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Ellie Casson

Google comes out in support of Mountain View, Calif.’s “forward-thinking” General Plan update

The following post is co-authored by our coalition partner Smart Growth America.

Google digitally reaches millions of people around the world each day, but the company has a very physical home in Mountain View, Calif. – and Google’s leaders have a vision for what they’d like that home to look like in the future.

Last Wednesday, May 16, that vision came one step closer to reality, when Google employees and local sustainability advocates turned out in droves to support local decision makers as they voted to allow housing to be built in the same neighborhoods as office parks.

When environmentalists and a major company are working toward the same goal and when elected officials in the heart of the Silicon Valley – the region that birthed the modern office park – decide to abandon office parks in favor of mixed use development, you can be sure that a seismic shift in the way people think about housing, jobs and the environment is taking place.

The City of Mountain View is in the final stages of updating its General Plan, a guide for the City that includes all of the aspects essential to creating a thriving and well-balanced community. The updated plan, called Mountain View 2030, will provide the City with goals and policies that reflect shared community values, potential change areas, and compliance with state law and local ordinances, as well as a guide for future land use decisions.

Google is one of the many members of the Mountain View community that has weighed in on the General Plan update process. In a letter to the City’s Environmental Planning Commission (PDF), Google’s Vice President for Real Estate & Workplace Services David Radcliffe expressed strong support for many aspects of the General Plan’s updates, including the plan’s call for “more bicycle and pedestrian connections” and “investments in transportation infrastructure.”

Local advocacy group, the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP), shares this vision but for distinct reasons. While Google is naturally focused on what will spark more innovation and help the company’s bottom line, MVCSP members want to live in a city of complete neighborhoods, where residents know their neighbors and don’t have to get in their cars to get their day-to-day needs met. More homes near jobs means less traffic-clogged streets, air pollution, and a better quality of life.

Of particular interest to the search giant and local sustainability advocates is the plan’s proposal for housing in North Bayshore, close to the Google campus. In its letter to the EPC, the company comes out most strongly for housing near its offices, and explains why:

Google sees value in this approach, as we have many very dedicated staff who are younger, have not yet started families, and frankly, work long hours. Many of these staff would welcome the chance to live close to the Google campus during this early phase of their careers…because it is consistent with the vision established by the community at the beginning of the General Plan process. It creates more of a ’24/7′ community, which in turn supports retail and attracts the new generation of employers – and therefore employers – to locate in the area.

The office park development model has played itself out. Mountain View has offered up a bold vision for what should come next in Silicon Valley, for which your own leadership, City staff and consultants have been and should be lauded. It provides reasonable and attainable economic growth in the area – with all the benefits that brings – while creating a place that is more complete and livable than we have now.

At its meeting last week,, the EPC voted to overturn a previous City Council recommendation to eliminate housing in North Bayshore from the General Plan. There is the possibility that in the few remaining weeks of the General Plan update, the EPC’s bold decision could be undone before Council takes its final vote to approve the Plan on July 10. Through the combined efforts of local advocates like MVCSP, nonprofits like Greenbelt Alliance and visionary companies like Google, hopefully Mountain View’s City Council will lead the rest of the nation in reimagining the job centers of tomorrow.

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Photo of Google’s Mountain View headquarters, by Flick user hector garcia.

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