Mystery barge: Google ordered to move its floating lab

Mystery barge must be moved, says a California official. Google doesn't have the permits to build it's "mystery" barge on an island in San Francisco Bay.

By , Associated Press

Google does not have the proper permits for a mystery barge at a construction site on an island in San Francisco Bay, a state official said, and must move the floating, four-story building that drew wide attention and fueled weeks of speculation when it was erected last fall.

"It needs to move," Larry Goldzband, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, said Monday.

The commission investigated numerous complaints and found that neither the Treasure Island Development Authority nor the city of San Francisco had applied for required permits for the work to be done at the site and could face fines and enforcement proceedings, Goldzband said.

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Goldzband said Google can resolve the issue by moving the barge to one of the fully permitted construction facilities in the San Francisco Bay.

Google Inc. said it is still reviewing a letter from Goldzband outlining the commission's concerns about the secretive project.

Google has been vague about plans for the barge or a similar vessel off the East Coast and says they may change, but preliminary planning documents and a subsequent statement from the company said the barge would be an interactive space for people to learn about technology as it traveled from dock to dock.

"Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above," says the statement released by Googlet. "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

But now the barge, whatever it's ultimate use, has become another headache for the search giant in its dealings with San Francisco, 40 miles north of its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google also has been at the center of a city controversy over private buses that several large tech companies use to transport workers south to Silicon Valley. Some community members say the buses are congesting city bus stops, so the city recently voted to charge the companies for each stop the buses make.

The space to build the barge is being leased by the Treasure Island Development Authority for $79,000 per month under a contract set to expire in August, according to agency records.

Mirian Saez, director of the authority, said, "We did not intend to violate or circumvent the process."

The authority will try to apply for the correct permits with the commission, she said, noting her agency has not spoken to Google about the issue.

For now, though, Google's barge appears to be mired in regulatory limbo. Goldzband said Google representatives had told him construction had been halted on the barge late last year so the U.S. Coast Guard can ensure the vessel will meet its standards.

Goldzband said if the barge is eventually completed, it will need more even permits to be moored or docked.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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