Calif. Regulators to Google: Move the Barge or Face $100 Fine

A letter from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission gives Google 35 days to get a permit, move the barge or face fines.

by / February 3, 2014
In this Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, file photo, two men fish in the water in front of a Google barge on Treasure Island in San Francisco. AP/Jeff Chiu

If you were to read the news reports, the (semi)-mysterious Google Barge is either being:

  1. Evicted from Pier 1 in SF Bay.
  2. Lacking permits and facing the threat of fines.
  3. Being told to find another home elsewhere in the bay. 

The truth is a combination of numbers two and three, according to Brad McCrea, the Regulatory Program Director for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (SFBCD).

“We’re getting a laugh reading all the news reports,” McCrea told Government Technology. “All we did was write a letter.”

And that letter wasn’t even addressed to Google, McCrea added. 

According to McCrea, the SFBCD wrote a letter to the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), which oversees permitting and regulation of Pier 1 on behalf of the U.S. Navy. The letter, McCrea said, reminded TIDA that Google needs a permit to construct the Barge at Pier 1, and that if it didn’t obtain a permit or move to another location, the company could be fined. 

“But we didn’t ask them to move,” McCrea said. “We just gave them the option.” 

There is a grace period of 35 days from when the letter was sent until Google has to act. According to a report in Re/Code, Google is reviewing the letter and considering their options. 

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According to the TIDA fines schedule, the first infraction at Pier 1 can cost $100, with subsequent permitting infractions costing $500 per violation. If multiple infractions occur, misdemeanor criminal charges could be brought.

If at that point Google was found guilty, it could be fined $1,000 per instance. 

McCrea didn’t comment on whether the letter was prompted by complaints from Bay Area residents. The Barge has been a high profile project for the tech-giant, which has kept the floating structure’s purpose a secret. That attention has brought some ire from neighbors, according to recent reports. 

But McCrea did say the letter had nothing to do with the actual structure of the Barge, or what it might be used for. 

“Sometimes I think Google itself doesn’t know what it is,” McCrea said. “They just don’t have the permit they need.” 

John Sepulvado

John Sepulvado is from Southern California. He enjoys writing, reading and wants to take up fishing. He wrote for Government Technology for a short time in 2014.