February 3

Google told to move mystery barge near San Francisco

Google has had little to say about the barge or a similar vessel in Maine, which arrived in Portland Harbor in October.

The Associated Press

Google must move a mystery barge from a construction site on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay because the permits are not in order, a state official said Monday.

click image to enlarge

In this Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, file photo, two men fish in the water in front of a Google barge on Treasure Island in San Francisco. A state agency says Google must move its mystery barge from a construction site on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay because the permits are not in order.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

The notice came after the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission investigated numerous complaints about construction of the floating, four-story building, commission executive director Larry Goldzband said.

The investigation found that neither the Treasure Island Development Authority nor the city of San Francisco had applied for required permits for the work to be done at the site and could face fines and enforcement proceedings.

Goldzband said Google can resolve the issue by moving the barge to one of the fully permitted construction facilities in the San Francisco Bay.

"It needs to move," he said.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mirian Saez, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, said, "we did not intend to violate or circumvent the process."

The authority will try to apply for the correct permits with the commission, she said, noting her agency has not spoken to Google about the issue.

Preliminary planning documents submitted to the port last fall showed plans for Google to build an interactive space for people to learn about technology as it traveled from dock to dock.

The documents ended months of speculation that the barge would be a party boat, data storage center or a store for Google to sell its Internet-connected glasses.

Google has had little to say about the barge or another vessel off the coast of Maine. That barge hasn't had any visible construction going on since it arrived in Portland Harbor in October.

In November, the company issued a statement that said, "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

Goldzband said when the barge is built, it will need more even permits to be moored or docked.

Jason Flanders, program director at San Francisco Baykeeper, a nonprofit pollution watchdog, said the group was pleased the state agency is taking a strong stand.

"Obviously the bay is a valuable resource to everybody," he said. "Requiring people and companies large and small to pass all environmental regulations before using the bay is essential."

The enforcement action marked the second set of headaches for the barge project. Late last year, work was halted after the Coast Guard said additional permits were needed. Construction was expected to resume in March.

In recent months, Google also has been at the center of a San Francisco controversy over private buses that several large tech companies use to transport workers south from the city to Silicon Valley. Some community members say the buses are congesting city bus stops, so the city recently voted to charge the companies for each stop the buses make.

To help address the situation, Google recently launched pilot programs using private ferries to transport some workers to Redwood City, near its campus on the San Francisco Peninsula.

 

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