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Google Woos Silicon Valley City With Affordable Housing Promise

Rendering of Google's "Charleston East" campus (Credit: City of Mountain View)

Mountain View City Council approved a massive redevelopment plan Tuesday, which will allow Google to construct a dense new campus with nearly 10,000 new homes and apartments and 3.6 million square feet of office space. The move is a departure on the city’s part, since only two years ago it voted to allow less than one-quarter of the construction Google had hoped for at the time.

The plan calls for the North Bayshore office park to be transformed into a collection of office buildings, shops and three new neighborhoods called Joaquin, Shorebird and Pear, the Mercury News reports. Of the 9,850 new housing units allowed by the city, 70 percent will be targeted for studio or one-bedroom apartments and 20 percent of the apartments will be affordable.

Housing — and the Bay Area’s catastrophic lack thereof — was a key driver in the city’s decision.

“This is a cutting edge plan that sets a standard,” Vice Mayor Lenny Siegel said, according to the paper, referencing the region’s shortage of residential development. Residents and advocates packed the council chambers, meanwhile, waving signs that read “9,850 homes, #SayYesNBS.”

Google is well-aware of the region’s desperation. In September, Fortune reported that the company was using the housing plan to win approval for more space in its “Charleston East” campus. At the time, Mountain View City Council had given preliminary approval to the North Bayshore development, but at a meeting “Google began to warn the city that the company would not allow the building to move forward unless an additional 800,000 square feet of office space was approved,” according to Fortune. Google later backed down, and wrote in a letter to City Council: “We apologize that this came out as a demand, when the intent was to open a conversation to address a potential issue.”

In 2015, Mountain View City Council disappointed the tech giant by approving far less construction in the North Bayshore area than Google had hoped for. Instead, it voted in favor of a an expansion proposal by LinkedIn, which had fewer community benefits attached, as Susie Cagle wrote for Next City at the time. The over-riding message of that decisive meeting was that Mountain View did not want to be a company town.

“I think economic diversity is important,” then-City Council member Michael Kasperzak said at the time. “I’ve lived through two corporations in Mountain View that were masters of the universe and are no longer with us.”