Google is making life terrible for residents of Mountain View, Calif., according to The Verge.
The company’s HQ has grown so big that traffic in the town has been brought to a standstill. Residents complain they cannot even get their cars out of their driveways due to the congestion.
And Google has twice applied to develop land on the habit of the rare Western Burrowing Owl, which lives in the area. The borrowing owl lives in holes underground.
Google is on a tear, purchasing real estate in Mountain View, which recently culminated in a lease for the 1,000-acre Moffett Federal Airfield located east of the main Google complex. Now, Google owns almost every building north of Highway 101 — the primary route that connects Mountain View to the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area — in an area called North Bayshore.
There is no housing for Google employees in North Bayshore, so every worker clogs up the highway coming to and from work in the morning and at night, The Verge reports:
“It’s a parking lot,” says City Council member Jac Siegel. “I live on a side street, and there are times I can’t even get out of my driveway to get onto the side street; that’s how bad it’s gotten.”
Daniel Debolt, a journalist who has covered this growing issue for almost a decade, tells The Verge, “The community … is being replaced by people who spend most of their day on the Google campus, not really contributing much to civic life.”
The Verge points out that Google moved to Mountain View in 1999 with fewer than 50 employees, but in just 15 years, it became the biggest employer in the city. It owns 10.7 per cent of all taxable property in Mountain View.
A local newspaper, the Mountain View Voice, revealed that Google employees predicted that there would be a traffic issue in the future. Back in 2009, Advanced Transit system employee Steve Raney explained this to the paper:
Raney said one Google employee with a background in transportation planning told him that “In five or 10 years we’ll have gridlock” at the Highway 101/85 interchange, which feeds onto Shoreline Boulevard.
Google provides buses for employees, but this transportation system has been the persistent target of gentrification protests, which could be a possible motivation for Google employees to drive directly to work.
Also, The Verge says that Google recently proposed a bridge to connecting its primary Mountain View complex with other properties, as well as construction projects like a hotel to accommodate commuters.
The Council cited environmental concerns, however; some members are worried that this could affect indigenous wildlife that lives in the area — including the owls — since certain offices are located near wildlife habitats. Google in the past has paid thousands of dollars to mitigate owl habitats prior to development.
In a statement, Google says: “Google and more than 3,000 Google employees call Mountain View home, and to date we’ve added no new development. No matter what happens in the future, we’re committed to being good neighbours for the community and the natural environment. In fact, our shuttle program takes 5,000 cars off the road each day, and thousands more Google employees ride bikes to work.”
Two possible methods are being considered to solve the problem: the Council is leaning toward letting Google replace existing offices with taller, denser ones as long as the buildings near wildlife habitats are reduced in size. On the transportation front, the city is working with the Transportation Management Association to improve bike and pedestrian pathways, as well as create a shared shuttle service used by tech company employees in the area.
The plan is due by the end of the year.