HP recently completed restoration of the Palo Alto garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the first Silicon Valley company:
Kim Vo, San Jose Mercury News
: "Makeover of an icon"(requires sign in)
I was curious whether Hewlett and Packard could legally do today what they did in 1938. Could some pesky neighbor have had them shut down for running a business where a business isn't allowed, or have them evicted because Hewlett was living in a shed in the back yard?
A Palo Alto zoning map
(PDF document) shows that 367 Addison Avenue is zoned R-2, "Two Family Residential District". The Palo Alto Municipal Code
, defines "two-family use" as "the use of a site for two dwelling units, which may be within the same building or separate buildings" and "dwelling unit" as "a room or group of rooms including living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation/bathing facilities, constituting a separate and independent housekeeping unit, occupied or intended for occupancy on a nontransient basis and having not more than one kitchen." If I am interpreting the rules correctly, Hewlett and Packard would be in violation of the rules since they occupied a total of three separate dwelling units: Hewlett lived in the shed, the Packards lived in the downstairs part of the house, and the owner lived upstairs. Or they would be in violation because Hewlett lived in a shed that didn't have its own sanitation facilities (I assume).
So much for that. For all I know, their living arrangement was in violation of Palo Alto's 1938 zoning laws, too.
The really interesting thing I discovered is that Palo Alto is one of the few cities in California that doesn't require business licenses:Do I need a business license?"Request for Council Direction Regarding Institution of Business Registry Fee or a Business License Tax"
To a libertarian, this is a very cool discovery. A modern city government has left its hands off an entire area of human endeavor! (The down side is the city council are considering instating business licenses so they can attach a tax to the licenses.)
Conclusion: A modern-day Hewlett and Packard could start a company in that same Palo Alto garage today, but they would technically be in violation of Palo Alto's occupancy laws if they had the same bedroom arrangments.