In February, Google unveiled an expansion of its Silicon Valley campus that many dubbed the new Star Wars Fleet Command Headquarters. The worldwide acclaim for its eco-friendly biosphere design, which features translucent canopies and walkways around natural salt water lagoons, has been intense. But this week, the City of Mountain View decided, in order to maximize property tax revenue, to give the property to Linkedin to build 1970s-style conventional stack-and-pack office towers that maximize occupancy.
A string of developers have been angling to build new office development in the mostly sold-out North Bayshore tech district. Google’s futuristic new campus needed the most space to eclipse new Silicon Valley landmarks that include the recently opened, Frank Gehry-designed 430,000-square-foot Facebook campus, sporting the world’s largest open floor plan in nearby Menlo Park; tand Apple’s spaceship-like circular campus in Cupertino, housing 13,000 of Apple’s employees under a single roof.
Sources said that Google’s 20,000-employee dominance over the community may have worked against it, with some city council members becoming leery of too much reliance on one employer.
Google is Mountain View’s biggest taxpayer. Tech also companies account for 27 percent of the jobs in the Silicon Valley, compared with 7 percent in California and 5 percent nationally, according to Moody’s Analytics. Google’s success has driven unemployment in Mountain down to 3.3 percent, but low unemployment and skyrocketing home prices have also led to lots of gridlock.
Opposition by Mountain View Mayor John McAllister caused the city council to vote 4 to 3 to ditch Google and go with Linkedin. After the vote, the mayor told the SiliconValley.com blog, “I don’t think Google did anything wrong, but I wanted economic diversity.”
The artist’s rendering of LinkedIn’s proposed 1.6 million-square-foot headquarters development project looked like every 1970s-era design with glass towers; shops and a theater on the ground level; and a fitness center in the basement. Although the approval may somewhat diversify employment away from Google, the Linkedin design occupancy will be 60% more dense.
Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at nearby Stanford and in 1997 collaborated to develop a search engine called BackRub. The engine operated on Stanford servers for more than a year, but after taking up too much bandwidth the company changed its name to Google and moved to Mountain View in 1999. Google occupies and owns dozens of Mountain View properties even as it continues to expand its Silicon Valley footprint to the south in Sunnyvale, and up north in Redwood City, where it bought 6 buildings it is renovating and expects to move in this summer.
Google could still build its glass utopia at the adjacent Moffett Field Naval Air Station. That space is about half the size of its original building plans. Google took ownership of the base last month, where it plans to base its robotics projects.