A huge infusion of housing is coming to one of America’s tightest housing markets. Google, in partnership with global development giant Lendlease, is using land it owns across Silicon Valley to develop approximately 15,000 affordable, mixed-income, market-priced housing units over the next 15 years.
Unlike the mostly sprawling, car-focused single-family homes that make up much of the housing stock around Google’s headquarters, these new developments, currently being planned by Lendlease, would inject more dense, urban — and if successful — various residential areas in one of the most expensive markets in the country.
For Google, this real estate push comes with the company’s continued expansion in the region, with new offices being built to keep up with its continued dominance of the tech sector. After years of job growth in the tech industry far outpacing housing development in Silicon Valley — think of the shuttles that take Facebook employees from their homes in San Francisco to their offices in Menlo Park — it’s politically prudent to couple office growth with home development.
“We all know this area is severely undersupplied in housing and housing of all types,” says Claire Johnston, managing director of Google Development Ventures at Lendlease, a headline that hints at the extent of Google-related work in the pipeline, even for a multinational developer with projects all over the world. “What we’re seeing is that people want to live in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, but they have supply constraints. So it’s difficult and, as a result, it’s expensive.
Lendlease plans to use the scale of its injection of 15,000 units to tackle some of the housing problems that have plagued Silicon Valley cities as the tech industry has boomed. Through a mix of homes for rent and for sale, with prices across the spectrum, Lendlease attempts to create a counterpoint to the low-rise residential neighborhoods that make up the majority of Silicon Valley living spaces.
A significant portion of these new homes, about 7,000, will be part of North Bayshore, a Mountain View neighborhood also planned by Lendlease. This plan is still in the process of gaining community and city council approvals, but renderings show dense, walkable mixed-use neighborhoods with pedestrian-focused shopping districts, park spaces cut into trails bike paths and condos and apartments built with modular prefabs. construction technique.
Google is on a bit of an urban development spree in Silicon Valley. In addition to North Bayshore and the rest of the 15,000 homes it will develop with Lendlease, Google is also actively pursuing a major redevelopment around the main transit hub in downtown San Jose. This project, called Downtown West, aims to build 4,500 housing units, 7.3 million square feet of commercial buildings and 15 acres of parks and public spaces. City approvals are already underway, but the San Jose project has encountered a few speed bumps, with an ongoing legal dispute between the tech giant and a few dozen people who have distant claims to tiny slivers of land in the development area.
The 15,000 units that Lendlease now plans for Google land – specific sites that have yet to be announced – will be mixed-use in nature, which Johnston says is much more in line with the company’s historical development patterns. area, before most developments turned into suburban sprawl. “It’s a series of villages,” she says. “And then when you go down into the middle of Silicon Valley, you see these big sprawls and these commercial office buildings that are sometimes a bit soulless and really need to be redesigned. So that’s the work we do now.
The goal is to create homes “where people can live in an environment where they don’t have to take the highway to get milk,” she says.
It’s a chance, according to Johnston, to expand the type of housing available to Valley residents. “The fact that we have 15,000 units here in inventory gives us the ability to really plan the choice of housing that needs to be here, both in terms of product and price,” she says. “It’s a mixed income, it’s [people making] 80% of [area median income]it’s 100% AMI, it’s people making $7 million.
Johnston says the plans take community feedback seriously and evolve along the way. This focus on listening to local desires and concerns is likely a reaction to another big Google sphere real estate project that collapsed. Parent company Alphabet and subsidiary Sidewalk Labs had spent years planning a neighborhood-scale development in Toronto, but questions about privacy and data collection led to vocal opposition that ultimately scuttled the project.
“No community likes imposition, and nobody likes being told what to do or how to do things. So the role of a responsible developer who cares about longevity in a community is really to go in and understand the place, understand what’s out there, understand the people,” says Johnston.
In a region of about 3 million people, 15,000 houses can’t do much. But for tech companies like Google, it’s increasingly recognized that attracting and retaining talent requires more than beautiful offices. Without the kinds of bustling, urban neighborhoods that many young tech workers have experienced in other cities, companies can struggle to attract employees to what has always been their operational hub.
Lendlease’s housing plan is far from a blank slate project, says Johnston. While there are many ways to improve the low and sprawling neighborhoods that make up much of Silicon Valley, the planned new housing will not turn its back on the past. Johnston says there’s a big appetite among tech companies and city officials to create a more diverse array of housing types and neighborhood developments that can fit into the area’s existing urban makeup, while pushing to offer new lifestyles and experiences.
“There’s this predisposition within the community in general, not just necessarily at Google, to say how can I make a better experience for humans coming to work [here]”, says Johnston. “I don’t think it will be a complete revisionist, we have to start over. I think it will be an increase of what already exists.