SF asks Google to move mystery barge; Google is building an identical structure aboard a barge on the East Coast

After receiving "multiple complaints" from residents, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (SF-BCDC) has investigated an under-construction four-story Google barge. The findings state that Google Inc. (GOOG) needs to move or get rid of the floating monstrosity, which was built without the proper permits.
I. What's up With Google's Floating Monstrosity?
Google has long been rumored to use floating data centers; some believed the barge might be doubling as a floating data center for Android devices, including smartphones, tablets, and wearables (e.g. smartwatches and Google Glass Explorer Edition).
Last year, Google clarified the barge's purpose:

Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above.  Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.

The barge is apparently an attempt by Google to obfuscate its upcoming building.  By building the multi-story structure at sea aboard a barge, it can avoid having to get local building permits, which could tip its plans prematurely.

Google mystery barge
One of two Google mystery barge-buildings is seen here. [Image Source: Getty Images]

Secrets and confusion aside, it is clear that there was some disconnect between the city and Google.  Google never received permission, according to the SF-BCDC, to do the construction.  But apparently the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) -- a Bay Area development authority tasked with creating business for the Bay's former naval station-turned-civilian business hub -- gave Google an official go-ahead on the project.  With the TIDA's blessing Google appears to have built, or mostly built its proposal.
II. Secret Building/Barge Must be Moved, City Says
It's not entirely “game over” for the troubled barge project.  The SF-BCDC says that Google can move the barge to another fully permitted construction facility.
The latest development, however, is the barge's second setback.  Last year the Coast Guard order construction temporarily halted after they found that Google and the TIDA lacked certain necessary permits.  Google reportedly asked members of the Coast Guard to sign nondisclosure agreements before boarding.

Local, state, and federal agencies often add a bureaucratic nightmare on top of an already inherently challenging construction process when it comes to large ships.  Builders have to navigate a complex maze of federal agencies, state agencies, and local agencies.  As the San Francisco incident illustrates, even if you get the permission of one local agency (e.g. TIDA, in this case), you may find work halted if a superior local agency disagrees with the lesser agency's rulings (SF-BCDC). 
These sorts of jurisdiction battles are perhaps an apt microcosm of the ineptitude and frustrations of the modern U.S. political machine.

San Francisco
You could say San Francisco wants Google to barge out of Treasure Island. [Image Source: AP]

But like it or not, the SF-BCDC says Google's craft has to move to an approved construction site.  In fact, the commission was Google to barge out, so to speak.  The commission's executive director Larry Goldzband comments:

It needs to move.

The Guardian reports that Google built a second, identical building aboard a barge in New London, Connecticut.  That building has since been towed to Portland, Maine.
Google last year announced plans for a museum and private demo space dubbed the "Google Experience Center", which is a planned expansion for the Googleplex -- the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.  It is possible one of the barge buildings is this announced building, or these buildings may be additional, somewhat similar facilities.

Sources: ABC News, USA Today, The Guardian

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