News

Burrowing owls vs. Google

Pair of birds found on Google's hotel site will cost city $150,000

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.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Has anyone from the city of MV ever tried to drive on Shoreline Blvd? A hotel will clog traffic beyond belief!


3 people like this
Posted by friend of owls
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:32 pm

When are they going to move these owls? Won't it disrupt their nesting activities? And what if the owls don't like their new neighborhood?




3 people like this
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 10, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

The plan is to move the owls before the breeding season starts Feb. 1.


3 people like this
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 10, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

The city staff report is here:
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by No friend of owls
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Who cares about these damn owls? Mountain View is a city, not a zoo.

The city is wasting $150K of our tax money for this stupidity! What about the worms that will be displaced by the hotel? Maybe we need to get the worms relocated too.


3 people like this
Posted by tk_runner
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I think it is funny that a pair of little owls can stop a giant like Google in its tracks. Go owls!

PS - I agree about the traffic concerns on Shoreline. Navigating around Mountain View these days is like rowing a boat into a tsunami. I too wonder if the city council ever drives town around time at peak times.


3 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2008 at 5:15 pm

This sounds more like Palo Alto than Mountain View.


3 people like this
Posted by not in love with google
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm

What Google wants, Google gets. Good luck owls and good luck Mountain View.


3 people like this
Posted by greedy google
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:07 pm

I thought Google is the happy shiny company? But they won't guarantee that housekeepers get the chance to decide whether or not to join a union? Forget wages- how about health care, humane workloads, and protection from getting fired on a whim?


3 people like this
Posted by athene cunicularia
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:30 am

Who cares about the owls? I care about the owls! And the city cares about the owls.

Thank you, Mountain View, for having a plan to keep both species happy. We bipeds can work together.


3 people like this
Posted by also concerned about owls
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 18, 2008 at 7:20 am

The method of removal of the owls is contested by some environmental groups - there needs to be assurances that the owls actually get to the small area set-aside by the city for the owls (6.5 acres I think) rather than just making sure they don't come back to the site (this is how many of the owls die). The 9+ acres the city is buying is actually in Alameda and run by a for-profit company. The better solution is to actually increase the current area set-aside by the city in order to accomodate the number of breeding pairs we know about, but the city is not willing to do this because it wants more land for development. This logic, of course, it the reason why the burrowing owl population has been precipitously declining - more development, less habitat for owls. Buying land in Alameda IS NO SUBSTITUTE for making sure existing owls IN MOUNTAIN VIEW have enough space to survive!!! The truth is, it's almost too late to really do anything about this. But if this Google development does not really benefit the community, we need to get to the council meeting and STOP THIS PROJECT. I'm all for protecting the owl's habitat, but unless we can show the development is not worth it, we won't be able to stop it.


3 people like this
Posted by not in love with google
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 18, 2008 at 8:44 am

Unfortunately, the City of Mountain View will bend over backwards to give Google anything they want. They don't want to upset the giant in any way. The development of a "world class hotel" at Shoreline will not only disrupt the owl's habitat, but will also ensure that the business owners in Mountain view receive even less patronage from the Google population. What will Google ask for next?


3 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 23, 2008 at 11:31 am

Save the owls, MOVE GOOGLE!!!


3 people like this
Posted by Jessie
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Back when Mountain View was accepting San Francisco's garbage to build Shoreline Park, there were burrowing owls in the area of the city's lake....the area we tried to save for an ecologial preserve because of it's wildife diversity and nesting site. So, burrowing owls are not a recent inhabitant of that part of the bay...they were there long ago.


3 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

They rototilled the burrowing owls out of existence overnite last time in the lot where google and Alza are now to built, and those buildings weren't there when we were parking card in the lots for dead shows. Burrowing owls all over. They called that area where google is most northwest, Allen shelly driveway. I have old pictures of it all. The owls did not just "come back" that sounds like a city that wants to get paid. Bill Graham was mountain views first cash cow and google won't be their last.


3 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

And by the way the hotel idea has been kicking around for over a decade since SGI the actual builders of the googleplex. they sectioned off then eventually took the Shoreline charleston parking lot away from us in 2000 or so when they built googleplex and a bigger lot with a fire station down the road. They really messed up the traffic flow by making no lots accesible directly from charlston and amphitheater. Forcing all traffic on shorline blvd. They've left that parking lot empty and barley done anything for a decade. I've moved on. I thought they had too! Easy to show my point. I have arial photos from 1985


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