Google pressures city over N. Bayshore plan

In a letter to Mountain View officials, company says it wants area to be 'sustainable for Google'

Google executives have sent a letter to city officials expressing displeasure with some aspects of the city's ideas for the North Bayshore neighborhood, and in particular calling for more homes, stores and infrastructure to be developed near the Internet giant's headquarters.

David Radcliffe, Google's real estate director, sent a letter to city officials Thursday briefly outlining the company's goals for a "future redevelopment" of its headquarters, which include the creation of new homes in the area, presumably for its employees. The current "Googleplex" is centered around three-story buildings built by Silicon Graphics in the 1990s, and has grown to include most of the office buildings on nearby blocks.

Two weeks ago, City Council members and planning commissioners supported allowing Google and other companies to build six- and seven-story buildings in the North Bayshore area, which is bordered by Highway 101 to the south and east and Stevens Creek to the west. But after considering allowing the construction of new homes and storefronts in Google's neighborhood along Shoreline Boulevard -- a possible way to curtail car trips in and out of North Bayshore, which only has two access roads -- the city officials opposed the idea.

That discussion briefly continued Tuesday night in another General Plan study session, this time with Google representatives present. The City Council and Planning Commission decided to reconsider its North Bayshore plan at a future meeting.

In the letter, Google said homes and stores in the area would allow North Bayshore to "continue to be the center of sustainable development for Google's HQ campus."

Planning-minded environmentalists have likewise criticized the city for allowing Google's significant growth without allowing enough homes for its increasing number of employees, forcing them to commute.

One of those environmentalists is Google employee Deb Henigson, who implored the council and commission to "make a place where it is easier to bike, walk and take public transit than it is to drive."

She added that increasing office building densities "without residential allowances just leads to more traffic."

Henigson spoke as a homeowner in the city "who wants to live here a long time" and as former chair of the land use committee of the city's now defunct Environmental Sustainability Task Force, which recommended homes in North Bayshore and a network of walkable villages around the city. Dan Hoffman, director of workplace services for Google, asked the council and commission to consider the task force's recommendations.

In the discussion two weeks ago, council member Laura Macias said biotech and pharmaceutical companies would hesitate to locate near homes built in North Bayshore. But planning director Randy Tsuda said a biotech company called Alexandria, which owns property in Mountain View, pointed to some San Francisco and South San Francisco neighborhoods where biotech labs are located close to homes.

"They do have residential and lab biotech space in the same neighborhoods," Tsuda said.

Council member Tom Means said two weeks ago that having homes in the area would mean future residents would be there to block future development in the area, which is plagued by traffic problems. But he appeared to soften his stance Tuesday, saying that homes in North Bayshore may be possible but only if planned along with the new office density increases.

The letter also mentions Google's wish to "efficiently manage transportation and pedestrian needs" in the area. Tsuda acknowledged that North Bayshore is the "one major area in Mountain View that doesn't have a strong connection to a transit system.

"Perhaps through this additional development potential we can find a way to fund that," he said. "The Shoreline Tax District is a possibility or some sort of cooperative agreement between the city, Valley Transportation Authority and companies in that area."

The longest paragraph of the three-paragraph letter states that Google's goals for redeveloping its headquarters are "to provide a future redevelopment that is nurturing and regenerative for the environment, provide a vibrant community and work/life balance for all, and efficiently manage transportation and pedestrian needs. This must include mixed uses (office, retail and residential) along with the kind of land use development described in the final report by the Mountain View Environmental Sustainability Task Force."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by mropen space
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

How will losing open space improve our quality of life?

3 people like this
Posted by Thom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 16, 2010 at 2:35 pm

This is amazing. Hey Google! Want more housing? Build it yourself. Want to eliminate the need? Hire local people qualified to work for you. Google doesn't seem to care that the citizens of the City do not want more traffic. We don't need Google. We prospered long before Google and we will survive long after Google.

Talk about a corporation trying to hold a city hostage for it's own needs. I don't know about the rest of you that have called Mountain View home for 40+ years but this is disturbing to me.

This isn't Google View, this is Mountain View. I urge the members of the council to tell google we are not going to bend to their threats or their need to make our city 'sustainable for Google'.

3 people like this
Posted by Newton
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Damn. Google is running [word removed] in MV.

