On Tuesday night there was a tense exchange between council members and Google real estate director John Igoe about planning for 5,000 homes in North Bayshore. Google threw its weight behind the idea at last week's planning commission meeting.
Igoe initially made the comments at the Sept. 3 Environmental Planning Commission meeting in response to questions from commission chair Robert Cox, who noted Google's support for allowing 1,100 homes in North Bayshore when the city's general plan was approved in 2012.
Cox asked if Google would still support planning for those homes now, even if it required an amendment to the city's new general plan and the obvious delays that would come with a new vision for the area. Igoe's answer: "Yes."
Cox then asked if Google supports a community of 5,000 homes in North Bayshore, as council candidate Lenny Siegel has proposed.
"When Randy (the city's planning director) originally put together the General Plan, the discussion we had with him at that time was that a really comprehensive community, a really self-supporting community, if you will, would be about 5,000 units," Igoe said of the number often quoted as what's needed to support a neighborhood-serving grocery store. "We still think that having a community in North Bayshore is a good thing. So we would support the eventual growth of the number of housing units to approximately 5,000. It's really whatever is needed to create a community."
After reading Igoe's comments in a story on the Voice website, council members were skeptical.
"If land is going to be $10 million to $20 million per acre, I've yet to see any land owners explain how this land would yield anything affordable for our community," said council member Jac Siegel, who opposes allowing housing in North Bayshore.
In response to questions from Siegel, Igoe said, "Google would support a community in North Bayshore, we think it's important to support a community there."
When Siegel asked more probing questions about the financial feasibility of zoning land worth billions to build 5,000 homes, Igoe replied, "I don't know how I would be more clear, we do support the concept of a community in North Bayshore."
Council member Mike Kasperzak interjected, saying Google supported such a community "philosophically, as opposed to, 'We'd build it.'" Igoe replied, "There's no opportunity to build it."
Members of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View took Igoe's initial comments to mean that Google may be open to a "public-private" partnership to build affordable housing in North Bayshore.
A majority of the commissioners at the Sept. 3 meeting expressed opposition to housing in North Bayshore, including Robert Cox and three commissioners who are candidates for the City Council in November: Ellen Kamei, Lisa Matichak and Margaret Capriles. Commissioners Todd Fernandez and John Scarboro supported allowing housing in North Bayshore, while commissioner Kathy Trontell was absent.
A new criticism came from Matichak, who said the land in North Bayshore -- most of which is owned by Google -- is too expensive for housing development at a cost of $20 million an acre. She told the Voice that she had received that number from a real estate broker who wished to remain anonymous. Reportedly, the priciest local real estate buy to date was Google's recent purchase of 700 East Middlefield Road in Mountain View, at a cost of $10.4 million an acre.