It turns out that the mysterious high-tech barge that Google is building at Treasure Island is just the first of three floating wonders the company plans to launch, at a total cost of $35 million.
In a confidential budget report we obtained, barge builder Turner Construction Co. says the idea is to construct the vessels at Treasure Island, then dock them in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
The secretive project is code-named Hangar 3 – an apparent reference to the Treasure Island hangar where much of the construction is being done.
Each barge is to be stacked with 80 shipping containers and flanked by rows of sails.
The Turner Construction report also says each barge is intended to be used as a “floating retail store.”
Mirian Saez, Treasure Island Development Authority director of operations, says Google reps told her “this would be an important opportunity for the launching” of their Google Glass computer eyewear next year.
That’s a bit different from the “studio” and “temporary technology exhibit space” that barge designers described in reports submitted to the Port of San Francisco as part of their pitch to win berthing permits on the waterfront.
It may also help explain why Google has been so reluctant to discuss the project in detail.
Google needs a permit from the regional Bay Conservation and Development Commission to moor a barge for any length of time in the bay, and the idea of a floating retail store could put the project in very choppy political water.
“A floating retail store that is not a bay-oriented enterprise would probably make a lot of jaws drop at a commission meeting,” commission executive Larry Goldzband said when we told him of the newly surfaced Turner Construction document.
Although Google’s lawyers have notified him three times in the past six weeks that it is continuing its barge construction at Treasure Island, Goldzband said, the company hasn’t been forthcoming about its intentions.
“We have told them we don’t want to wait a heck of a lot longer because … the public needs to know what Google is doing,” Goldzband said.
When we asked Google whether it intends to use the barges as floating stores, company representatives replied in an e-mail saying only: “While we have explored many ideas in the past around the barges, our current plan, as we’ve stated before, is to use them as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
As we reported earlier, design documents submitted to the port in August say the goal of the barge project is to “drive visitation to the waterfront.” Backers envision mooring the barge at numerous sites around the bay.
The documents say the barge’s sails are “reminiscent of fish fins, which will remind visitors that they are on a seaworthy vessel.”
According to the newly surfaced budget report, which was prepared at the start of the year, those sails alone cost $350,000.
But Goldzband says that just having sails doesn’t automatically make a vessel a natural fit for the bay.
“The commission is going to ask, ‘Is there an alternative (land) location for this program to occur?’ ” Goldzband said. “If there is, then the commission is going to have a very difficult time convincing the public there should be something happening on the bay.”
Expired: Just three years after installing 6,500 high-tech parking meters at a cost of $3 million, San Francisco is ripping them out.
“It’s all part of a citywide upgrade,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the Municipal Transportation Agency.
The contractor will give the city $650,000 in credit for the old meters – put in as part of a pilot project – bringing the upgrade cost to about $2.35 million.
The result will be even higher-tech meters that have bigger display screens – and confirm payment by phone. They’ll be installed by March.
Pet project: The fate of that planned pet columbarium at a North Beach church is up in the air, now that the volunteer behind the effort has been forced out over allegations he coerced an employee into having raunchy sex.
William McLaughlin, a Marin County developer and volunteer board chairman of the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, was the force behind the novel plan to build the pet mausoleum in the church’s basement.
Now, McLaughlin is at the center of a sex-harassment complaint that former church employee Jhona Mathews has filed against the church, saying she was fired when she broke off a relationship with him. McLaughlin, she said, forced her to have spanking sex in the church and elsewhere to keep her job.
The church says it fired Mathews after discovering she allegedly embezzled shrine funds. Her attorney says she didn’t, and McLaughlin hasn’t returned our calls.
Where does all this leave the pet columbarium?
“We don’t know,” said Larry Kamer, spokesman for the church. “Frankly there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion, as we deal with the more pressing facts.”
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