3 people like this
Posted by Laura Macias
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Regarding the perspective of biotech companies NOT wishing to be located to residential communities, I base this on direct industry input including a corporate visit that City staff and I made as past Mayor whereby a pharmaceutical company moved from Palo Alto to Mountain View's North Bayshore as a direct result of Palo Alto building residential homes next to their corporation. In addition that same year, at a biotech summit we the City held with BayBio, the North Bayshore area was seen as desirable for biotech not residential.
Mountain View has lost both open space and commercial land to rezoning to residential in the past fifteen years. Some residential infill is appropriate in the right areas, North Bayshore is not it. What North Bayshore needs like all of Mountain View is a local shuttle route w/in Mountain View. Unfortunately, the shuttle operating cost of $250,000 annually is tough to swing these next few years.

3 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

The former SGI buildings now comprising the largest Google buildings are much taller than "two stories" as reported. Most of the other buildings in the Googleplex area are two stories

5 people like this
Posted by A nony mouse
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Google is funding Mtn View police and firemen and schools and free internet. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. That area is an industrial park - keep it that way, or keep it open space.

3 people like this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Seriously? Is there really a question as to wether homes should be built in the middle of a business park? No one wants a business park built next door to their house, obviously. Do we expect businesses to feel differently? The two uses are so fundamentally different, that they are not compatible neighbors. Cities all through the bay area think they can steal each others residents (tax revenue) by building housing everywhere, with no regard to common sense. All of the worst residential neighborhoods on the peninsula are on the east side of 101, yet the business parks there have flourished.

3 people like this
Posted by Deb
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm

@MrOpenSpace: The proposed plans from the General Plan revisioning process do NOT convert open space to anything else. The proposals suggest turning what is currently *very* inefficient office park space to more mixed uses (including traffic demand management proposals via transit connections, bike paths, and pedestrian-oriented design).

Everyone: Have you ever biked through the N Bayshore area? Or heaven forfend, tried to walk it? There's acres of land just used as parking lots! How is that good for anyone? Why can't we have a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood instead of lots of dead pavement and single-story aging office buildings?

I support intelligently-planned mixed use in N Bayshore, because I think it would be awesome to live or visit friends there, and it's a great place for MV to grow in a healthy, sustainable way.

3 people like this
Posted by GG
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

If by development you mean cleaning up the Moffett corridor, improving public services and creating a communiy - I say yes!

5 people like this
Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I say let Google build a self-sustaining, ultra green megaplex a la Oracle with condo towers next to office towers and a major hotel. Let's face it folks, Mountain View is not a sleepy suburban community. We are part of a giant connected metro region and we mine as well build a "city of the future" here to show how great our city is to live in.

North Bayshore has three access roads, not two, with Shoreline, Rengstorff and San Antonio roads. The San Antonio road over pass on 101 needs to be widened along with all the access roads.

We also need a connect to Moffett Blvd. from North Bayshore.

4 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm

If you build it they will come, and keep coming, before you know it we will be so populated, the quality of life around town will SuCK!

3 people like this
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm

So the point is to keep building and expanding in MV until what? It is overpopulated, crowded, and not worth living in? And what if Google ever decides to leave? Like to India. We will be the Detroit of the West Coast.

5 people like this
Posted by Mr. T
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Let us not forget that this area of Mountain View was the city Dump. Any development is better than what it was.

3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Big Al, good point - yeah, let's piss off Google and send them packing to India...yeah, that's all we need. We need Google. The only thing that will protect us from being the Detroit of the West is the beauty of our openspace areas. So, let's not screw that up, ok? We don't need to develop every damn square foot of greenery with chicken coop condos.

3 people like this
Posted by B.D.
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Posted by Mr. T, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, 2 hours ago

Let us not forget that this area of Mountain View was the city Dump. Any development is better than what it was.

OK... and before that it was pristine wetlands.

4 people like this
Posted by Nature Boy
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Yes, pristine wetlands. Let's bring them back.

3 people like this
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2010 at 11:31 pm

How about razing half the crappy buildings on El Camino and tenement apartment buildings on California Ave and building the mixed use vision there. How long do we have to look at those infested eye sores?

3 people like this
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2010 at 11:37 pm

If residences are built in this area, just imagine the complaints about Shoreline concerts. :) Keep this area for businesses.

3 people like this
Posted by From an Android
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 17, 2010 at 1:36 am

Google has continued to impress me every year. I am proud to say I'm a Mountain View resident and Googles headquarters, in the same breath. Google will not only help lead Mountain View, but the entire world, into the future. We are blessed to be along for the ride. Keep up the good work Google! Ps... I've been a die hard Apple fan since 1980. But once I picked up the Droid I put down my Iphone permanently! Well done and thank you!

3 people like this
Posted by Aida
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2010 at 3:33 am

People of the world should think of ways to save their planet. Has the presence of so many malls and almost empty mansions improved our quality of life? Is our dependence on foreign brains still helping us? Why not shift the attention in making our local environment condusive to the correct developent of our young brains? Waste not want not.

3 people like this
Posted by Christine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I agree with Andrew, if we put homes near Shoreline Amplitheater, the result will be complaints about the noise from the concerts, the traffic, and the noise from the air base.

It's a business park.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Behind Shoreline Park are wetlands and more coming in the future. I do agree housing y Shoreline will cause problems but then again people live near noisy stuff elsewhere. We do need compaines like Google and the people that create and work for them. We must keep Silicon Valley in the valley not watching it go away.

3 people like this
Posted by QM
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Puzzled - You obviously have not driven down North Whisman between Middlefield and Farchild. Industrial parks and homes can live together. Zoned R4, 291 Evandale is still a prime location for Google to build housing, right next to abandoned commercial buildings they can fix up (except for that pesky super fund problem.) -- Perhaps they can take over the Microsoft Campus after Microsoft pulls up shop here...

3 people like this
Posted by Hoo
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 18, 2010 at 8:11 am

I wonder how the burrowing owls feel about all this. Where's their voice in the process?

3 people like this
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Puzzled wrote: "Is there really a question as to wether homes should be built in the middle of a business park?"

It's called "mixed use development". Many argue that it is better for the environment, as it reduces the need for automobiles. You can read more about it here: Web Link

In fact, when moving here from Europe ten years ago, I was struck by how separated the business and residential districts are in US cities. In Europe they are more mixed, which I think leads to more pedestrians, more cafes, and a pleasant cityscape.

3 people like this
Posted by American
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 18, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Maybe we don't want to be like Europe.

3 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

You should try it. It's like SF but with good weather -- very enjoyable.

3 people like this
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Congrats to THOM and Nony mouse on getting their pithy comments quoted in the NY Times. One can only hope this will inspire others on this blog to new standards of writing.

3 people like this
Posted by Alice
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Laura Macias: Google already has Shuttles, can the public use them? NO!

Puzzled: There are homes on the east side of 101 in the North Bay Shore Area! I don't see anything "Bad" about that community! Plus it is already around Siemens and Omnicell, which are bio tech firms!

Deb: Yes I walk it everyday! Feel sorry for people that have to sit in traffic to get to their final destinations!

Mr. Big: I agree, we need to widen San Antonio Road (Which belongs to Palo Alto if I'm not mistaken). Though it sounds neat to have "High Rise Buildings" I don't know if this town can handle it!

Mr. T: I applaude for bringing up the originality of what the area use to be! Yes it would be better than what it was!

Big Al: At least there is an 'ATTEMPT' of cleaning up 'some' of the apartment buildings on California Avenue! (got to love affordable housing)

Andrew: We, the community in which I live in, already complain about the traffic from time to time to put a light at Space Park Way for us! None the less, complaining about how the State of California rerouted La Avenida St!

As far as my two cents, being a "Resident" in North Bay Shore Area, the traffic has increased ten-fold with Google, I applaude their wanting of further development of a mixed community, but what we really need to look at is the congestion and decreasing it. I've for many years have argued with VTA of re-routing the 104 bus that once allowed me to take one bus from home to work (in Palo Alto), letting them know if they went back to re-route there will be more people using the bus.

If they feel the need to develop the land which is already mixed at this moment, then the council and members of the transporation committee really need to buckle down and reconfigure the public transportation within that area!

I would also like to point out that I am hoping that the City Council would reconcider looking at the PRT:

Web Link

As well I think less congestion would also happen if we as a community in the North Bay Shore Area can take part of the Google and Microsoft Shuttle! VTA system has really gone down hill the past few years and I can only see it getting worse!

Thank you!

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Transportation is one of the keys. Maybe the most important. The problem with PRT is that it is fixed and not inexpensively re-configured (i.e. Moffet mini-city). If we cannot figure out how to run a regular bus system (VTA has a big yard right near Google) how is the city or Google going to do it! A BRT (bus rapid transit) system would have a large and fast capacity. This is a system, like San Paolo's, that devotes lanes and signal changing devices to bus transportation.
Google does not contribute taxes to schools (aside from a minimum revokable 1/5 of what full property tax rates would). With the Shoreline District keeping all property tax increases FOREVER, any new development will not help schools. [please read the Shoreline-Schools Joint Powers Agreement and the legislation setting up Shoreline District]

3 people like this
Posted by Alice - East Shoreline Area
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2010 at 8:31 am

Steven, That is a nice idea for the BRT, but I can not imaging that (a private lane for buses only) running down Shoreline. If we do something like that we should then look at having VTA put in a light rail down Shoreline where they can have an elivated track, sort of what they do through Cisco/Great Mall (Milpitas Area). This will allow us (residents and workers) to connect to downtown quicker and faster down shoreline. When it comes to concerts people will then have an easier connection and less cars on the road from CalTrain!

In all it looks like the North Bay Shore area would eventually be a great idea, just worry about the transportation problems down Shoreline! It's already busy as is, and there isn't a concert every day! ;)

3 people like this
Posted by Google Stay
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 21, 2010 at 8:26 am

I hope you realize that Google does not bring in much tax base for the city besides property tax. Why you ask? They don't sell any products that get taxed which is why they don't have a store front. But here and now they are sending a message to the city council in a nice tone. I'll make it clear...We asked to put in a hotel to assist business and you denied that. Now we are asking to make the area around our business a better area with homes and retail. Key word is retail. If you don't we will go elsewhere. We walked away from bigger deals than this (Time Warner) and we'll pick up and move to. So hey...City Council listen to them... let them develop because if you don't you'll be forced to lay off more employees and continue to talk about your growing deficit. Income, Income, Income = sales tax.

3 people like this
Posted by Thom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

"you'll be forced to lay off more employees and continue to talk about your growing deficit."

You're making a huge assumption that has no merit.

"But here and now they are sending a message to the city council in a nice tone."

Nice tone? Since when has threats become "nice tones"?

Google's administration thinks they are bigger then the people or our elected officials in Mountain View. Google is acting in a childish and immature manner by using threats to get their way.

3 people like this
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Making generational decisions based on the assumption that Google will be in Mtn View forever is just so phenomenally stupid that words escape me! Rembember when Shoreline was SGI's campus?

Every council member should be forced to drive out to Shoreline every day at rush hour for a month before they touch the master plan. I dont think that a lot of them work real jobs and have to deal with the realities of traffic and commuting. I know that the mayor thinks traffic is unimportant.

Bravo to Laura Macias's comments above.

3 people like this
Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I believe the 1985 Mtn. View master plan proposed between 35,000 & 50,000 population for the North of Bayshore area. I recall that this was shot down due to seismic considerations. Has anything changed?

That said, it sounds like they propose building barraks but not in the military sense. Has anyone proposed building apartments for those who might not want to drive home a large distance every night??

5 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 28, 2015 at 8:21 am

We don't have the resources for the increase in population or the infrastructure for the increase of traffic coming in and out of Mountain View and quite frankly, I don't want to see Mountain View change into Googleland.

Mountain View has always been the bedroom community for the big business parks in North Bayshore and for other towns like Los Altos and Palo Alto who seem to be able to put a limit on their growth or change the character of their towns. Why can't we do the same? Our City Council has no backbone to stand up to Google and just say no.

Is this Mountain View's way of trying to have someone else clean up their Super Fund sites and surrounding areas? It's getting ridiculous.

3 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 28, 2015 at 9:02 am

I would be proud of our City and it's council if they said no to Google's current plan for a new office park and expansion and instead, built affordable housing for our Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and those afflicted from previous wars. I think people tend to forget or do not know Mountain View's long history of supporting our service men and women.

I say no more to corporate parks and yes to taking care of those who have defended us and have given up a lot of themselves.

Google's competitive nature to be the biggest company will only destroy Mountain View.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Contemporary Indian restaurant, Ettan, headed to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 6,145 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,418 views

Two degrees can do all that?
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 969 views

Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 598 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More