Google pitches housing project in East Whisman


Google is pitching a new swath of dense apartments and offices in the East Whisman area, mirroring the tech giant's other big plans for Mountain View.

The proposal for 500 Logue Ave. represents Google's first foray into building apartments to house its growing workforce as a workaround to the area's huge traffic troubles. Given the intense demand to increase housing, the East Whisman project may also be a trial balloon for Google to test how much bonus office space it can win from city officials before the company submits its much-awaited plans for about 10,000 new homes near its North Bayshore headquarters.

The Logue Avenue proposal was submitted to the city in late October as a gatekeeper project, meaning it would need special exemptions from Mountain View officials in order to move forward. The project calls for using a 3.9-acre site at the end of the Logue Avenue cul-de-sac to build about 330 apartments and more than 203,000 square feet of office space. The proposal would also include space for retail and restaurants, and promises that at least 15 percent of the apartments would be set aside as affordable housing.

As part of the project, Google officials are asking for a bonus incentive equivalent to one extra square foot of office space for every three square feet of residences that are built, said Community Development Director Randy Tsuda. Winning extra office rights has been a crucial point for Google officials in discussions over the company's ambitions for expanding in North Bayshore. At an Environmental Planning Commission meeting earlier this year, company representatives initially requested a 1-to-1 ratio for bonus office square-footage in exchange for building housing, which drew sharp disapproval from the commissioners.

If accepted by the city, this new 3-to-1 ratio proposed for the Logue Avenue project could set a template for what the company would later pitch for North Bayshore, Tsuda said.

"We haven't evaluated these gatekeeper applications yet," Tsuda said. "If the council would support (this ratio) in East Whisman, Google would also request the same in North Bayshore, but I haven't heard specifically from them on this."

For either neighborhood, there are plenty of unknowns hanging in the balance. Through years of talks on building housing in North Bayshore, Mountain View City Council members have largely come out against the idea of letting Google build homes solely for its own workforce. City officials want new homes to be available to anyone, though it's unclear how they would require Google to comply with this.

"We're going to have to wrestle with the question," said Mayor Pat Showalter. "Google might want to get some percentage of the housing, but I'm not interested in all of it being workforce housing."

Mountain View officials are currently knee-deep in the process of revising the precise plans for both North Bayshore and East Whisman, leaving open the possibility that Google's preemptive proposals could wind up being too inconsistent with the city's vision. As a gatekeeper request, Google's Logue Avenue project would require the city to rezone the property and grant it a general-plan amendment.

In their submission to the city, Google officials emphasized how prospective residents at the Logue Avenue project could walk less than a quarter mile to access the VTA light rail station at Middlefield Road. But the VTA line doesn't connect to Google's main campus in North Bayshore, and any employees living in East Whisman would likely be reliant on the company's shuttles to commute, at least for now. Google officials are working with VTA to study a light-rail extension into North Bayshore, but there have been no updates on that effort since it was first announced last year.

Another big question is whether City Hall can even take on Google's latest request. The Logue Avenue project is one of 16 gatekeeper requests being pitched to the city, and planning officials are already warning that workload far exceeds what they can handle.

The same dilemma popped up last year when Mountain View officials received 20 gatekeeper proposals. Planning staff culled that list down to just eight projects, of which only four were approved by the council to move forward. Not much has changed since then, Tsuda warned. Mountain View still has multiple vacant planning positions, leaving the department reliant on contract help.

"Even if we were fully staffed, I don't think we'd be able accommodate these 16 gatekeeper requests," Tsuda said. "We would have to address these on top of all the other projects the council wants done and the many, many other development applications."

Google officials declined to answer the Voice's questions about the Logue Avenue project. The gatekeeper request is scheduled to go before the City Council at its Dec. 6 meeting.


9 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Another Samsung City like they have in Seoul.

Waiting for the next article where they demand Mountain View to be renamed "Googleville".

Man, when tech and the economy takes a huge downturn MV is going to look like Detroit.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jim in Waverly
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Two problems pop out at me:

1) Prices are driven by supply and demand, and cities for years have not been keeping pace with demand... and it's obvious why, " planning officials are already warning that workload far exceeds what they can handle.
The same dilemma popped up last year when Mountain View officials received 20 gatekeeper proposals. Planning staff culled that list down to just eight projects, of which only four were approved by the council to move forward. Not much has changed since then, Tsuda warned."

If we are constrained on city staff to approve and work with builders on housing projects, why don't we increase staff???

2) Can someone help me understand what difference it makes if Google keeps some of the units captive? Its the same people that would be renting here anyway no? We need more supply across all price levels for all tenants.

15 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Why doesn't the council at least officially state their mission: We want to make Mt. View a city of 100% renters. We hate homeowners, quality of life initiatives and anything creates stability as all of those things detract from our ability to create super giant super dense housing for shorter term residents and line our pockets as our cities most important campaign sponsors, the developers.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Slater
on Nov 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm

This move only reinforces the need to expand access points to North Bayshore. Currently I know of three; San Antonio Rd, Amphitheater Parkway and Shoreline blvd. Building a bridges across Stevens Creek would connect MoffettField and North Bayshore there by doubling the access points to six; adding Moffett, Ellis and 237. Council should consider Google development approval contingent on multiple bridges across Stevens Creek. To not do this would force traffic onto Middlefield.

2 people like this
Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 28, 2016 at 6:07 pm

This is what we need; more horrendous traffic---but now on E. Middlefield. Or for that matter, on W. Middlefield as well up to Shoreline Blvd. I'm sure this massive traffic would happen. More cars, more congestion...despite all the buses.

But a great idea to expand access points onto N. Shoreline Blvd.

5 people like this
Posted by Nik
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2016 at 9:56 am

What a great problem to have - people want to live and work in Mountain View, a capable company wants to build housing in Mountain View, it's just that city government doesn't have enough staff to work on this. Not even a problem of funding more city planning staff since there are vacancies. Maybe Google can help the city hire more staff, Google has expertise in that.

1 person likes this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Bailey Park
on Nov 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

Yeah, I see no potential for conflict if Google were to fund the hiring of additional city staff - or more likely city planners - to help manage Google projects down at city hall.

Who are we kidding, Google is ultimately going to get pretty much everything it wants out of Mountain View, it's only a matter of time. I guess the only thing the city is really arguing over at this point is the price they are will to sell out for in terms of the bargains it makes with Google. A sellout is still a sellout.

Yeah, I am a cynic.

3 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of North Bayshore
on Nov 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm

@Jim the city can't hire more staff because it's too expensive to live here and nobody wants to relocate.

@Bob Google has been asking for the permission to build those bridges for several years. The city won't let them, because environment.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 10 comments | 3,384 views

Eat, Surf, Love
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,151 views

Couples: So You Married Mom or Dad . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,104 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 757 views