What adequate Google housing could look like


If you've ever wondered what it might look like if there was enough housing in Mountain View for all of the city's Google employees, you aren't alone.

Berkeley-based designer Alfred Twu wondered the same thing. He created a digital rendering of what 10,040 apartments (800 square-feet each) could look like if built on the parking lots of Google's headquarters at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway. It required 39 high-rise buildings ranging in height from seven to 50 stories tall - a total of 8 million square feet of development.

Twu explained his motivation for creating the image: "The booming tech industry has created huge demand for housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, driving up housing costs and leading to long commutes," he writes on his webpage, where he has also posted images of housing for other major valley employers.

The renderings are a response to increased attention to the impacts of job growth by Google and others. Twu noted recent protests in San Francisco have targeted Google's iconic white commuter shuttles, now a symbol for the Bay Area's soaring housing prices and spiking commuter traffic.

The renderings are not a serious proposal, just a way to visualize how much housing might be needed to address the problem, Twu said. A more realistic plan could make use of Google's many other properties nearby, including the vacant 18-acre "Charleston East" lot next door, for example.

"I simply matched the number of jobs to housing to show how much housing a certain amount of office space requires," Twu writes.

While striking, the image does not capture the full picture. City officials estimated last year that Google actually has over 20,000 employees in Mountain View, double what Twu's rendering has space for. Only around 2,000 live within city limits.

In July of 2012 the City Council voted against North Bayshore housing proposed by Google, voting 4-3 to remove zoning for 1,100 Google homes north of Highway 101 from a new city general plan.

Instead of housing, council members gave a preliminary OK to more offices for Shoreline Boulevard last week as a "precise plan" for the area is developed this year. The six- and eight-story offices would be built above ground-floor retail in a transit-oriented downtown-like corridor north of Highway 101 and south of Charleston Road where the Google housing was previously slated.

The office plan makes room for an additional 15,000 to 20,000 employees around Google headquarters by 2030 (many more are planned elsewhere in Mountain View as well), though the city's new general plan will allow for fewer than 7,000 new homes in Mountain View, likely making commuter traffic and housing prices much worse.

Council members Ronit Bryant and Margaret Abe-Koga supported the office concept last week, along with Mayor Chris Clark and Mike Kasperzak. Members John McAlister and John Inks thought the plan was too restrictive on office growth. The move wasn't unusual. The council has approved well over one million square feet of new offices in recent years.

"It's hard to blame the city for doing that because of the state's tax policies," Twu said. "It's in every city's interest to have as few residents as possible and as many businesses as possible. So to really solve the Bay Area's housing problem would take something from the state level."

In their opposition to Google housing north of Highway 101, council members expressed fears about feral cats and stray dogs endangering the rare burrowing owl at Shoreline Park, and compared the idea to Chinese factory dorms where workers do not live "happily ever after." Voting against new North Bayshore housing were members Jac Siegel, Ronit Bryant, Margaret Abe-Koga and Laura Macias (Macias termed out shortly after.)

As candidates line up to replace Abe-Koga, Bryant and Jac Siegel this year, there's increased questioning of the council's position against North Bayshore housing while supporting so much office growth.

"I don't understand the comments about housing in North Bayshore resulting in insular, private towns, and comparisons to Chinese workers, coal towns, 'needing to grow up and get out' and so on," wrote one commenter on the Voice's Town Square reader forum. "Maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought that employees who live on military bases (like Moffett Field), students who live on college campuses (like Davis, Chico, San Luis Obispo) and even seniors in retirement communities do lots of shopping, eating, and participating in the local community. Everyone I know who works at Google is married with kids who attend public school in MV. Google already provides their employees with numerous on-site amenities, but getting there causes the huge traffic mess. What is so bad about living close to work? Does residential housing threaten the burrowing owls in ways that office development does not? I just want to understand the thinking behind the opposition to housing in North Bayshore."

Twu says the image may be surprising because the Valley's job growth has happened in such a small footprint, and inside low rise buildings. Computer programmers don't use much office space, he said.

