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March 28, 2008




Readers' platform: Assessing Larry Ellison



"Has anyone out there," asked an SFGate reader, "heard anybody say anything nice about Larry?" Not so much, at least on SFGate in the wake of The Chronicle's story Thursday on the multibillionaire's $3 million property tax break on his now "functionally obsolete" Japanese-style, 23-acre estate in Woodside. That the tax break comes partly at the expense of money for local schools, according to the San Mateo County deputy assessor ( didn't exactly mitigate the negativity toward the world's 12th richest man, nor toward San Mateo County officials who went along with the tax break.


But there are Ellison defenders who point out that the Oracle Corp. CEO is completely within his legal rights, as are others, rich and not so rich, who are seeking similar remedies for property deemed overvalued. Plus, they add, Ellison's fabulously successful company and the taxes from his personal wealth have contributed mightily to San Mateo County's well-being. Perhaps Ellison's detractors are a wee bit jealous?


Below, edited for space, is a sample of the more than 400 comments registered on SFGate by 5 p.m. Thursday. To read more, and link to the Chronicle story, go to


OK. (scratches head). Let me get this right. Get a ton of money, buy some property, design it and drop a huge chunk of money into it. Then, realizing [you] don't like it, cry about it and get a bunch of money back. Maybe I can go into the Gap, buy a pair of pants, then come back the next day and tell them that my butt looks big and that they owe me money.


- Nicolas Hunter, 22, San Francisco


The only thing I can write about this man - and the stupidity of the [assessment] board that gave him the break - is (censored), (censored), (censored).


- Miriam Weinstein, 61, San Anselmo


Most responsible people with that kind of wealth would show a much better example to society. He is no Warren Buffett or Bill Gates when it comes to showing a basic appreciation of the opportunities this country has given him.


- Marc Schoonbrood, 45, Menlo Park


Someone rightfully noted that the company he built pays more in taxes than any other company in San Mateo County. I also note that his company is still located in San Mateo County when he could have saved hundreds of millions by moving it to a more business-friendly state.

- Glenn Rapp, 45, San Francisco


Quit hating. He followed the legal process. Any property owner could do the same thing. The process isn't that difficult. For all any of us know, he could take that tax break money and donate it the charitable cause of his choice, or buy a new keel for a sailboat, or whatever he wants to do with his money.


- James Mercurio, 40, Highland Falls, N.Y.


Thousands of home owners throughout California are having their homes reassessed downward. The fact that Ellison has more money in the bank doesn't and shouldn't determine his assessment.


- John Keller, 59, Menlo Park


My house has depreciated but I don't have the time or money to take action. We're working our asses off trying not to get fired from our jobs and volunteering at our children's school because of the cuts they took. Maybe Ellison could put in some volunteer time at the local school? We're not poor. But we are conscious of our neighborhood, our friends, our community.


- Corey Flynn, 31, Oakland


It's not out of jealousy, well, at least not for me, although it would be nice to have $25 billion. It's an ethical issue. With all the budget problems the educational system is having in this state, it is ethically wrong that Larry Ellison would quibble over what is probably about .0000000012% or so of his total wealth. He should make a gesture toward the society who contributed to his wealth and donate the $3 million. Maybe he has already done it, who knows.


- Julien Nepomuceno, 40, San Francisco


If the schools need more money, then we should raise taxes to get them the money, not expect some people to pay more than the law requires because some government agency has applied an unrealistic estimate to the value of their property.


- Domenico Perrella, 40, San Francisco


Tax issues aside, this is a complete example of the excess of the New Gilded Age. Everywhere in Woodside and Atherton (and Pacific Heights) the New Gentry is scrapping old but elegant and solidly built estates and replacing them with over-the-top cartoonish palaces, which will be torn down as soon as the next owner arrives with his or her own grandiose vision.


- Christopher VerPlanck, 39, San Francisco


Any architect who designs a functionally obsolete house ought to be shot. Any architect who designs a functionally obsolete house at the insistence of his client should wring every last nickel from the b*****d's wallet. That said, I'd live there.


- Adrienne Kendrick, 38, Sharpsburg, Ga.