Pluto’s is out of this world WEEKEND | P.16 OCTOBER 1, 2010 VOLUME 18, NO. 39 650.964.6300 INSIDE: MOVIES | PAGE 19 MountainViewOnline.com Council OKs Google rec facility on owl habitat By Daniel DeBolt T Strings on the upswing NEW PENINSULA UKULELE JAMS ARE DRAWING SINGING CROWDS By Rebecca Wallace I t takes all kinds for a ukulele jam. You’ve got the people sitting up front with their own gleaming ukes and digital clip-on tuners. They know all the songs. They can play while looking up. Then there are the newbies, their brows furrowed as they construct a G7 chord on a borrowed instrument. To sing and strum at the same time in “(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window,” that’s like a small victory. The nice thing about these evening jams at Dana Street Roasting Company in Mountain View is that both ends of the spectrum are equally welcome. So far, Ukulele Club Silicon Valley has held only a handful of these second-Monday-of-the-month jams at the cafe, but there are plenty of regulars who greet each other with grins, strum in synchronicity and sing with harmony. Meanwhile, club founder Dave Fichtner also makes ample room for beginners. He offers loaner See UKULELE, page 14 Incumbents battle newcomers in debate By Daniel DeBolt T hree City Council incumbents defended their records against three challengers in a debate hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Monday night The candidates tackled the topics of medical marijuana, the city’s golf course problems and the city budget. But first came the introductions, most notably from the newcomers. After noting that Google pays $90 INSIDE million in property taxes a year, Google sales account manager Aaron Jabbari said, “If you trust a new idea, or a new candidate, big things can happen.” Longtime resident Greg David said, “I have always enjoyed the quality of life in Mountain View,” adding, “The council is out of touch with the common resident.” Google software engineer Dan Waylonis called himself a “sociable nerd who does have friends,” and mentioned his desire for what he later called “a more searchable and transparent” city government. Budget concerns In his closing remarks, Waylonis drew ire from incumbents by saying that they “kicked the can down the road” when approving this year’s city budget. “The budget is balanced this year, See DEBATE, page 12 GOINGS ON 21 | MARKETPLACE 22 | REAL ESTATE 25 | VIEWPOINT 15 he City Council unanimously approved a 6.5-acre recreation facility that’s got nearly every activity a Google employee could want. The rub is that it sits on foraging grounds for the rare burrowing owl. The Google Athletic and Recreation field, or G.A.R.field for short, is a private outdoor buffet of recreation activities, including a soccer field, a basketball court, bocce ball courts, a horseshoe pit, a disc golf area and a putting green. The owls, about a dozen of whom live in gopher holes nearby, use the site to hunt for mice, voles and insects at night. Council members expressed concern about impacts on the owls and ended up requiring Google to pay $20,000 to the city’s burrowing owl preservation efforts, among other things. Google must also include signs explaining why dogs aren’t allowed in the area and put timers on the facility’s lights so they do not disturb the owls’ night-time foraging after 11 p.m. City staff had originally proposed that Google pay $10,000 towards burrowing owl preservation, saying it was hard to link the project to a specific cost for the impact on the owls. “Ten thousand dollars is not a lot of money,” said Shani Kleinhaus of the Audubon Society, who seemed to be the owl’s best defender. She has been helping to shape the owl mitigations in the project for months. She said that Google should have its famous weed-eating goats out “every spring to make sure the grass is short so the burrowing owls can live in their burrows happily.” The owls don’t like vegetation blocking their view of predators. The site is on the northeast corner of Amphitheatre Parkway and Garcia Avenue and is currently used as a soccer field by Google employees. Google purchased the property from pharmaceutical company Alza, which had council approval (now expired) for an 117,000-square-foot office building in 1995. Impacts to burrowing owls were mitigated at the time by setting aside owl habitat to the north east in Shoreline Park. Jay Bechtel, Google’s real estate and construction project manager, said Google’s headquarters across the street from the site is a “world class facility” and that the recreation amenities are part of that as well as being exciting for employees. Bechtel was amenable to all of the requests from the council, even about paying the $20,000, which Google could have easily made a case against, city staff noted. An environmental report for the city by ESA and Albion Environmental describes the project as having a “potentially significant impact” on the burrowing owls, which numbered just over a dozen last year. But it also says mitigation could make the impact less than significant. “The loss of foraging habitat and potential nesting habitat at this site would be a significant impact but this impact has already been mitigated through the creation and management of 19.5 acres of See GARFIELD, page 11 COURTESY DARIUS PRZYGODA A burrowing owl was captured on film by a Mountain View resident in this 2007 photo.