Mountain View Voice

News - November 18, 2011

Google bridge plan wins over council

Design will provide access to NASA Ames for pedestrians, bikes, buses

by Daniel DeBolt

After blasting the project in July, City Council members were not only civil in discussing Google's plan to build car bridges over Stevens Creek trail on Tuesday, but also supportive.

"I didn't think I was going to like it but I like it," said Mayor Jac Siegel of the bridge architecture renderings, echoing a sentiment shared by other council members during the study session. "I thought it was going to look overwhelming."

Council members indicated in May that they would be very sensitive to bridge design and how it impacted the city's nearby wetlands and cherished Stevens Creek trail, which the bridges would tower over. Perhaps it helped that Google's real estate and construction manager John Igoe said in April's "civility roundtable" that "enhancing the environment ... enhancing the wetlands ... is the responsibility of the company."

The bridges — three have been proposed — connect Google headquarters with an isolated NASA Ames Research Center property at the north end of RT Jones Road near the Bay. Google has signed a lease with NASA for the property to build a yet-to-be designed 1.2-million-square-foot campus for Google's "Planetary Ventures" division with 5,000 employees, recreation facilities and possibly 175,000 square feet of housing.

The bridges would be privately owned by Google for 50 years before they revert to the city. In the meantime, agreements would limit public access to walkers, bicyclists, public transit buses and police and fire trucks. Google would pay to maintain the bridge and regular automobile traffic would be prohibited. Google's private shuttles would have access to the bridges, but Google employees are primarily going to be using bicycles, Igoe said.

Council members said the new design would improve pedestrian and bike access onto smaller bridges between the levees on each side of the creek. One would be new, near Charleston Road, while another already exists near Crittenden Lane.

Council members were not convinced that Google needed a pair of vehicle bridges, which Google's architects said would allow more "flexibility" in accessing or maybe even evacuating the new campus, with one at the end of Charleston Road and the other at the end of Crittenden Lane.

"Purely from a technical standpoint, we don't see anything that justifies two bridges," said Community Development Director Randy Tsuda.

Shani Kleinhaus, environmental advocate for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, said the Crittenden Lane bridge would put a driveway across an important wildlife buffer zone on the east side of the creek. "For us, the fewer bridges the better," she said.

There was also concern about a tree nursery that exists alongside the trail south of Charleston Road, but council members were assured by Google consultant Peter Ingram that the bridge "would not necessarily interrupt the nursery or its operation."

On Tuesday Google's Igoe added that there will also be a park with public access just south of the campus along the creek.

"We have an obligation in our lease with NASA to have a park there," Igoe said. "It won't be a city park but it will have public access to it, that's my understanding."

Council members were told that without the bridges, it would take firefighters responding to medical and fire emergencies an extra four minutes to reach the new Google campus, which is the only part of NASA Ames within city limits. County funding of $300,000 is in jeopardy if first responders can't make it to the scene of an emergency in less thanr eight minutes, according to an agreement with the county mentioned in a city staff report.

Tsuda estimated that the city could see as much as $700,000 in new property tax revenue once the campus is built, which is several years off.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by cat, a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 19, 2011 at 7:58 am

I Love bridges and am open for a win-win for all. The 85/280 Cupertino has that Lovely mini suspension-like walking bridge that lights up the sky at night. Reminds me of stunning Huge bridges in Tokyo-Boston. :)

Trust the google proposed bridge designs will be architecturally a value-add as well as functionally efficient benefit for that entire area.
The 101 Shoreline exit is such a bottleneck despite the widening and new oddish 85South ramp etc. tho' i love zipping along pitying those stuck in 101N bound traffic. Took me and my carpooler more than 20 frustrating minutes just at that intersection one morning.


So let's add to the Bay views of Golden Gate+, Dumbarton, San Mateo, Bay bridges!


Posted by GC, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

If it was such a great idea, why didn't the city build it. Oh yea they are broke. How much do we Google now? Free WiFi, Free bridges, how about Free Hanger One parking spot?


Posted by Details, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 27, 2011 at 8:54 am

The public won't be able to use it for 50 years. We just get to stare at its ugliness as it ads another view ruining structure to an area we're trying to maintain as natural as possible.
Oh, and if you think the bridge will alter the natural peaceful feeling, wait until they start running BUSSES over it. Yah, that's really going to improve the peacefulness of the area. Again, as citizens, we can look(we have no choice because it will be such a dominant structure)but we cannot use. This is the first step to a massive buildup Google is doing and would like to continue to do in this important wetland environment. Google is out for Google. Don't believe the whitewashing attempt at saying the bridge will eventually belong to MV. That's 50 years from now hen its in need or repairs. Google gets the bridge, gets to use it exclusively, but when its time for it to be repaired/removed, MV gets stuck with that tab.
I smell another Occupy type movement over this one. ts a complete farce to suggest MV will benefit from this bridge. This is all about Google...the "Closed to residents for 50 years" component tells you so.


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