Google will invest billions in California, Bay Area gets big chunk

SAN JOSE — Google intends to invest more than $3.5 billion in California — including a big chunk in the Bay Area — as the search giant pushes ahead with a post-coronavirus expansion on a wide scale, the company said Thursday.

The tech titan says it is pushing ahead with big projects in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, downtown San Jose, in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

“We are not letting our foot off the gas,” Kent Walker, Google’s President of Global Affairs, said during a news conference in downtown San Jose to sketch out the company’s investment plans statewide.

All of the $3.5 billion represents new funding, including some for new projects and some for existing projects, a Google spokesperson said. The company didn’t provide a breakdown.

“We are doubling down on our investment,” Walker said.

As some other tech companies have offered employees the option to stay fully remote in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and scaled back office space, Google asked workers to begin returning to the office this month and has shown no signs of scaling back new office projects.

Among the major Google projects in the Bay Area:

— Bay View, an eye-catching complex in Mountain View, opening this year.

— Charleston East, a visually dramatic campus in Mountain View, nearly complete.

— The company’s first-ever mass-timber building in Sunnyvale, opening this year.

— Middlefield Park, a Mountain View mixed-use proposed project that includes 1,900 homes.

— North Bayshore mixed-use proposal in Mountain View, a project that includes 7,000 homes.

— Caribbean campus in northern Sunnyvale, now under construction.

— Landings campus in Mountain View. Construction is beginning this year on this site.

Yet perhaps the most ambitious project on Google’s drawing boards at present is the Downtown West development near the Diridon train station in downtown San Jose.

Google’s mixed-use neighborhood there will consist of offices, homes, shops, restaurants, entertainment hubs, cultural loops and other amenities, including open spaces.

The setting of Thursday’s event, a prominent office building at 450 W. Santa Clara St. in San Jose that was developed by local real estate executive Chuck Toeniskoetter, served as a reminder of Google’s intentions to push ahead with the Downtown West project.

“We are in a building today that will be a cornerstone of the Downtown West neighborhood that we are developing,” Walker said.

The development is expected to create 4,000 homes, including 1,000 affordable units, along with 7 million square feet of office space. Google anticipates it will employ up to 25,000 or workers in the new neighborhood.

“Through Downtown West, we will welcome thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, and immense benefits to our small businesses,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday.

Mayor Liccardo recalled how he was approached by Google’s top real estate executive about the company’s interest in creating a new neighborhood in downtown San Jose.

“I told Google the misfortune is that we’re broke and we don’t have anything to give you,” Mayor Liccardo said. “Google told us they didn’t want anything from us.”

Some residents protested the tech company’s San Jose efforts, voicing concerns about the project fueling a rise in housing prices, traffic and displacement of residents. But the mayor said he’s impressed by the various ways that Google has been eager to provide community benefits to San Jose and to work with local groups to ensure the Downtown West development is what local residents seek.

“We are incredibly enthusiastic about this,” Liccardo said. “It’s more than just about the what with Google. It’s about the how. What Google is doing is extraordinary.”

In 2021, Google and the city of San Jose struck a deal whereby the city would receive $200 million from the search giant in community benefits.

The tech company also has provided a combined $500,000 for two key nonprofit endeavors in San Jose, Rep. Zoe Lofgren(D-San Jose) announced at the event.

PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, received $250,000 for the purchases of tech equipment to be used with the group’s 4th Street residential development for formerly homeless people. And the proposed African American Cultural Center that would be part of a mixed-use development on The Alameda in San Jose received $250,000 from Google, Rep. Lofgren said.

“This will help with pre-development and community engagement for the construction of a new state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable” African American Cultural Center, Lofgren said. “It’s going to be a stunning addition to our community. It’s going to be spectacular.”

Liccardo believes Google envisions Downtown West as more than just a project with multiple components.

“For Google, it clearly was about building a community,” Mayor Liccardo said.

The search giant’s Downtown West investment will make a huge difference in the city, the mayor said, referring to the creation of thousands of homes and 

tens of thousands of jobs on the western edges of downtown San Jose.

“Building 4,000 homes here, 25,000 jobs being located here,” he said, “those are a lot of folks who are going to be filling restaurants, cafes, gyms, all the amenities that are coming here, it’s going to really revitalize the downtown.”

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