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CA Agency Barges in on Google Project

Friday, February 7, 2014

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Google may be Googling a new location for its “mystery barge,” after the high-profile construction project in the heart of San Francisco Bay was found to lack appropriate permits.

"It needs to move," Larry Goldzband, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, told the Associated Press this week.

The 260-foot-long, 72-foot-wide, steel-hulled mystery passenger barge, bearing a four-story superstructure made of shipping containers, appeared at the environmentally sensitive Treasure Island site in October, inciting weeks of buzz that Google did nothing to quell.

By and Large LLC
By and Large LLC

Google's planned "interactive space" on the Bay has run into permit problems.

Google actually had two barges in the Bay (but only one with a superstructure), one in Portland, Maine; and one in New London, CT.

Floating in Secrecy

Finally, in November, Google explained coyly that it was "exploring using the [San Francisco Bay] barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.” Other accounts have speculated that the structure would be a traveling luxury showroom.

CBS in San Francisco reported in November that Google was "managing to conceal" the project's purpose "by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory."

If that was the case, however, it didn't work.

The continuing construction prompted objections from the public and environmentalists and concerns from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a state agency that launched an enforcement investigation.

No Permits

The finding was unequivocal, Goldzband said.

Treasure Island
Treasure Island Development Authority

The director of the Treasure Island Development Authority said the agency was trying to correct the application issue.

Investigators found that neither the city nor the Treasure Island Development Authority had applied for the required permits for work to be done at the Bay site, he added. The commission must issue a permit for any permanent structure on the Bay.

The authorities could face fines and enforcement proceedings if Google doesn’t move the project to a fully permitted construction area in the San Francisco Bay, reports said.

Construction on the project has been put on hold until the end of winter, Goldzband said. Moving the barge to a lawful permitted area before taking up the project again is key, he said.

The state of California discourages permanent floating structures on the Bay, unless they have a clear maritime purpose.

Reviews Underway

Google Inc. told reporters that it was reviewing a letter from Goldzband.

Meanwhile, the director of the Treasure Island Development Authority said the agency was trying to correct the application issue.

“We did not intend to violate or circumvent the process,” Mirian Saez told the Associated Press.

This might not be the last of the permit problems for Google, reports said. Should the project be completed, it will need more permits to be moored or docked.


Tagged categories: Building design; Building operations; Enforcement; Regulations; Shipyards

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