Give Bayshore housing a lookThe city's notion of not mixing housing and commercial development in the North Bayshore has run afoul of Google, its major tenant and the company that has done more than any other to put Mountain View on the map.
So far, there is only a difference of opinion about what the city's new General Plan will say about building housing around the Googleplex, and all the other high-tech companies, located in this area north of the Bayshore Freeway.
The City Council and planning commissioners are in the midst of a major rewrite of the General Plan, the city's blueprint for planning and zoning changes over the next 20 to 30 years. Once the plan is approved, probably early next year, most future development decisions will be expected to line up with the General Plan.
And so far at least, the city's vision of a "commercial-only" Bayshore does not line up with Google's call for more homes, stores and infrastructure to be included in the plan. In part, Google's request addresses Bayshore's main flaw — that it lacks access to mass transit, and requires its workers to commute due to the city's lack of housing.
In a letter to the city, Google said that allowing stores and homes would mean North Bayshore could "continue to be the center of sustainable development for Google's HQ campus."
The environmental argument is compelling: Google employee Deb Henigson asked council members and planning commissioners to "make a place where it is easier to bike, walk and take public transit than it is to drive."
But the council members and commissioners still need convincing. One issue is that housing does not generate as much tax revenue as businesses do. Another is that residents there, even Google employees, might be uncomfortable after their first night alongside a live concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Nevertheless, the council has asked the Planning Department to assess Bayshore's housing potential, and to augment an initial report that suggests housing could be built over retail on Shoreline Boulevard.
There are a couple possible advantages to housing at Bayshore:
• By building homes near the 10,000 or so jobs at Google (plus many more at neighboring companies), the city converts car commuters to walkers and short-haul bicyclists. The city gains on all fronts, from reducing carbon emissions to lessening the freeway traffic crunch.
• Agreeing to consider Google's housing request now could pay benefits later, in the form of new local growth, if the company sees that the city is amenable to more mixed uses in the Bayshore area. With homes near its offices, Google would become a much more attractive place to work.
In the meantime, the city should address council member Laura Macias's concerns about the reluctance of some biotech companies to lease office space near housing. If true, this could hamper the ability to reach full occupancy in the Bayshore properties.
And finally, as noted in a letter this week, the city's Environmental Sustainability Task Force identified the Bayshore area as possibly vulnerable to flooding if sea levels rise as expected in the years ahead. If housing is permitted there, building codes should address this concern.