He explained his focus on company parking lots: "Right now in the Bay Area we have situation where we don't want to build on open space and generally don't want to build in existing residential areas either - or existing industrial areas," Twu said. "So that really leaves the parking lots."


4 people like this
Posted by A talking cat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:07 am

The city council is *actively* pushing out long-time residents and those who are less well off than the tech workers who drive in from far away. They don't care about the faces of the people, only the corporate interests. This could easily be alleviated with high-density housing in north bayshore.

I know business space is MUCH more lucrative per square foot than residential, but why does that affect the decisions of the city council? Unless they're somehow profiting from this as well?

I would not be shocked if there was some illegal kickback program going back to the city council members to explain this unbelievable priority of corporations over residents. Hey MV Voice, how about some investigative journalism?

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

Readers should keep in mind that those are just the visions of a single designer and not what Google is actually proposing.

If one was to look at designers, they should look at what Israeli architect Hillel Schocken proposed for Apple (a totally opposite gorgeous vision of a tech residential community)
Link: Web Link

Or another approach, micro apartments that are actually being built in Brazil for their their tech residential community (which includes Google Sao Paulo). Link: Web Link

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Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Reminds of the sketches of earlier planned projects after World War 2, or pro transit redevelopment projects.

Google Marincello in Marin County for something close to jobs, transit and the ideal mixed use project. Wasn't built.

Not everyone will work for Google so company housing will not work. Not everyone will want to live in company housing.

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Posted by myob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

This is just one designer's illustration of a hypothetical scenario. If Google did have some housing around its campus, some people would choose to use it and take the pressure off local housing. The big problem we have is that the population is growing because jobs bring them in from outside the area, while housing isn't keeping up.

You can't place the blame for the housing shortage solely on the city council, since many residents, especially existing home owners, fight hard to prevent any sort of high density developments. Some residents are averse to change of any sort, some want to see their house values keep appreciating, etc. City councils tend to reflect the local values, and in the Bay Area, that's NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard). Dense housing is great, just somewhere else!

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Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

@'A talking cat' -
"I would not be shocked if there was some illegal kickback program going back to the city council members to explain this unbelievable priority of corporations over residents. Hey MV Voice, how about some investigative journalism?"

As 'myob' points out above, there are plenty of more reasonable explanations for why we're in the situation we are now, with so much job growth and relatively little residential growth. There's no conspiracy theory about a kickback program necessary.

In addition to the factors 'myob' mentions above, consider that:
-Historically, it's much easier to get development approved in North Bayshore than south of 101, because there are few residential neighbors in North Bayshore
-A well-intentioned, but perhaps misguided, lobby has for years been fighting the idea of housing in North Bayshore on environmental grounds
-Our state's property tax system and Prop. 13 place a huge emphasis on generating tax revenues from commercial development

Combine all these factors, and the unintended consequence is a huge imbalance of jobs vs. housing.

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

@A talking cat: Funny, you are complaining about locals being displaced by Google employees from far away, and in SF they are complaining that they want those Google employees to get out and move to Mountain View. But beyond that, you know who gets all that income coming from Google. YOU DO. All the various improvements, and renovation, and park improvements, and tons of other stuff, are all driven by tax income, and the tech industry in general, and Google in particular, are a big part of that. I don't see any houses getting taken over by eminent domain and being handed over to Google. Stop being so darn provincial. Not to mention the drawings are a thought exercise, NOT reality.

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Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm


Google does pay property taxes.
Google pays almost no sales tax.

Mountain View gets very little income form Google.

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Posted by Probably74
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Are any of these new office spaces designed to include underground parking? If not, where are all these employees going to park? Also, if the offices are built above ground-level retail space, where will the shoppers park?

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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Oh it does not matter that it is a single designer; I keep saying Mountain View is now GoogleVille! Everything in Mountain View is all about housing not for the Mountain view residents but for ridiculous and I don't care how much money Google is brining in to GoogleVille all the residents that are renting are being driven out to accommodate the greedy landlords and the Google staff.

