Concerns raised about a pair of rare and problematic burrowing owls, and the impact they'll have on Google's plan to build a new hotel at Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road, cropped up at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The owls have built their burrow on the very site where Google plans to build a hotel, conference center and 310,000-square-foot office building.
Labeled an official "species of concern," the owls were discovered last year on the 18-acre city-owned lot, and it's going to cost the city $150,000 to remove them. That's because the state Department of Fish and Game wants Mountain View to purchase 9.75 acres of wildlife habitat to make up for the owls' lost home, even though the area isn't known as a habitat for burrowing owls.
"Basically the site historically wasn't [owl habitat and then basically, they came," said senior planner Scott Plambaeck. "That happens."
On Tuesday the council voted unanimously to buy 9.75 acres outside the city for $150,000 from the Alameda-based Haera Land Bank -- one more step towards having a hotel built by Google on land leased from the city.
"This is pretty common mitigation for owls off-site," Plambaeck said. "Typically developers pay for it."
Mountain View expects to receive significant revenue from leasing the 18 acres to Google, and the company has already signed an exclusive agreement with the city to negotiate for development of the site.
City manager Kevin Duggan said the city has a good record when it comes to burrowing owls, and that the city already has 6.5 acres of burrowing owl habitat at Shoreline Park, where the owls will be moved.
In other news related to Google's proposed hotel, two representatives from the local office of the Service Employees International Union came to council chambers Tuesday to push for a union at the hotel and conference center.
"It is unclear whether a labor agreement will be required," said one SEIU representative. Google's previous actions, he said, "so far indicate that workers' rights are a very low priority for the company."
In 2001 a labor peace agreement was created during hotel negotiations for the site, but various interested hotel operators lobbied the council against the requirement. Council member Matt Pear believes that may have contributed to the failure of the project for several years before Google revived it.
The SEIU representative said the issue was about paying workers "livable wages," noting that non-union hotel workers often make little more than minimum wage, or "poverty wages."
"The topic of the labor peace agreement is something we are discussing with Google," said Duggan, adding that the issue will be brought to the council when the project picks up speed.