City sees office workers squeezed into tighter spaces

With Mountain View facing a possible avalanche of traffic congestion and gentrification from 5.5 million square feet of office growth in the development pipeline, the question of how many employees companies choose to pack into their buildings is as important a factor as ever, and one that city officials say is hard to pin down.

Despite the overwhelming consequences for nearly every resident of a city, Mountain View's largest employer, Google, refuses to say exactly how many employees it has in Mountain View, or even how many it tends to house in 1,000 square feet. Both city officials and the Voice have had requests for such information turned down.

When asked about the issue, Mountain View's community develpment director Randy Tsuda said that "it's tough to pin down because companies don't necessarily openly share that number. But we've been asking that question and we've been monitoring that over the last two to three years. The range we're hearing is 4.5 up to 6 employees per 1,000 square feet."

It's no secret that Google and Facebook have been leading a trend to squeeze employees into tighter spaces. That may be one reason why traffic and housing costs have spiked in recent years without much new office development.

Last week's story in the Voice analyzing office growth in Mountain View estimated that the city could see as many as 42,500 employees from the development anticipated in coming years -- an amazing number, especially when considering that the city has fewer than a few thousand new homes in the works. It would be a 62.5 percent increase from the 68,000 jobs the Employment Development Department reports that Mountain View had in 2011.

That 42,500 number was calculated by dividing the 5.5 million square feet in the works by an average of 130 square feet per employee, which translates to 7.69 employees per 1,000 square feet. That math didn't sit so well with one commenter on the Voice's online Town Square forum, who said the standard is 3 to 4 employees per 1,000 square feet or 250 to 333 square feet per employee but it turns out that such a standard is long out of date.

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association did a survey in 2012 of 500 corporate real estate executives, asking how many square feet was allocated to employees. It concluded that "the metric has changed from 225 square feet (per employee) in 2010 to 176 (square feet) in 2012, and is projected to reach 151 in 2017, with 40 percent of survey respondents indicating they would go below 100 by this period."

If the average were to go below 100 in Mountain View, that could mean space for 55,000 jobs in the city instead of the estimated 42,500. Tsuda said he's seeing it as low at 166 square feet per employee now.

"So much of it is determined by who the eventual tenant is, which nobody knows for some of these buildings," Tsuda said.

While working as Mountain View's zoning administrator from 1993 to 1998, Tsuda said he saw far fewer employees in the city's office buildings.

"I think what I saw here in Mountain View for companies in the 1990s was closer to 3 to 4 (employees) per 1,000 square feet, roughly," Tsuda said. "I saw more hard-wall offices, bigger cubicles, things like that." While working in corporate real estate from 1999 to 2004, "I definitely saw a trend to increasing the number of employees per thousand."

Intuit's Mike Gulasch said the philosophy behind the trend is that it's a way to encourage collaboration among employees.

"If you and I are in two private offices we just don't bump into each other as much," said Gulasch, Intuit's workplace planning and real estate manager.

Council members also discussed the trend towards more employees in tighter spaces last week while discussing a proposed 1 million-square-foot campus at 700 East Middlefield Road for a German real estate management firm.

"The standard planning principle used to be 300 square feet per employee," said council member Mike Kasperzak. "One of the things we're seeing in North Bayshore (where Google is headquartered) now is 100 to 150 square feet per person."

After cutting the number down some, the City Council is now contemplating zoning for 3.4 million square feet of new offices for North Bayshore, which Google could potentially begin building in 2015 if the zoning is approved this year. Whether Google will choose to lead the way towards squeezing 34,000 employees into North Bayshore alone remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the city has 834,000 square feet of additional office space under construction or recently built within its boundaries, with an additional 1.3 million square feet in proposed projects, potentially adding 12,855 jobs at 166 square feet per employee.


Posted by Maher, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Maher is a registered user.

Hmmm? Seems to me Google is getting 'too big for its or anyone else's good'. They apparently do not hold themselves accountable to local govt or press.

Time for MV folks to start a big noise (suggest public demonstrations at Google facilities that will bring nat'l attention to the issues) to counter corporate "entitlements" in our neighborhood.

Posted by ron, a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm

What the is the problem that Google can't release how many employees they have I would like to see how much income tax the paid to the feds I bet 0.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

This is a tricky one.

While there is a trend to get away from cubicles into more open spaced working arrangements with coworkers on a single project team sitting at one work area with shared desk space, this of course would mean more people sitting in less space.