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Posted by kevin
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

The Mt. View City Council as a whole are destroying Mt. View. They are all in in it for profit. Should have let the housing go in North Bayshore.

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Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Google workers are free to choose to live anywhere, so are non Google workers. People choose to pursue a career, profession or maybe are tossed in to work. Don't really know? The only reason why I go on about non Google employees is because they need housing.

People, mostly baby Boomer are starting the big retirement, depending on their chosen profession or work that they do? You are going to need replacement personal, not all jobs pay a big income. Most of the area is made up of small businesses that need a workforce but can't pay top high salaries.

Google can build within height limits or little increases but the housing market will still rise.

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Posted by Amelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I would love to see downtown San Jose get cleaned up. It's a perfect place for this sort of housing, close to the train, etc...

1 person likes this
Posted by mike f
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

with all the pending job growth and accompanying housing
that will continue to force rents higher
and is changing the character of mountain view
and is forcing out long term residents WAQSp
(see several voice articles)
i ask the question of those who live here and love mountain view


not in mountain view i am afraid

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Posted by Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm

The Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View started two days ago as an educational campaign organized to promote not only a better balance between jobs and housing in Mountain View, but also to sustain the economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our community.
As a starting point, we are proposing the following principles for North Bayshore development:
1. Enough residential units to accommodate new employees and create an opportunity for a balance of jobs and housing in the area.
2. A mid-rise, medium-density, compact community with a good balance of jobs, housing and local services, including cafes, shops, and educational facilities, and at least one supermarket, to serve local needs.
3. A mix of housing that serves diverse income levels and family sizes.
4. A vibrant neighborhood that stays alive when major employers close for the day or the week.
5. Comfortable, convenient personal mobility within North Bayshore, including walking, biking, and public transportation.
6. Permanent connections from North Bayshore to the regional transit system via the downtown Caltrain station and the VTA light rail system.

There is an e-mail list to discuss these issues as well as actions to reverse the City of Mountain View's unwise course.


Meanwhile, NBC Bay Area (KNTV: channel 3 on cable; broadcast channel 11; just interviewed Lenny for a story tonight about the North Bayshore Area.

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Posted by Andrea
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Now if only the 20,000 employees at Google could come out of the buildings and buy lunch at a local restaurant or sandwich shop, buy a cup of coffee downtown, fill their gas tanks on Shoreline, support the local gym, shop at our stores, MOUNTAIN VIEW!

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Posted by Enough is enough
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Google should move out to an uninhabited area around Morgan Hill or Gilroy. They could have eough room to build a community there. What are they thinking to keep cramming us together like this? Remember the housing bubble? I see this in our future.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:26 am

This looks more like the "dorms" for workers in China. What about bars on the windows, security fences and the private security force for these "dorms"?

Also, are any of these workers going to have kids while they are working for Google? If so, where will they go to school? Or does Google require everyone to practice birth control?

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Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2014 at 8:09 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Morgan Hill and Gilroy voted to rural like Los Altos, the Hills, Woodside, Saratoga, very limitless growth, nothing big.

People in those communities add their cars on already crowded road system.

For Google to fully build a Mega Campus, Redding will be good. Plenty of open land, cheap housing, airport, water and business friendly council.

Just need HSR. there, expand I-5, the airport and build lots more housing.

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Posted by Pat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2014 at 11:37 am

I'm so sick of these "tech" companies! Why do they have to live here? I mean, why can't they work from home anywhere on the planet? Especially the Google employees? Do they actually have to be in an office or cubicle to do their job? Why not utilize some "tech", and video conference? Code isn't exactly something you can hold in your hand, it's all data anyway. I don't understand this. What's the point in driving to work everyday and plugging in your laptop for eight hours, when you can stay home and do the same thing, while at the same time ease traffic and congestion?

