By Mark Lipman
I attended the outreach meeting at Google on March 1 on their proposed expansion to 320 Hampton, and a few serious questions were raised that need answers.
First, it was brought up that the permits for this project have already been approved by the city’s Planning Department, which leads one to wonder, why are public hearings on this taking place only AFTER the permit has been approved?
Secondly, it is very concerning that the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee would be facilitating Google’s public outreach meeting – and that the VNC rep – unelected Jim Murrez, would be cutting off the public’s questions and concerns directed to Google – because he alone decided that questions were not relevant.
This leads to some very serious ethical and procedural questions about the city’s and the VNC’s possible collusion with Google to expedite an agenda that does not have the proper input from the community.
Please note that there were MANY people in the audience yesterday who raised concerns over Google’s larger impact to our community that must be addressed before any expansion can go forward and I’m calling on the VNC and the City Council as community leaders to take the necessary steps to hold transparent public inquiries into these concerns before any permitting is approved.
Additionally, on a positive note, due to the overwhelming concern in the room over the gentrification aspects of Google’s impact, as well as their larger connections to Google’s participation in ALEC (funding of Climate Change denial, and right-wing legislative agendas), and their collection, storage and sharing of our personal information, I was able to get the Google representative to agree to hold a public meeting to address these concerns within 60 days.
As this is now on the table, I would ask the City Council and the VNC to ensure that the permitting for the project at 320 Hampton be delayed until at least this public meeting can occur and a Community Benefit Agreement can be reached with Google.