Much of the future for the neighborhood rests squarely on Google, the chief landowner in North Bayshore. In the run-up to the North Bayshore decision, Google representatives had strongly pushed for housing, indicating they could add as many as 5,000 homes as part of their plan to build a glass-domed office complex. But they warned that bringing housing into the equation would be contingent on meeting the company's office needs.
But that strategy backfired. In the end, the search-engine company received approval for only one site, which had no identified housing component. Meanwhile LinkedIn, which resisted incorporating housing into its plans, emerged from the deliberations with more than two thirds of the total bonus space.
Explaining his thinking behind the decision, Mayor John McAlister said he put a premium on LinkedIn's proposal because it is strategic gateway location just off Highway 101. McAlister insisted that housing wasn't being jettisoned. It would remain on the table in discussions going forward since that is a big concern for companies in the neighborhood.
"I have all the confidence in the world that Google will work hard to provide housing and transit solutions for their employees," the mayor said.
With so much competition for office development rights, it was inevitable that the Mountain View council members would have disappointed applicants, but critics complained that the outcome treated housing as an afterthought.
Councilman Lenny Siegel warned that the decision would lead to more of the same sprawling office parks already occupying North Bayshore. He urged to council to wait and finish a housing study to find out how much office space could be freed up by building homes.
"It sounded like some council members think the way out of this rut is simply to authorize more office development," Siegel wrote in an email on Tuesday. "I've urged Google to continue to working with the community to design something we can all be proud of."
Google representatives at the meeting said they had left untouched property that would be suitable for future housing, including affordable units for low- and middle-income workers not affiliated with company. David Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate, explained that the company needed at least 1.5 million square feet of bonus office space to make it "economically viable" to invest in residential growth.
"Housing is a core ingredient for our success," he said at the meeting "Our assets are our people, and being able to accommodate them in reasonably priced housing is key."
In the days following the meeting, Google representatives struck a diplomatic tone, thanking the city for advancing one of the four sites - an eight-story building off Landings Drive that was a top priority for construction. But the company declined to give any details on how the city's decision would impact its broader plans in North Bayshore.
When it comes to office space, Google has plenty of other irons in the fire throughout Mountain View, said Randy Tsuda, the city's community development director. The company is renovating projects throughout town, and just last week, the company reportedly finished work and began moving employees inside a 550,000 square-foot building off Mayfield Avenue.
In fact, two other applicants considered last week for North Bayshore office space, Broadreach Capital and the Sobrato Organization, both indicated their proposed buildings would likely be leased to Google.
Speaking on Wednesday, Councilman Chris Clark said he felt that city leaders were overwhelmed by trying to balance housing and office plans as well as the merits of each proposal. While Google offered the most attractive package in terms of benefits for the whole community, those amenities were barely discussed by the council, he said.
Clark was in the minority in opposing last week's council decision because he said he wanted Google to get clearance for a second building site. Nevertheless, Clark said he was hopeful that the company would still find a way to work within its constraints.
"Google will be able to come back once we have a much better idea from the housing study," he said. "My 10,000-foot view is: If Google can move forward with their proposal, we'll find a way to do it."
Email Mark Noack at firstname.lastname@example.org