September 9, 2013

We’re all Bozos on this Google Bus

We thought about bringing up the Google Gossip about Sergey leaving his wife for Google Glass Gal, but we thought better of it. Nothing more predictable than yet another dude with too much money having a midlife crisis and discovering the joys of a relationship with a younger woman.  Instead, we bring you a different Google story, which is actually real-estate related.

Mapping Silicon Valley’s Gentrification Problem Through Corporate Shuttle Routes

20130908-googlebus-mapBY ERIC RODENBECK, Wired Magazine
09.06.13 9:30 AM

Digital flows of information and the capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical landscape.

Here’s an ironic thing: I spend a good part of my day designing maps and data visualizations that represent change, while working out of one of the most change-resistant corners in the city of San Francisco.

For the past dozen or so years, the 16th and Mission Street BART plaza below the studio where we work has steadfastly hosted a diverse, rotating cast of characters — from drug dealers and preachers to musicians and hipsters, cheek by jowl with families, social activists, Social Security poets (sadly a shrinking population), and, increasingly but haltingly, young workers in the great technology fields to the south.

It’s proven a remarkably resilient situation: It was this way when I watched it in 2001, at the nadir of the dot-com crash. And it’s this way in 2013, at the mid-point of what some are calling the next big tech boom, the bastard love child of late 1990s Delusion 1.0. Yet the city is just bursting with change these days, if construction is an indicator. When I look out my window, I see at least nine active construction cranes at any given time (and that number would be even higher if it weren’t for the new scaffolding blocking my view of the rest of the city).

Neighborhoods that just 10 years ago were once written off as un-developable are seeing barriers to change break down every day. Why? It’s tough to point to a single cause, but it seems abundantly clear that digital flows of information and the attendant capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical urban landscape.

130908-googlebus-posterNow, the title above is completely off the mark.  This article isn’t in any way about Silicon Valley’s gentrification problem.  It’s about San Francisco’s gentrification problem because of those high paying jobs in Silicon Valley.  You would never know from reading the Wired piece that there are “Google buses” all throughout Silicon Valley and its exurbs, not just running various SF to Mountain View routes.  We’ve seen the luxury shuttle buses in San Ramon, in Los Gatos, and in Scotts Valley.  Every one of those buses means the employees onboard are not driving their own vehicles to work, and they are free to come up with brilliant ideas during the commute thanks to onboard WiFi.

They’re also free to play video poker, just like hardworking Senator John McCain.  And like Senators, taking private shuttle buses insulates tech workers from having to deal with ordinary people on public transit. You would be amazed at all the resentment there is toward the Google buses.  Maybe it’s because all those highly-paid tech workers are driving up rents and sales prices, forcing everyone else to move to the East Bay.

Meanwhile, in order to figure out the unpublished list of private shuttle bus stops, Wired had to hire a bunch of bike messengers to follow the buses… and scribble notes on paper.

Comments (3) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:09 am

July 15, 2013

Don’t Be Evil? Free food at Google means empty restaurants

Another Only In Silicon Valley story as well-feed Googlers avoid the restaurants around North Shoreline because… um, free food. Also better than the stuff at the restaurants.  What’s interesting here isn’t that the restaurants are facing dire financial straits, but the suggestions they had for Google.

Thanks very much to Burbed reader DD in Sunnyarts for sending this in.

Can’t compete with free eats

Facing closure, Shoreline restaurant owners try to negotiate with Google

130714-google-bldgby Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice
News – Friday, July 12, 2013

A group of restaurant owners north of Highway 101 say they have been watching their customers disappear as Google expands in the area, bringing them to the brink of closure unless Google is willing to pay for its employees to eat off-campus.

In Mountain View, over 10,000 Google employees are now fed in private cafeterias serving organic food throughout the North Bayshore area north of Highway 101, like the one that recently opened at 1015 Joaquin Road, around the corner from the restaurants. The result is that most of the restaurants have lost a majority of their business over the last year, owners say.

