Google bridges will do no harmWe were happy to see the City Council's change of heart concerning Google's plan to build up to three small bridges across Steven's Creek a few weeks ago. The council roundly criticized the idea back in May, fearing, incorrectly as it turned out, that the bridges would not be open to the general public and would overwhelm the cherished and sensitive Stevens Creek trail and nearby wetlands.
But in a more recent presentation, the council learned that the bridges, which would connect Google headquarters to an isolated property at NASA Ames near the Bay, would be open to full public access for walkers, bicyclists, public transit buses and police and fire trucks. Google would pay for, own and maintain the bridges for 50 years, when they would revert to the city. The company's private shuttles would also have access to the Ames campus, which could host up to 5,000 employees in the years ahead. Construction there is scheduled to start in 2013.
Google's real estate and construction manager John Igoe may have sealed the deal when he said at October's civility roundtable event that "enhancing the environment ... enhancing the wetlands...is the responsibility of the company." And certainly the council has a responsibility to make sure the bridges have an extremely light footprint around the sensitive wetland areas and the creek, which is one of the city's most popular attractions.
In addition, Igoe told the council that there will be a park with public access just south of the new Google campus along the eastern edge of the creek. He added that the company has an obligation in its lease with NASA to have a park there. "It won't be a city park but it will have public access," he said.
Accessibility for police and fire engines to the Google site at NASA Ames, which is inside city limits, was another factor that leans heavily toward approving the bridges. The company's present growth spurt will continue in 2013 when it plans to begin building a 1.2 million-square-foot campus for up to 5,000 employees, as well as possibly 175,000 square feet of housing. The council was told that first responders to fire and medical calls would need four more minutes to reach the property without a bridge. That fact only makes the decision to approve the bridges more compelling, not to mention it would protect some $300,000 a year in county funds tied to crews reaching the scene of an emergency in eight minutes or less.
Certainly Mayor Jac Siegel, who said back in July that the bridges were not compatible with the Stevens Creek Trail, which he called, "Priority 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5," has changed his mind, now saying, "I didn't think I was going to like it but I like it."
"I thought it was going to look overwhelming," Siegel said after taking a look at the architect's renderings.
Finally, by not putting up a roadblock for Google to develop the Ames property, the city could see as much as $700,000 in additional property tax revenue when the project is completed in a few years.