Mountain View Voice

News - February 19, 2010

Google pressures city over plan for North Bayshore

Company tells Mountain View officials it wants area to be 'sustainable for Google'

by Daniel DeBolt

Google executives are weighing in on an ongoing discussion over the future of the company's North Bayshore neighborhood, with representatives at Tuesday's City Council meeting following up on a letter sent last week to city officials which calls for more homes, stores and infrastructure to be developed near the Internet giant's headquarters.

David Radcliffe, Google's real estate director, sent the letter last Thursday, briefly outlining the company's goals for a "future redevelopment" of its headquarters, which include

the creation of new homes in the area, presumably for its employees. The current "Googleplex" is centered around three-story buildings built by Silicon Graphics in the 1990s, and has grown to include most of the office buildings on nearby blocks.

Two weeks ago, City Council members and planning commissioners supported allowing Google and other companies to build six- and seven-story buildings in the North Bayshore area, which is bordered by Highway 101 to the south and east and Stevens Creek to the west. But after considering allowing the construction of new homes and storefronts in Google's neighborhood along Shoreline Boulevard — a possible way to curtail car trips in and out of North Bayshore, which only has two access roads — the city officials opposed the idea.

That discussion briefly continued Tuesday night in another General Plan study session, this time with Google representatives present. The City Council and Planning Commission decided to reconsider its North Bayshore plan at a future meeting.

In the letter, Google said allowing homes and stores in the area would mean North Bayshore could "continue to be the center of sustainable development for Google's HQ campus."

Along that vein, planning-minded environmentalists have criticized the city for allowing Google's significant growth without allowing enough homes for its increasing number of employees, forcing them to commute.

One of those environmentalists is Google employee Deb Henigson, who implored the council and commission to "make a place where it is easier to bike, walk and take public transit than it is to drive."

She added that increasing office building densities "without residential allowances just leads to more traffic."

Henigson spoke as a homeowner in the city "who wants to live here a long time" and as former chair of the land use committee of the city's now-defunct Environmental Sustainability Task Force, which recommended homes in North Bayshore and a network of walkable villages around the city. Dan Hoffman, director of workplace services for Google, asked the council and commission to consider the task force's recommendations.

In the discussion two weeks ago, council member Laura Macias said biotech and pharmaceutical companies would hesitate to locate near homes built in North Bayshore. But planning director Randy Tsuda said a biotech company called Alexandria, which owns property in Mountain

View, pointed to some San Francisco and South San Francisco neighborhoods where biotech labs are located close to homes.

"They do have residential and lab biotech space in the same neighborhoods," Tsuda said.

Likewise, council member Tom Means said two weeks ago that having homes in the area could lead to residents blocking future development in the area, which is plagued by traffic problems. But he appeared to soften his stance Tuesday, saying that homes in North Bayshore may be possible but only if planned along with the new office density increases.

The letter also mentions Google's wish to "efficiently manage transportation and pedestrian needs" in the area. Tsuda acknowledged that North Bayshore is the "one major area in Mountain View that doesn't have a strong connection to a transit system.

"Perhaps through this additional development potential we can find a way to fund that," he said. "The Shoreline Tax District is a possibility, or some sort of cooperative agreement between the city, Valley Transportation Authority and companies in that area."

The longest paragraph of the three-paragraph letter states that Google's goals for redeveloping its headquarters are "to provide a future redevelopment that is nurturing and regenerative for the environment, provide a vibrant community and work/life balance for all, and efficiently manage transportation and pedestrian needs. This must include mixed uses (office, retail and residential) along with the kind of land use development described in the final report by the Mountain View Environmental Sustainability Task Force."

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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