"When you’ve lost 70 percent of your business, how long can you pay rent? Maybe seven to eight months?" said Bella Awdisho, owner of Cucina Venti, an Italian restaurant on Pear Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard. The owner of Falafel and Kebab, Dervis Yuksel, said he recently sold his car to pay his restaurant’s rent, and said he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d stay open.

In an attempt to save their businesses, the restaurants have been in talks with Google in recent months to find a solution. Awdisho has been representing the owners of the restaurants, including Shoreline Park’s lakefront favorite Michael’s at Shoreline, and several small eateries near the Century movie theaters: Sunny Bowl, Falafel and Kebab, Hon Sushi, and Ole Taqueria. They say there is really only one way for them to stay in business — Google should pay for its employees to eat off-campus. But Google executives have refused, the owners say.

130714-google-centuryWhoa, tough one! What do you suggest? Match wits with Mountain View’s City Council on this one!

Also be sure to check out what other iconic North Shoreline business may be having trouble because of The Borg.

No, not Gables End, we said NORTH Shoreline. But what’s bad for business might end up being even better for not only Googlers, but real estate blogs.

Two words: Google housing.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:05 am

December 30, 2012

Prop 13, Meet Fork?

121230-prop13-forkWell, maybe a seafood fork.  A possible seafood fork.  Size extra-small.  In 2014.  Maybe.

The third rail of real estate may be getting some modifications, thanks to the new obstruction-proof California Legislature.  Now that both houses have 2/3 Democratic Party members, they could raise taxes without a single Republican vote of support.  But to modify Proposition 13, only an initiative passed by California voters will do.  The difference is that Legislators are now discussing these changes openly, sensing the era of tax cuts is also due for Fork Facetime.

California Democrats signal they want to reform Proposition 13

By Steven Harmon, San Jose Mercury News
Posted: 12/29/2012 01:00:00 PM PST, Updated: 12/29/2012 05:41:17 PM PST

121230-prop13-chartsSACRAMENTO — The third rail of California politics may not be as deadly as once thought.

Three and a half decades after the passage of Proposition 13 shook the political landscape in California and sparked a taxpayer revolt across America, voters appear to be warming up to the idea of reforming the initiative as long as protections for homeowners stay intact.

And the apparent sea change in public attitudes, combined with the two-thirds majorities Democrats now hold in both chambers of the Legislature, has emboldened some politicians to take aim at the iconic measure.

“It is time for a fix, because Proposition 13 is broken,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who plans to introduce a bill next year aimed at forcing businesses to pay higher property taxes.

The landmark 1978 measure rolled back property taxes and capped yearly increases until a property is sold, but critics say one of its unintended consequences was shifting more of the Golden State’s property tax burden from businesses to homeowners.

121230-prop13-repealThis isn’t the first time we’ve noted the havoc wreaked by Prop 13, and we’re hardly the only ones doing so.

Reforms being discussed include a “split roll” where commercial property is handled differently from residential, and lowering the threshhold for parcel taxes from 66 2/3 to 55 percent.  58 percent of Californians polled supported the split roll concept, where commercial property would be reassessed every 6 or 12 months.  Residential property would continue with assessment at time of sale with a 2% maximum annual increase.  However, 60 percent of those polled still “support” Prop 13.

In addition, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wishes to address a loophole where corporate-owned property isn’t even reassessed when sold, because more than 50% of ownership must change hands.  Corporations simply constructed shell entities to avoid the 50% trigger despite buying and selling their entire interest in real properties.  For exaple, the E&J Gallo Company bought the 1765 acre Louis M Martini vineyards by having 12 family members buy individual shares, each under the 50 percent trigger.  The property remains assessed at the original low value because of this maneuver.

121230-prop13-timeEven Google, a relatively new corporation, benefits from the complex dance of real estate partnerships, trusts, holding companies, and leases.  Some of their buildings sit on land owned by the pre-Prop 13 owner and his family trust, via a ground lease.  The 13.7 acre tract was assessed at $789,635 in 2009 and would have been worth $41 million without a single structure on it.  State law prevents land reassessment if a lease of over 35 years exists.  The buildings on the land were assessed at $38 million.

