Mountain View votes for nesting over housing

July 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a battle between a dwindling species of bird, the burrowing owl, and an expanding group of humans -- the Google employee. The Mountain View City Council voted Tuesday night in favor of nesting over housing.

Both groups claimed to be on the side of the environment, but after hearing from a majority of environmentalist, the council voted overwhelmingly to prevent the construction of dense housing in the North Bayshore area.

The North Bayshore area in Mountain View is home to several dwindling species, including the burrowing owl which lives in gopher holes. It could also be prime living space for Google employees, an expanding group that's looking to live a walk away from Google headquarters.

"If we could provide a little bit of an option for them to get a little bit closer, so they could actually take their bike or simply walk, I think it would be great for the environment and great for traffic in the Bay Area," said David Radcliffe, the Google vice president of real estate services.

Mountain View's general plan would lay out the city's blue print through 2030, and part of it includes the potential development of an 1,100 unit apartment complex out there. But environmentalists say the impact from humans and pets will eradicate the owls.

Shani Kleinhaus, with the Santa Clara Audubon Society, says there are only three places in the Bay Area that you can see the burrowing owl. "They can build housing right across 101. It's a 10 minute walk. There was a footbridge that was just completed. It's not that far, so there's some kind of a myth that housing is needed right at your workplace and not a 10 minute walk away."

But proponents point out it's a general plan. The details can ban pets and limit vehicles later.

"These are people that could travel without using a car. They could rent one, get a zip car, a city car when they need one. It's a model for the future for us and other cities," said Aaron Grossman from the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Housing.

Google conceded there are other places to build apartments in Mountain View. They just won't be able to develop on the North Bayshore area that they own. Again, the city council voted Tuesday night not to allow residential housing on the North Bayshore area.

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