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Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Honestly, Google isn't contributing that much to the city's economy. It doesn't sell products which generate sales tax like companies in the city traditionally have done. It doesn't even collect sales tax on all the meals it sells (for free) to its employees as part of their compensation. Think about the sales tax daily on $10 lunches for 20,000 people. The sole reason the city council loves it is because it builds ever bigger and bigger buildings and these do generate property taxes. The city services for these company buildings are less than what is needed for an equivalent value of residences.... so the city encourages business construction over residential. It really is a good visual aid to demonstrate that SOME of the space up there by the Google Palaces ought to be used to house SOME of the workers and cut back on the smog pollution from the Google buses.

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Posted by jub
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm

i think its time google stops expanding in mountain view - enough of killing the city, the city has lost its character, now its made up of proud and arrogant snobs

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Posted by goaway
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm

go away google, stop killing mv. There are other places you can expand to please.

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Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2014 at 8:40 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Housing bubble? Kind of funny, bay area wasn't really hit hard, Mountain View fared well.

Not all companies produce sales tax, one day the free food perk will go away. I remember air lines had good rewards, most things change.

If you want see a better sales tax, build stores, then build more. Drug, grocery and fast food is not really good tax base, car dealers, furniture, jewelry, clothing, home goods or sit down reztaurants.

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Posted by Mountain View since1980
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

Google and it's expansion within Mountain view is like watching Borgs chanting assimilate, assimilate and the City Council has been assimilated.

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Posted by Phelps
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm

The Shoreline area in question is a business park, both from it's original conception and from it's use today. Someone that advocates housing on the north side of 101 should go there at nine o'clock at night and recognize first hand it is an empty business park filled with office buildings, straggling employees and security vehicles. A healthy "community" requires so many more types of development than just housing + office buildings. I'd argue it's better to keep the intense business development north of 101 and out of the rest of MV. I'd argue it's not the right thing to have Shoreline redeveloped into a mini-Castro street that's missing the police and fire stations, schools and playgrounds required of a real community (by the way, paid for by us, not Google). If we don't have all the associated infrastructure, then we'd simply have barracks of company housing which seems to be the view the Google has repeatedly asked for; housing with nothing else.

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Posted by Reality
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm

We should limit the office construction in Mountain View as is being done by a planned referendum by public petition for Menlo Park. 3.5 Million square feet of additional office space is just plain too much for Mountain View, even if it is up in Shoreline.

At the same time, the design of the area as office-only is very 80's in nature. It makes no sense in a modern world. If you are worried about having enough housing, then there have to be high rise apartment buildings somewhere, and I think this is better done up in the Shoreline area north of 101 than it is anywhere else in the city. We just need to be measured about how much of such construction is permitted.

Keep in mind that Google has permission from NASA to build housing at Moffet Field as part of their lease. It's going to happen there and it will be outside of the review of the city. The huge office complex they also plan to build will strain all the resources that are in short supply--water, open space, roads, etc. There's just plain too much growth, and you know that when it is more than the growth-oriented Plan Bay Area indicates. Also it is happening very fast. Google has a huge 5 story building going in near the Computer History Museum RIGHT NOW, construction underway.

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Posted by Friend
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I'm glad Google is in Mountain View. Great company that contributes in many ways. Its growth is a challenge, but I'd much rather have Google than many other polluting or collapsing industries. Contrary to some of the comments here stating that Google contributes little, this article says that Google contributes 8.5% to the city's $100 million general fund and another $17.6 million in property taxes to the state.

Web Link

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Posted by LoveYourDNA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Hey Google,

Why don't you go to Detroit and other cities in need of help?? And, what's gonna happen when you crash and burn like so many other giants before you?

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Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:59 am


That is a brilliant idea! Google could do whatever they want in Detroit. Google could turn Detroit around in a big way. Or they could just wait five years: San Jose is the next Detroit. The role of Flint will be played by Mountain View.

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Posted by Pat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Go away Google. The only people that want you around are the employees. I think Mountain View would be better off with out them as well! Go buy up space out in the desert. Or better yet, go occupy the moon!

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of North Whisman

on Sep 26, 2017 at 11:24 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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

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