Before Prop 13 passed, business and residential property produced about the same share of state revenues, but now residential property generates 70 percent of property taxes.  California has also bid adieu to its excellent state colleges and universities, as well as its various public school systems, since property taxes helped fund the former and were primary support of the latter.

Feel free to grouse about money-grubbing state officials or the unfairness of our tax code.

Comments (13) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

November 19, 2012

Like Google Streetview? You’ll LOVE Google Houseview!

Burbed reader nomadic informs us of a major Google Maps update.  Guess it’s not rolling out to everyone at once because we haven’t seen it yet.


Awesome sauce! This is going to change real estate, because now, who needs to wait for an Open House or an agent to put together a Virtual Tour?  With this new feature, you can see a home’s interior layout, room sizes, fixtures and decor with just a few mouse clicks.

Bunus: Think of all the homes that will now qualify for the Burbed Good Housekeeping tag of approval!


Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

July 15, 2012

Sorry Googlers, no sleeping cubes for you

Google housing axed in city’s general plan

by Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice Staff

120714-googlehousingCouncil members were not moved Tuesday night by last-minute efforts by the Chamber of Commerce and the mayor to keep housing as an option for future development of Google’s neighborhood north of Highway 101.

Council members voted 6-1 in a final approval of Mountain View’s 2030 general plan, a kind of road map for redevelopment in key areas of the city and the culmination of four years of meetings, and a “community visioning” process in 2008.

Largely by increasing allowed building densities and heights, it encourages redevelopment along El Camino Real, in the East Whisman area, North Bayshore (north of Highway 101), Moffett Boulevard and the San Antonio Shopping Center area.

Council members removed an allowance for as many as 1,100 apartments along Shoreline Boulevard between Highway 101 and Charleston Road. The housing would likely have been used by employees of Google and other tech companies in the area and was supported strongly by the Chamber of Commerce, which posted a YouTube video promoting the idea and whose members largely support North Bayshore housing, said president Oscar Garcia.

Here’s the video mentioned above.

But higher density along El Camino Real!  Yay!  Too bad for all the Google employees who thought that walking to work was a good idea.  The City Council is dedicated to making you live in another zip code and buying commuter vehicles.

You can read more about the backstory on the plan and the vote in this article from last week.  The plan the City Council voted in is supposed to guide Mountain View development through the year 2030. 


Comments (42) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

April 15, 2012

The Worst Company in America is in the Bay Area!

120413-consumerist-mastheadLast year was an exciting March Madness playoff leading to a nail-biter of a final playoff.  Which was the Worst Company in America?  Was it BP, which destroyed an entire ecosystem, or was it Bank of America, which merely melted down an economy?

Those who voted for second-place B of A may have been hoping for another chance this year, but there’s a new Winner (and by that I mean Loser) in town.  According to the 2012 March playoffs hosted by The Consumerist, the worst company in America is… drumroll please… EA!

And EA was not content to merely ignore this ignominious achievement.  Nooooo!  EA, showing that the voters knew damned well what they were doing, actually made this stupefyingly ill-suited statement:

We’re sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren’t nominated this year. We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.

120413-consumerist-eaBP wasn’t even in the running this year because they won last year in a very closely contested contretemps. But Bank of America was back, of course.  And once more B of A (it stands for Bunch of A’**holes) failed to “survive” the final death match.

Also, AIG won in 2009 and Halliburton won the very first WCIA contest in 2006.

Other Bay Area companies nominated for this dubious honor include:

120413-netflixNetflix, who lost its first match against GameStop.  This one was a blowout final sale.

120413-wellsWells Fargo also failed to advance when it was locked in the vault by CitiCorp.

120413-googleGoogle similarly lost its maiden match to Apple by 404.

