It sounds like a cross between Tomorrowland and a college dorm: Google wants on- (or near-) campus housing for their employees. Yes, the free on-campus laundry, free on-campus eateries, on-campus childcare (I’m just assuming that’s not free, but you never know) and free on-campus exercise facilities (making them 75% more free than where I went to college, but anyway) are just not enough to keep their employees at the Googleplex enough hours of the day.
I don’t think the housing will be free, but you never know.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Google has any plans to get into real estate development. Remember their wireless spectrum bluff? Google may be appealing to make the change, hoping if you “rezone it, they will come.” It’s not a terrible theory—potential builders would have a built-in set of potential renters/buyers for the residential properties, which would make office retail space desirable there, too.
So Google probably isn’t trying to take over every aspect of their employees’ lives (despite what it seems like with the on-campus oil changes, doctors, masseuses and dry cleaning drop off—which are not free, I assume). In fact, it started as the exact opposite—housing and services convenient to the Googleplex are virtually nonexistent. No, they’re not just coddling their employees so they can attract those recent college grads who’ve had Mom do their laundry for the last 20+ years .
In fact, Google may be trying to save money with this move: some employees live so far away (and the Googleplex doesn’t have a lot of public transit access) that Google provides luxury buses with Wi-Fi for employees commuting from San Francisco.
So what’s a multi-billion dollar corporation to do? Well, first, they start off with the proper legal channels. Last week, they wrote a letter to Mountain View, preparing to ask for zoning changes to allow housing in the nearby area. Naturally, they’re also being careful to plan sustainable development:
Our goals for Google’s HQ are to provide a future redevelopment that is nurturing and regenerative to the environment provide a vibrant community and worklife balance [I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry there] for all and efficiently manage transportation and pedestrian access needs. This must include mixed uses office retail and residential along with the kind of land use development described in the Final Report by the Mountain View Environmental Sustainability Task Force.
So their plans aren’t just to build apartment buildings—they want strip malls, too. Ah, yes, then life will be complete . The current zoning is for commercial use only. The city is preparing to discuss zoning changes, but don’t expect to move into your Google-themed housing too soon.
TechCrunch also has the full memo from the Mountain View City Planner to the City Council, preparing to discuss the zoning changes:
What do you think? Will Google get its real estate dreams? Will they be building, or will they step back and let others do the heavy lifting?
Photo by Joe Penniston