If Mountain View's tense standoff with Google over North Bayshore last week was like a game of chicken, it was Google that swerved.
Google officials are now backpedaling on demands for more office space as a condition for building 9,850 new housing units in North Bayshore. In a contrite letter sent Monday afternoon to the Mountain View City Council, the company's real estate team apologized for comments made last Tuesday, Sept. 26, that were widely interpreted as an ultimatum demanding an additional 800,000 square feet of office development rights.
In the letter, David Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate, emphasized that his team was wholeheartedly on board for seeing housing built near the company's North Bayshore headquarters.
“During the Council's study session, we voiced the idea that adding office space could be a way to offset housing costs. We apologize that this came out as a demand, when the intent was to open a conversation to address a potential issue,” he wrote.
The company's tone was very different one week ago as a grueling City Council study session on the North Bayshore precise plan stretched past midnight and into the early morning hours. At the time, council members were pitching a series of new demands for the company's future housing development, including calls for union hiring, environmental monitoring, ownership housing and up to 40 percent of new apartments to priced as affordable.
As the night wore on and the list of potential public concessions grew, Google's lead representative, Senior Design Director Joe Van Belleghem, broke decorum and spoke bluntly. There would be no housing built by Google, he said, unless the city agreed to allocate 800,000 square feet of additional office space.
“Just to be clear: no new office, no new residential," Van Belleghem told the council. "We've been very clear all along that we needed this extra office space to make this work."
But council members didn't budge, and they declined to consider any additional office development rights. It was a harrowing end for the meeting, leaving housing advocates concerned that plans for residential growth were now in limbo.
Google officials apparently did an about-face over the last few days. A Google spokeswoman said the company received some pressure from its own employees in recent days, highlighting the severe need for housing.
“We remain unequivocally committed to (North Bayshore housing) and strongly support the creation of the full 9,850 new housing units,” Radcliffe wrote to the council.