Google vs. Mountain View: A battlefield or tempest in a teapot?

Reports that Google was trying to strong arm its own home of Mountain View, but withholding support for a desperately needed large housing project seem to be exaggerated.

But, the international online giant is finding in its own home town that, when it comes to development and housing, you can't always get what you want.

Some of Google's vast Mountain View property has been set aside for the development of up to 9,850 badly needed housing units— units to be built in what was originally a business-industrial area to bring housing close to workplaces.

20 percent of the units would be priced as affordable. City Council deeply concerned over the jobs housing imbalance that drives up housing costs, preliminarily approved the plan but Google pulled a last minute surprise.

"They came to us in the 11th hour frankly, literally was a surprise to us but to say we can do this but we need more office space than what you've allotted," said long time Councilwoman  Margaret Abe-Koga.

"Google has been telling us for a long time that they'd like more offices than we've authorized," said Councilman and Vice-Mayor, Lenny Siegel.

Google wanted an additional 800,000 square feet of office space, an amount that would significantly change the North Shore Charleston East project trying to fix the existing housing imbalance; not adding to it.

"The problem is, when we told Google we were reluctant to build more offices above the ones authorized, said the Vice-Mayor.  They [Google] said, ‘No new extra offices, no new housing’, but, the Vice-Mayor and Google both confirm this was not an "our way or the highway" "take it or leave it" threat with Google saying: ‘In order to create an economically vibrant and balanced community, we believe the plan has to include office, retail and community spaces, alongside parks and residential units’.

So, a new funding source has to be found. "That, in the scheme of things, is a fairly narrow question. I don't believe that there's any difference of opinion on the overall vision for North Bayshore between the two parties, "said Mountain View City Development Manager Randy Tsuda. And, says Tsuda, under existing city law, the development area which includes a lot of Google buildings, is already under a strict traffic limit cap regardless of what Google wants to build.

"Unless City Council says otherwise, Google needs to comply with that trip cap," said Tsuda. "I think we can definitely work it out but it definitely does take, a level of trust and being forthright and being up front with what your real needs are," said Councilwoman Abe-Koga.

A final decision is still more than two weeks off.

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