San Francisco CBS affiliate learns what Google’s mysterious floating barge might be, and why work has stopped on the project.

20131010Mystery 2 2 610x310 Google barge in San Francisco bay might be future Google Glass store

KPIX’s Allen Martin may have figured out what Google is using the barge its building something on in the San Francisco bay for.

Sometime in October a mysterious barge appeared in the bay of San Francisco near Treasure Island. CNET’s Daniel Terdiman did some sleuthing and found out that Google was the owner of it. Terdiman’s continued research didn’t find anything conclusive, other than that Google had been awarded a patent for a water-based data center and the three individuals to whom the patent was awarded still work at Google. Thus, he concluded, Google very well may be using the barge as a floating data center cooled by seawater. Innovative and very Google like.

However it appears that this isn’t quite the case. KPIX’s Martin reports that Google is building a floating marketing center — a “kind of giant Apple store” is how he described it — for its upcoming Google Glass. When completed, the barge-store would be towed across the Bay to San Francisco’s Fort Mason.

But there’s a problem: Martin’s sources say work has stopped because Google doesn’t have the proper permits for anything.

San Francisco is home to militant environmentalists, and there’s no doubt that regulators and permit-granters will want to know every detail about how Google intends on using the barge. Google, with its strong aversion to transparency, won’t give them the details they want as it will become public knowledge as soon as Google discloses it.

“Google has spent millions on this,” a source from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission told Martin.“But they can’t park this barge on the waterfront without a permit, and they don’t have one.”

Another hurdle Google may have is that BCDC regulators don’t look kindly on “bay fill”, things that could be built on land instead. If Google intends the barge to stay for an extended period of time, they will have to convince the BCDC that this doesn’t constitute bay fill.

Google often looks for the world to change to accommodate it: from societal norms about privacy with Google Glass turning everyone into a surveillance-bot (or Panopticon) and Gmail’s mail reading bots, to laws about copyright and fair use with its takedowns of videos that use copyrighted material in a perfectly legitimate way. While getting approval denied for the barge might be embarrassing for Google, as it will have wasted millions of dollars on nothing, it will serve as a good wake up call for the company.

Source: CBS San Francisco (KPIX)