Mountain View Voice

News - July 19, 2013

Google delays Bay View office project

by Daniel DeBolt

After the City Council refused to approve a shuttle bridge for Google over Stevens Creek, Google has announced the delay of a controversial office project that would put 3,600 employees amidst wildlife at the north end of NASA Ames Research Center.

Google had planned to build a 1.1 million-square-foot campus across Stevens Creek from its headquarters, which it planned to occupy in 2015. But the company is reportedly delaying the development for six months to a year.

The auto and pedestrian bridge over Stevens Creek would have provided a critical connection for circulating employee shuttles to and from the campus as Google tries to lessen traffic impacts in North Bayshore and through NASA Ames. In January the City Council delayed a vote on the the bridge until a North Bayshore area transportation study was complete, despite comments from Google's David Radcliffe that postponing action would mean delaying the opening of the campus for a year.

"The transportation study came and we said we still don't want those bridges," said council member Jac Siegel, referring to a June study session. "We didn't even go ahead with a study or an EIR (environmental impact report)."

Siegel added that Google may be waiting for three of the four people who voted against the bridges to term out of office in a year and a half — Ronit Bryant, Margaret Abe-Koga and Siegel. John McAlister also voted against the bridge.

In an email to the Voice, a Google spokesperson had a different explanation, saying, "We want to make our Bay View campus a terrific and environmentally sustainable place for Googlers to work. To make sure we get it right, we're being thoughtful in our design process."

The Google spokesperson declined to answer questions about whether the project's delay had to do with the City Council's unwillingness to approve the bridge.

In a talk at NASA Ames in June, a team of designers for the project described it as one of the most technically advanced green office buildings ever built. One challenge may be designing the water recycling system that makes use of wetlands to filter water on a scale large enough for 3,600 employees.

The announcement also came a month after the Audubon Society criticized the development's impact on wildlife in the area in the Voice. Wildlife that may use the "upland habitat" area include the rare burrowing owl, the California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.

"We are happy to see that Google has taken our concerns into consideration and is looking to redesign their campus in way that would be more environmentally friendly," said Shani Kleinhaus, environmental advocate for the Audubon Society.

Last year several conservation groups said a new auto bridge from the end of Crittenden Lane in particular would have been unnecessarily harmful to a long list of animals and birds. Because the Bay View parcel is on federal property, there was no requirement that such input be collected for the office project itself, and the project has largely escaped public oversight.

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