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Google’s loss, LinkedIn’s gain

Mountain View reshaping tech district

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POSTED May 8, 2015 7:23 p.m.

MOUNTAIN VIEW (AP) —  Google’s vision to build a grand new campus in its hometown suffered a beating early Wednesday morning when the Mountain View City Council scrapped more than 70 percent of the plan in favor of competing proposals by LinkedIn and other developers.

Google watched city leaders shred its ambitious proposal of translucent domed buildings from four sites to just one at the end of a 6 1/2-hour meeting to decide which tech companies and real estate firms can build a limited amount of new office space allowed in the neighborhood northeast of Highway 101.

“It’s a significant blow,” said David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president of real estate, just before the City Council voted 4-3 after midnight Wednesday to move ahead with a development process that eliminated Google’s biggest building proposals.

Even as it snubbed the Google project that had attracted international buzz for its nature-oriented design, the council approved nearly all of neighbor LinkedIn’s more conventional mixed-use complex that will include a cinema, shopping center and the new LinkedIn headquarters.

Along with promising the brand-new movie theater and other amenities, LinkedIn’s appeal was the economic diversity it represented to city leaders worried about becoming too reliant on Google, which already employs roughly 15,000 workers in the city and hoped to add 10,000 more.

The problem for the competing firms, and the city, was that the combined proposals amounted to more than double the 2.2 million square feet allowed for new office space in the North Bayshore business district, forcing fierce competition that had each company promising the best public benefits.

Also shot down was an office and residential development by prominent builder The Sobrato Organization. Allowed to proceed were smaller office developments by firms Rees Properties and Broadreach Capital Partners. Broadreach revealed for the first time Tuesday that Google will be its tenant. All of the approved developers will still have to submit their projects through the formal permitting process.

Google representatives appeared exasperated as Mountain View Mayor John McAllister proposed and defended a motion late on Tuesday night that excluded most of their project from moving forward.

Complicating Google’s plan was a new political imperative after Mountain View elected a trio of pro-housing council members late last year.

Google might have overreached by proposing so much square footage despite a tight cap on office development approved by the city last year, but it was also caught off guard by the changing priorities of a new City Council that wants to address runaway rents and home prices by allowing housing that the previous council had banned. Although Google also wants to build nearby housing, particularly to accommodate its workforce, it has set aside land for that purpose and said it did not expect that the city would suggest studying new housing on the same sites where the company proposed building its signature campus buildings.

“This is such an unfair process,” Radcliffe told the council late Tuesday night.

The Google executive was more diplomatic on Wednesday morning, noting in a written statement: “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. We’re pleased Council has decided to advance our Landings (Drive) site and will continue to work with the city on Google’s future in Mountain View.”

Radcliffe had earlier on Tuesday called for Mountain View to delay its decision until a study addressing the housing questions is completed later this year. LinkedIn rejected a delay, citing the time-sensitive nature of its negotiations with property owners and the fact that its site was not being considered for housing.

Some City Council members — notably, all three of its newest, pro-housing members -- also sought a delay, allowing more time to recalculate how much room exists for new workplaces if old office buildings are razed and homes built, but their motion was denied.

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