wednesday.

Efforts to reach Duffield were unsuccessful.

Jim Dugdale, Duffield's project manager, defended the proposed home in an interview published Wednesday in the Contra Costa Times, which first reported the building plans.

"It's a lovely designed home that complies with all the rules and the established practices of the area," Dugdale said.

The plans are drawing mixed reviews from neighbors, said Richard Maxey, manager of the Bryan Ranch Homeowners Assn., which encompasses the 22 acres where PeopleSoft's founder wants to build.

"There are a lot of emotions," Maxey said. "Some people want it to be built because they think it will enhance their property values. I am also getting a lot of complaints about 'monsterization' and 'mansionization.' "

With an estimated $1.1-billion fortune, Duffield isn't as well known or as wealthy as the men who founded the world's largest software companies -- Microsoft Corp. and Oracle.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, tapped into his $51-billion fortune to build a 40,000-square-foot compound near Seattle, and Ellison spent more than $100 million of his $17 billion on a Japanese-style estate in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley. Ellison's living quarters reportedly are about 10,000 square feet.

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