Google has responded to an apparent misunderstanding at last week's City Council meeting that its proposed bridges over Stevens Creek will not be open to the public.
Several City Council members expressed strong feelings against Google-only access to the bridges on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Google contacted the Voice Friday to clarify the issue, saying that the bridges, while technically privately owned, would be open to "essentially anyone who wants to use them."
Walkers, bicyclists and those coming through on public transit buses and shuttles would have access over the bridges, the Google spokesperson said, but regular car traffic would not.
"We want to minimize impact to the trail," the spokesperson said, calling the goal of the proposal "mutually beneficial."
The bridges would allow access to a new 1.2-million-square-foot Google campus at NASA Ames that Google hopes to build in 2013. The bridges are an important part of the plan, the spokesperson said.
At Tuesday's council meeting, council members Laura Macias and Ronit Bryant made strong comments against exclusive access to the bridge. Bryant and Mayor Jac Siegel criticized its impact on the natural environment in the upper wetland area.
At Tuesday's meeting Macias said the bridge should be open to anyone, "not just a certain group or class of people. That doesn't feel like Mountain View at all."
In an email on Monday Macias said Google's plans were "crystal clear" to her when she made her comments Tuesday.
"Starting out with proposed private bridges is a rash proposal as these are public lands on all sides," Macias said in an email. "I was out walking SCT this weekend between Crittenden and Charleston on the trail-- the entire wildlands, wildlife, outdoor experience would be destroyed. This is a migratory bird path and development in this nature hardly seems "green" to me." Macias added that an environmental impact report is needed to address those concerns.
The tone at Tuesday's meeting was surprisingly critical from a majority of the council.
"My gut feeling is extremely negative on this," said Council member Bryant. "I don't think it is of any benefit to Mountain View. I don't see anything particularly convenient about it for us. I hate private streets. I can't imagine a private bridge."
Bryant commented again on Saturday in response to Google's clarification.
"I remain very concerned about overwhelming the North Bayshore environment with concrete, asphalt, and vehicular traffic," Bryant wrote in an email. "I welcome better connectivity for bikes and pedestrians, and as a City we have worked and continue to work hard to improve connectivity and reduce the need for cars. The proposed bridges are an easy old-fashioned solution that will conflict with the purpose of the Stevens Creek Trail as a pedestrian and bike-friendly connector; why not look for an out-of-the-box and innovative solution that will enhance our environment?"
The reasons why the public would want to use the bridges, the spokesperson said, would be convenient access across the creek to R.T. Jones Road at NASA Ames, which is currently inaccessible. There would also be new ways to access a short trail along the eastern edge of the creek, though it is already accessible by a light vehicle bridge at Crittenden Lane and a foot bridge further north.
Google also released an official statement on Friday about the bridges.
"The purpose of the Stevens Creek Crossings Project is to both increase connectivity in the North Bayshore area as well as access and mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists, emergency shuttle vehicles and public transit. We believe this project will benefit the city of Mountain View and the community at large. We look forward to working with all parties involved to achieve these mutually beneficial goals."
See the full story on the bridge from Tuesday's council meeting here.