Author Archive: Rachel Dovey

Google Woos Silicon Valley City With Affordable Housing Promise

Rendering of Google’s “Charleston East” campus (Credit: City of Mountain View)

Mountain View City Council approved a massive redevelopment plan Tuesday, which will allow Google to construct a dense new campus with nearly 10,000 new homes and apartments and 3.6 million square feet of office space. The move is a departure on the city’s part, since only two years ago it voted to allow less than one-quarter of the construction Google had hoped for at the time.

The plan calls for the North Bayshore office park to be transformed into a collection of office buildings, shops and three new neighborhoods called Joaquin, Shorebird and Pear, the Mercury News reports. Of the 9,850 new housing units allowed by the city, 70 percent will be targeted for studio or one-bedroom apartments and 20 percent of the apartments will be affordable.

Housing — and the Bay Area’s catastrophic lack thereof — was a key driver in the city’s decision.

“This is a cutting edge plan that sets a standard,” Vice Mayor Lenny Siegel said, according to the paper, referencing the region’s shortage of residential development. Residents and advocates packed the council chambers, meanwhile, waving signs that read “9,850 homes, #SayYesNBS.”

Google is well-aware of the region’s desperation. In September, Fortune reported that the company was using the housing plan to win approval for more space in its “Charleston East” campus. At the time, Mountain View City Council had given preliminary approval to the North Bayshore development, but at a meeting “Google began to warn the city that the company would not allow the building to move forward unless an additional 800,000 square feet of office space was approved,” according to Fortune. Google later backed down, and wrote in a letter to City Council: “We apologize that this came out as a demand, when the intent was to open a conversation to address a potential issue.”

In 2015, Mountain View City Council disappointed the tech giant by approving far less construction in the North Bayshore area than Google had hoped for. Instead, it voted in favor of a an expansion proposal by LinkedIn, which had fewer community benefits attached, as Susie Cagle wrote for Next City at the time. The over-riding message of that decisive meeting was that Mountain View did not want to be a company town.

“I think economic diversity is important,” then-City Council member Michael Kasperzak said at the time. “I’ve lived through two corporations in Mountain View that were masters of the universe and are no longer with us.”

World’s Mayors Demand a Say in UN Immigration Discussions

A protest against President Trump’s travel restriction ban on seven Muslim-majority nations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Increasingly, the attitude of U.S. mayors towards global climate policy is one of “No federal government? No problem.” Now, leaders from New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and others have joined global officials in circumventing the Trump Administration on yet another issue, albeit one closely tied to climate disruption: immigration.

Last weekend, the administration withdrew from the process of developing a new Global Compact on Migration, Brookings reports. The compact aims to safeguard the rights of immigrants and refugees and provide resettlement aid. The U.S. has been involved in shaping the agreement since its 2016 genesis, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Sunday that the it could “undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders,” according to CNN.

That simply won’t do for the cities involved in the actual work of resettling immigrants and refugees. Leaders from numerous cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, and D.C. in the U.S., as well as Paris, Milan, Montreal, Athens, and Amman, Jordan, have signed a letter to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) asking for cities to be formally included in discussions around the global compact on migration, Foreign Policy reports.

According to a copy of the letter published by Brookings, the mayors point out that at least 60 percent of refugees today live in urban areas, and encourage the UNHCR to regularly engage with city leaders and create mechanisms for cities to share their innovative approaches to refugee reception and integration.

“We need to be part of UN decision-making if international agreements are to be responsive to on-the-ground realities,” Bitta Mostofi, acting commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said in a statement. She added that cities “are pushing for a seat at the table at a time when many national leaders are increasingly isolationist – and even xenophobic – and disconnected from cities’ values of inclusivity and growth.”

Previously, U.S. mayors have banded together to publish open letters to the Trump Administration regarding U.S. climate policy and bind themselves to the emissions-reductions targets of the Paris Accord. Climate change is, of course, poised to become a primary driver of the global refugee crisis, and changing weather patterns — like the Syrian drought in the mid-2000s — have already begun to destabilize governments and force residents to flee.