However Google and other large employees are also including in their "office space" a great deal more beneficial space such as gyms, child care, foosball tables, etc. In any one office building it is hard to know just how much space will be traditional office work space, how much would be guest/contractor work space and how much would be recreational/beneficial space. Google is also looking at putting such things as movie theaters, dentist offices and even such things as dry cleaners, in their office buildings. They also have space for many guest workers and/or contractors to work on occasional basis.

The reason they are reluctant to give firm numbers is because it is much harder to figure out. What may be true this month might be completely different next month.

The important thing to realize is that more workers are being squeezed into existing space regardless of what happens when more buildings are built.

Posted by Employee, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 17, 2014 at 6:05 pm

This doesn't sound like an office space problem to me. It sounds like a housing problem. And a public transit problem.

Might want to get on that, Mr. Kasperzak.

Posted by I don't think so, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm

@PA Resident - "The reason they are reluctant to give firm numbers is because it is much harder to figure out. What may be true this month might be completely different next month."

I hope you know how silly this sounds. This is Google we are talking about. They know how many employees they have in Mountain View, and how much floor space. A 6th grader with a calculator could tell you how many employees there are, on average, in 1000 sf. With figures as large as these, the result would not change much from month to month.

A better explanation is that Google does not want to fuel a discussion that could lead to a restriction on new office space in Mountain View.

Posted by David Speakman, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Possible Gentrification?

This article is about 10 years late.

Posted by DC, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm

We have been resized at my Co for cost effectiveness. They kept the same number of parking spaces. I hope we hire some Google like workers that ride their bike to work.

Posted by chas, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

I think it is interesting to see Cities like San Francisco becoming bedroom communities for towns like Mountain View. This seems to be a reversal of a long standing trend where you worked in the city and lived in the suburb...

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Computers and networks have changed the way we work, offices, cubes have became the past here.

Companies have been fleeing San Francisco for years,Silicon Valley is the modern post war hub of the world, whole place has become a vital center. Mountain View is not a suburb any more.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Google reports their tax rate quarterly in their Financial Results Press Releases, their 10-Qs and 10-K.

On April 16, 2014, in their First Quarter 2014 Results, Google stated that:

Income Taxes - Our effective tax rate was 18% for the first quarter of 2014.

Headcount - On a worldwide basis, we employed 49,829 full-time employees (46,170 in Google and 3,659 in Motorola Mobile) as of March 31, 2014, compared to 47,756 full-time employees (43,862 in Google and 3,894 in Motorola Mobile) as of December 31, 2013.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm


I think that Mountain View fits the generally accepted characteristics of a suburb:

Suburbs in America have a prevalence of usually detached single-family homes.

They are characterized by:
Lower densities than central cities, dominated by single-family homes on small plots of land – anywhere from 0.1 acres and up – surrounded at close quarters by very similar dwellings.

Zoning patterns that separate residential and commercial development, as well as different intensities and densities of development. Daily needs are not within walking distance of most homes.

Subdivisions carved from previously rural land into multiple-home developments built by a single real estate company. These subdivisions are often segregated by minute differences in home value, creating entire communities where family incomes and demographics are almost completely homogeneous.

Shopping malls and strip malls behind large parking lots instead of a classic downtown shopping district.

A road network designed to conform to a hierarchy, including culs-de-sac, leading to larger residential streets, in turn leading to large collector roads, in place of the grid pattern common to most central cities and pre-World War II suburbs.

A greater percentage of one-story administrative buildings than in urban areas.

Compared to rural areas, suburbs usually have greater population density, higher standards of living, more complex road systems, more franchised stores and restaurants, and less farmland and wildlife.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

How many office workers will be squeezed in the Merlone Geier Phase II office buildings?

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Read any news story about tech or something. We got a place in Mountain View that has changed the way we look at space. We helped change part of the 20th century, moving into the 21st century and beyond.

Yes we have single family homes and fast food but we have a successful classic downtown and small.businesses that have hung on. Why I think it is important.for Milk Pail and bookstores along with non Starbucks coffee houses are worth fighting.

If anything Mountain View was a farming community that had industry, grew into a suburb that became part of.the cold war military industrial complex, then jumped into age. As chips, computer systems got smaller the demand of hometown spun industry grew changing 1/4 of the 20th century and.the 14th.year of 21st century.

Mountain View as suburb has changed, thousands of.families are not moving into new homes built on farmland and school built fast and cheap without sights to the future. It is now a urban area not building but ages, family units, educational backgrounds or incomes. Ideas on how to live life has changed, not everyone wants many children or have 2 cars in driveway and eat chained resturants.

