Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The 10,000-apartment tech campus: what if companies provided on-site housing?

what 10,000 apartments on the Google headquarters might look like

Tech workers' impact on housing prices is a hot-button issue in the Bay Area.  The issue stems from a shortage of housing in Silicon Valley, which was originally research labs and electronics factories.  Now, software is dominant, and a lot more programmers can fit in the same space.  In fact, many don't need a desk at all. 

This has upended the city planners' calculations for balancing workspace with housing. The Valley lacks housing, especially the hip, trendy type of urban housing that young programmers love.  Tech workers to move to San Francisco and Oakland, creating waves of gentrification.

Building more housing is seen as the only long term fix to the housing crisis.  How much housing would a major tech company need, and what would it look like?

Let's use Google as an example.  Google employs 10,000 at its Mountain View headquarters.  Surprisingly, that number of apartments can fit on the parking lots and open spaces of the suburban campus.  Most would be in towers of 30 to 50 floors, with the rest in lower blocks lining the site. 

note: this is an academic exercise and is not actually being proposed

While this level of development is not allowed under current zoning and would require new infrastructure to even be physically possible, the density is similar to the Rincon Hill in downtown San Francisco.  Such a concentration of people would also create the critical mass to attract the trendy services and amenities that currently only San Francisco offers.    

This study assumes regular apartments, with an average of 800 square feet per family of 2 (400 square feet per resident).  It also assumes very limited parking (presumably folks would walk to work and take the Google Bus elsewhere).  Co-op style housing typically can get down to 200 square feet per resident, roughly double the efficiency of apartments.  That would still be a lot of housing in one spot though.

While Google does not have any plans for on-site housing that I know about, they have made some small investments in housing in Mountain View, most recently a 51-unit apartment complex.  But perhaps one day, an real downtown will be the ultimate tech job amenity...

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