Google's San Francisco Bay 'Mystery Barge' Must Go, Authorities Say

| by Allison Geller

Google’s San Francisco “mystery barge” is being kicked off the island. The much-discussed floating data center/showroom/party boat will have to find a new home, a state agency ordered, due to a number of complaints.

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

Google doesn’t have the proper permits for the four-story construction, Goldzband said.  Both the Treasure Island Development Authority and the City of San Francisco could face fines, too, for failing to enforce the rules.

The story of the “mystery barge” first broke in late October, when CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman found “Google’s fingerprints all over” the floating barge off the coast of Treasure Island, a former Navy base in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Though Google didn’t own up at the time, the reporter found that the structure matched that of a water-based data center, which Google had received a patent for in 2009.

Later the executive director at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Corporation (BCDC) confirmed that Google was the force behind the barge. KPIX 5 reported that the space would be a VIP showroom and party deck, personally overseen by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

But whatever it is, the mystery barge has to go, according to BCDC authorities. Google can move the barge to a permitted construction facility.

Environmental activists are happy with the agency’s no-nonsense enforcement. Jason Flanders, program director at San Francisco Baykeeper, a nonprofit pollution watchdog, said that regulation was essential for the bay’s wellbeing.

"Obviously, the bay is a valuable resource to everybody," Flanders said. "Requiring people and companies large and small to pass all environmental regulations before using the bay is essential."

Sources: Associated Press, CNET, KPIX 5