MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Early this year, Google unveiled renderings of several clear, tent-like buildings that would replace its current Silicon Valley headquarters, known as the “Googleplex.” Renderings may be about as far as the idea is likely to go.
In a blow to Google’s expansion plans, on Tuesday the Mountain View City Council voted to give the search giant roughly a quarter of the office space it had requested for the project, and instead awarded the lion’s share of the city’s future office development –- 1.5 million square feet –- to LinkedIn.1
Google received about 500,000 square feet, or about enough to build one of the four buildings it had proposed.
“We know the City Council had a tough decision to make last night and thank them and our community for more than six hours of debate,” said David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president of real estate, in an emailed statement. He added that the company would “continue to work with the City on Google’s future in Mountain View.”
The vote was part of a years-long plan for how to redevelop Mountain View’s North Bayshore area, a mass of low-slung office parks that surrounds Google’s headquarters and is separated from Mountain View proper by Highway 101. At issue was how to allot just over 2 million square feet of future office space, as well as how to build more housing –- particularly affordable housing –- in a region that badly needs it.
Underscoring this, during an earlier portion of the meeting several Mountain View residents, including a Google engineer named Brandon Jones, protested their imminent eviction from a townhouse development that was recently acquired by a developer.
- 1. Ref: http://www.bizjournals.com/
A number of environmental activists also spoke favorably of Google's project, which contemplates big investments in returning vast swaths of pavement to the land. Google's plan envisions widening creeks, expanding habitat areas and producing its own energy.
"Google is proposing a transformative project," said Shani Kleinhaus of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, which rarely supports real estate projects. "Instead of looking at, How are we going to cut this baby into a lot of little pieces, and still have something viable, Google is offering something that’s very integrated. They also can delver everything you want."
Councilman Lenny Siegel was the most vocal supporter of Google, attempting late in the night to move some of LinkedIn's office allocation to Google so that the company could build a second structure. Siegel, a major proponent of housing in North Bayshore, said it was unfair that Google was essentially being "punished" for supporting residential.
While Siegel was unsuccessful in that maneuver, council members struggled for hours to try to balance the demands of the city's corporate residents with limited ability to satisfy it.
"I would like to find a way to accommodate them in one form or another," Councilmember Chris Clark said.
In the end, the math just didn't work that way. And in approving LinkedIn’s development request, city leaders seemed most concerned about business diversity — keeping LinkedIn in Mountain View — as Google becomes ever larger.
LinkedIn is a veritable pipsqueak amid Google in North Bayshore, leasing about 370,000 square feet there compared to millions of square feet and hundreds of acres that Google controls. (LinkedIn also leases significant office space in San Francisco, Sunnyvale and Los Altos.) With the new project, LinkedIn would have capacity for up to 8,000 workers, Morgensen said.
All eyes will now be on Google’s next move.