120413-appleBut Apple shouldn’t get a swelled AirBook over the experience, as it was easily short-circuited 2 to 1 by AT&T.

120413-paypalPayPal was knocked out in the quarter finals by WalMart in a Photoshop finish. But PayPal got that far by defaulting on CapitalOne in a walkover, and similarly slammed the receiver down hard on Charter.

120413-facebookFacebook had a much stronger string of worsts.  It cut the power to Sprint by 4 to 1, and gave the US Postal Service a definitive Return to Sender, before falling to AT&T, who wrote the book on bad service.  Facebook simply didn’t have enough Dislikes. 

120413-eaAT&T was in turn Ctrl-Alt-Deleted by EA, with 3 out of 4 voters gunning for the gaming goon.  EA shut down Sony, closed out Best Buy, and blacked out Comcast to qualify for the semifinal with AT&T.

Which company do you think should have won the WCIA this year?  And which Bay Area companies that weren’t nominated do you think should have been?

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:11 am

February 8, 2012

Now with more convenient schools and fascinating neighbors!

It’s always fun when a house previously featured on Burbed comes back for a second look. Sometimes it’s a flip that’s awful in a new way, sometimes it’s the same problems ensuring that the house will be bidless for a long, long time.  Today’s Mountain View mansion, courtesy of Burbed reader dollarbin, has some changes since its last appearance, but it’s not just the house that’s had things moved around.

Mountain View, CA 94041


SQ. FT.: 1,565
$/SQ. FT.: $567
LOT SIZE: 4,414 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Traditional
VIEW: Neighborhood
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81150934
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 48 days

Curb Appeal-Perfect 10. Own this 2.5 yr old Single Family Home for the price of MV townhomes and Condos. Warm & BEATIFULLY designed. Very energy efft/extra insulation w/ E. Eff appls. Showroom finish 2car garage. Gated access for added security/privacy n kids to play. Walking dist. to Downtown restrnts/shops/farmrs mrkt/CalTrans & Parks. Xcllnt APIs for schools. Nice fenced back yard w/ patio. NO HOA Dues.

And here’s a reminder of how the house looked in its previous incarnation:  (warning, 180 comment thread)


120207-chiquita-facadeHere’s what dollarbin has to say about why you should take another look at 290 Chiquita:

One of burbed’s most talked about houses is back on the market, baby!

What’s more, unlike 2009, it now sports lucky 8’s in the price tag.

120207-chiquita-garagePlus, unlike 2009, the assigned elementary school will be Castro, rather than having to schlep your kids across El Camino into the fancy side of town to attend Bubb with all of those obnoxious rich kids.

Also, thanks to Habitat for Humanity, you’ll have new neighbor families enjoying “eight ownership homes for ‘very low- and low-income families’ ” at 300 Chiquita Ave.”

120207-chiquita-google-signYou may object that the “Xcllnt APIs for schools” was not intended to be a factual statement, and there will be BMR housing next door.  The crime rate might be higher than you’re comfortable with.  You may not be too excited about the sex offender who lives around the corner on Villa Street.  And two different Redfin agents complained about how small the bedrooms are.

None of this matters in the least.  The agent presents picture #21 to refute all Negative Nellie natterings.

Start your overbidding!

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

December 11, 2011

NASA encouraging Commuter Airplanes: This means War!

imageDid you know that your tax dollars are subsidizing the possible destruction of the Real Bay Area as we know it?

NASA is offering a series of prizes to encourage Green Flight.  These “green” flying machines are called SAVs, or Suburban Air Vehicles, which would have either VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) or ESTOL (extremely short yadda yadda) abilities.  “Pocket airports,” which need be no larger than 2 acres, could be placed anywhere as the planes would have electric motors. 

