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Google Barge to set sail for new home within a month

CNET has learned that the famous barge project is expected to be moving from Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay to a new construction home, most likely somewhere else in the bay.

Google Barge, currently located alongside Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, will be moving within a month, Google has told public officials. Josh Miller/CNET

Google Barge, which has been sitting unfinished and idle alongside a pier in the middle of San Francisco Bay, will soon be on the move.

CNET has learned that the barge project, expected to be a floating product and Google X concept showroom, will be relocated in a month or less from its current home alongside Treasure Island. