Former city manager supports village concept for North Bayshore


As city manager in the early 1980s, Bruce Liedstrand helped lead efforts to transform the city's downtown and create a vision for the North Bayshore area that's now home to Google. But mistakes were made, he says, and he hopes the city doesn't pass on an opportunity to create an "innovation village" in North Bayshore for Google employees and others.

"It seemed great at the time," Liedstrand said of North Bayshore's development. But the low office buildings and sprawling parking lots indicate the flaw that underpinned the whole design: the assumption that our dependency on cars would never change.

Residents and North Bayshore employees had similar opinions during general plan meetings in 2009 and 2010 in which a new vision was sought for North Bayshore and other key neighborhoods in the city. The idea of creating "another vibrant Castro Street" on Shoreline Boulevard north of Highway 101 appeared to have support from most participants. Housing, retail and other services should be allowed in the neighborhood, participants said, so office workers would not have to commute in and out of the area as much.

Now the city is looking to refine that vision in gathering input on a new draft of the city's new 2030 general plan, a blueprint for the future development of key neighborhoods. Input is coming from unusual places for North Bayshore, including a city-sponsored "town hall" website for gathering input on North Bayshore planning and from little-known workshops for Googlers and other North Bayshore employees organized by Sustainable Silicon Valley.

On Jan. 27 some outside-of-the-box ideas came from a workshop Sustainable Silicon Valley held for businesses in North Bayshore at Intuit headquarters. According to the notes from the meeting, participants called for living buildings with zero impact on the environment, on-site renewable energy sources, inexpensive office space for small businesses and startups, high-density residential buildings, increased car sharing services and a shared shuttle service operated by a coalition of North Bayshore companies. Someone even suggested a museum exhibit featuring future energy technologies.

Online, users of the city-sponsored website have discussed over 30 different ideas for the future of Google's neighborhood. Ideas include a grocery store, small dog and children's parks, outdoor cafes, and clusters of retail services no more than a half-mile from any workplace.

To gauge popularity of an idea, the website allows people to "second" their favorites. The most popular suggestion so far is for a light rail extension from downtown Mountain View to North Bayshore.

"In beautiful Mountain View weather we should be spending more time outside instead of air-conditioned buildings," said one popular post advocating for outdoor cafes and even outdoor movie theaters. Others topics include calls for paved trails along the Bay to Sunnyvale and special street intersections and crosswalks that favor bicyclists and pedestrians.

If online forums are the future of community planning, times have changed. Liedstrand recalled the methods for envisioning Castro Street. A task force of stakeholders was assembled, trips were made to inspiring places, experts talked and soon "everybody was on the same page" with a plan supported by the whole community. He noted that cities often forget the importance of education during such a process.

"Let's understand the younger generation and make it good for them," Liedstrand said of North Bayshore, saying that it should be a place where people find pleasure spending time. He also mentioned that focusing on a single facet, such as housing, could bring controversy and deter efforts. He did say that "the key is to put so many units in there that they can afford to live there."

Liedstrand still lives in Mountain View and has high praise for the city's potential.

"To me this area has the potential to be absolutely great, one of the best places in the whole world."

And that's coming from a guy who has a second home in Paris.

For more information of the city's general plan update: visit


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

The link doesn't work!! Thanks

Like this comment
Posted by cls
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Just say "NO" to high density housing.

2 people like this
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Mr Liedstrand and other visionaries made downtown Mountain View what it is today. Usually when I mention to people that I live in Mountain View, they tell me how beautiful and vibrant our downtown is. If they live in a nearby city, there is often an undertone of envy in that comment.

Our downtown is the result of carefully mixing housing and commercial development. Have you seen pictures of Castro Street from the 1970s? It was clearly built for cars and not for people. Not very inviting.

So I'm all for a similar vision for the North Bayshore area. If you dislike walkable neighborhoods and prefer to take your car everywhere, consider this: more people living within biking or walking distance of their destinations means fewer cars for you to battle on the roads.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Feb 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

The link to the city's North Bayshore plan website should be working now.

Like this comment
Posted by Edgar
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

A retired public employee with a second home in Paris. What does that tell us?

Like this comment
Posted by BD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

Edgar, it could tell us that someone who could afford to spend his time and energy on things far less noble chose to devote his professional career to public service.

I have no particular insight into Mr. Liedstrand's personal situation, but perhaps he got lucky by investing in some of the silicon valley companies his leadership helped attract to the area.

Like this comment
Posted by Ravindra Srinivas Rao
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:17 am

People are addicted to cars and that is why they are showing
"dependency" on cars. Why are they addicted to cars? - because there is no other means of mobility or locomotion which has all the benefits of a personally owned car. Light rail, monorail, PRT, bicycles etc none of these give the advantage of door-step-delivery, speed, freedom of travel, freedom from time tables, freedom from fixed routes. The 21st century is the century of freedom, independence and self expression. A personally owned car is a symbol of freedom. The 21st century commerce and lifestyle has thrown up challenges and the freedom and self expression of the car owner is under a threat due to rising oil prices, parking issues, pollution, health, congestion etc, which has made car journeys an expensive pain. Dependency on cars has also caused dependency on fossil fuels and has forced car users in an polluted environment.

To make people give up their addiction to cars, a new technology is needed to give car users a viable alternative which will restore their freedom although in totally new "Avatar"

The new Avatar is a new technology which will give the car user the freedom to travel the way one likes and in a comfortable way and that too at low cost. A new technology is available now in the form of a public transit system which has all the advantages of a personally owned car and without the problems associated with a personally owned car.

This technology is ready for implementation and I would be happy to partner with a transport technologist to make this technology available in the US. My email id is Cell no 91 9821036731. Ravindra Rao, Mumbai, India

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

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