Posted by Taxes, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Well, if Mountain View wants to emulate Manhattan or San Francisco, we need more payroll taxes on employees working in the city. In San Francisco every sompany has to pay a tax on the amount paid to every employee. I imagine this also has the side effect of answer the question "How the heck many employees do you have working in this city, Google?"

Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 19, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Wish more attention was given to car trip totals in and out of these companies, rather than just a focus on worker totals.

Do we -really- want public policy that says we are against success? Economic growth brings real problems, but are these problems greater than the problems inherent to economic decline?

If companies can grow and still reduce traffic (set up the right creative restraints and I bet they can), I'd take that over not grow and keep the current grid lock. We live in a community that builds solutions. So lets build a solution.

TechCrunch just published a very interesting article from a regional view titled, "How Burrowing Owls Lead To Vomiting Anarchists" Look:
Web Link

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 5:34 pm


Well car trips are directly linked to nb of workers. The nb of workers is also tied to housing requirements dictated by the regional authorities.

All for solutions but having the right data is key.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 6:29 pm

They had better car to rail to office or factory before World War 2, people purchased cars but still transit in the early 1950's was a far better cry then what we got today.

You still had suburbs before World War 2, but built along rail or street car lines.

Even most East Coast cities have some form of public transit, just here on the West Coast they were ripped out for cars. Entire growth patterns were built on cars.

As for post war Mountain View goes, at 70 years from farm to major job center, but we are still trying to preserve the early 50's.

You can't out 70 years of economic and technology changes back in a bottle.

Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2014 at 11:26 pm

@Garrett - "but we are still trying to preserve the early 50's." - NO ONE is saying that. We are looking for a way, starting from where we are now, to build a future with a decent quality of life.

@Christopher Chiang - "Do we -really- want public policy that says we are against success? Economic growth brings real problems, but are these problems greater than the problems inherent to economic decline?" - It's NOT a choice between "success" and "decline". Silicon Valley will continue to prosper. Policies moderating growth won't change that.

In several recent articles and editorials, the Voice has called attention to the destructive potential of approving the 5.5 million sf of office space that is currently proposed. Thanks to the Voice for that.

@ Christopher - "If companies can grow and still reduce traffic (set up the right creative restraints and I bet they can), I'd take that over not grow and keep the current grid lock." - What "creative restraints" do you have in mind. I'm all for solutions!

BTW, thanks for the link to the Techcrunch article. It's a good one, though I disagree with its conclusion, which seems to be "Build, Build, Build".

We'll get growth no matter what. Let's not trash the city in the process.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm

LinkedIn is expanding but is taking a much smarter approach than Google.

Today, it was announced that LinkedIn will fully lease Tishman's San Francisco Skyscraper. It will occupy the building at 222 Second St. on a lease that includes about 450,000 square feet (42,000 square meters) of office space. The 26-story building will also have more than 2,200 square feet of retail space, according to the property website.

LinkedIn is expanding in San Francisco to get access to the talent that prefers to live there, and will keep its headquarters in Mountain View in Silicon Valley where it also has plans to grow.

So, LinkedIn has chosen to expand where its employees want to live instead of busing them or building huge office buildings in Mountain View. I tip my hat LinkedIn and ask that Google reconsider their expansion plans.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:31 am

Google is expanding in San Francisco, remember Mountain View Google is Home Office, they want to put all the top people in one place.

After all Mountain View is part of the Silicon Valley, San Francisco is fast becoming a suburb. So it makes sense to have suburban offices

Posted by Laurie, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 11:03 am

Do you own a dictionary, Garrett? Try using it. SF is not, and will never be, a "suburb."

You "Silicon Valley" types think you're All That & A Box Of Chocolates. You aren't.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:08 pm


LinkedIn is headquartered in Mountain View.
LinkedIn is focusing their expansion in San Francisco where their employees want to live.
LinkedIn is not looking to run a bus line from San Francisco to Mountain View.
LinkedIn will expand in Mountain View, but will not add thousands of employees.

Google is headquartered in Mountain View.
Google is focusing their expansion in Mountain View, where only 8% of their employees live.
Google runs a bus lines to Mountain View.
Google is looking to add thousands of employees in Mountain View.

Which company will increase traffic and lower Quality of Life?
Which company will exacerbate our housing situation?
Which company is a good partner to Mountain View?

BTW, I think Google products are great and am excited about their development of Driverless Cars.

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