Electric motors would be much quieter than gas motors, so there wouldn’t be the noise factor that you get from a conventional airport.  Think flying EVs.  Being close to a pocket airport could be not a location fail but a location win.  Heavily trafficked areas could have SAV taxis rather than leaving the plane parked all day. 

imageWhile this X-Prize approach to solving traffic problems might sound all ecological and high minded (ha ha), this is a threat to our entire way of life!  Realize what this would mean to home prices in the RBA

NASA is encouraging aircraft designs that could have a range of up to one thousand miles per battery charge.  That means the RBA could expand as far away as Montana!  After all, why is the RBA so Special?  It’s close to the great jobs.  And what keeps commutes from further afield long and painful?  Gridlocked traffic!  That’s why people pay the prices they do for Burbed-worthy habitation!

imageNot only that, Google has just stabbed us all in the back by being a major backer of the prize money!  The first stage of awards, totaling $1.65 million, were made possible by Google’s involvement.

According to a study done using patterns in Sonoma County, removing just 3500 vehicles a day from the Golden Gate Bridge and San Rafael Bridges would alleviate gridlock (see page 27, Sonoma-Marin County Commute Model, also the traffic study itself).  That means commutes would be less painful for the automobile drivers as well as those on these SAVs (which everyone knows stands for Suburban Assault Vehicle).

imageNot only that, imagine these damned miniplanes hogging the ChargeStation and leaving your Leaf or Volt stranded!  I tell you, Real Bay Areans, contact your Congresscritter and demand that NASA stop investing in technology that will allow just anyone to get to work at Google yet also own a house on ten acres for half the price you paid for a mansion in Cupertino

Remember, high property values means nobody else gets in after you!  This is an Open Thread.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

November 7, 2011

In the path of progress!

Here’s a great find from Burbed reader and occasional Guest Editor sonarrat!  Many thanks for this listing in Google’s backyard!


1988 PLYMOUTH St, Mountain View, CA 94043


SQ. FT.: 640
$/SQ. FT.: $1,461
LOT SIZE: 0.4 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Rengstorff
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81127711
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 98 days

Great opportunity in Mountain View. Blocks from Google and in the path of progress. This is an older two bed one bath home on a huge lot, perfect for a family who wants property or for a developer. New construction coming two parcels away.

imageHere’s what sonarrat had to say about this house:

We have a new Burbed classic in the making. This one’s in the path of progress! Why, you ask? They’re building a stairway to Google!

That’s even better than an overplayed Led Zeppelin hit, because it won’t hurt your ears and it costs nothing to look.

imageIn the path of progress, indeed! But doesn’t that mean it’s going to be condemned under eminent domain?

At least it has electricity!

Now, check out the neighborhood.  I’m not sure which parcel has the new construction coming, but there sure seems to be a number of multifamily units quite nearby. You’ll have so many more neighbors to socialize with, or at least so many more cars blocking your driveway.


Actually I think I might have found it, at least I found a bulldozer.


It sure would be a shame to lose that terrific vehicle collection.  Maybe they could put them in that nice parking lot next door.

But this house has something even better going for it than the bridge they’re building to Google.  Look what you have in easy walking distance.


Yes, if you ever get tired of this house, just remember, you could be living here!

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

November 15, 2010

Real Bay Area house prices set to soar 10% next year thanks to Google

Christmas Comes Early for Employees of Google

Google has given all of its employees $1,000 cash "holiday bonuses" and 2011 salary increases of at least 10%, a loyal reader tells us.

The 10% company-wide raise will take effect on January 1, 2011. In addition, Google will also give each employee an additional raise equivalent to 1X the employee’s target bonus for the year.  And employees will be eligible for additional "merit increases" based on their individual performance. In another nice gesture, Google will pay the taxes on the $1,000 holiday cash bonuses, thus allowing employees to keep the whole thing.

And… as we all know, Google is currently having a hiring spree. This means that salaries across the board in Silicon Valley will go up 10%. And a 10% hike in salaries mean a 10% (or more!) hike in the ability to pay mortgages!

Booyah! House prices automatically set to soar 10% next year in the Real Bay Area.

Thanks Google! You really are the best!

Comments (13) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:08 am