Google asks city to zone for housing near HQ

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK ( -- Google has asked the city of Mountain View to change its zoning laws so that homes and stores can be built near its headquarters.

The search giant has roughly several thousand employees that work at its California headquarters, in a location with a tough commute. Public transportation in Google's North Bayshore region is limited, so the company sends buses around the Bay Area to shuttle employees to work.

In a letter to the city manager of Mountain View, dated Feb. 11, David Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate and workplace services, wrote: "We would encourage you to provide opportunities for the North Bayshore area to continue to be the center of sustainable development for Google's HQ campus."

The search giant's goal, he wrote, is to "provide ... work/life balance for all, and efficiently manage transportation." Radcliffe goes on to ask for "an in-depth discussion" with city officials "as soon as possible."

Scott Plambaeck, a senior planner for the City of Mountain View, said the city council discussed the letter Tuesday at a previously scheduled meeting.

Google is well known for the extraordinary perks it offers its employees, including free lunch and dinner, car washes, on-site doctors and backup child care.

"They're known to be a great company to work for, with high morale among its employees," said Benjamin Schacter, senior Internet analyst at Broadpoint Amtech.

But he wondered about Google's work/life balance argument: "They want people to be closer to work -- so people will probably be on the campus more."

Reinventing Mountain View: Mountain View is currently working to update its plans for the city's development, as mandated by California state law, which will lay the groundwork for zoning decisions.

The city's plan was last discussed in 1992, Plambaeck said, and officials are working to update the document based on studies and workshops with citizens to find out "how they want to see the city grow in the future."

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) spokesman Andrew Pederson said the company may want to expand its workforce now that the economy is turning around.

"We just want to start an ongoing discussion with the city," he said. "We really like being in Mountain View, and we have a vision of what we want the headquarters to be like."

Broadpoint's Schacter noted that Google's total 20,000-person workforce is small compared with key rival Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) 93,000 employees worldwide, so the search giant "has a lot of room to grow."

"We want to make sure we have housing caught up as we improve the commercial corridor," Pederson said. "This is us looking three, five, 10 years down the road."  To top of page

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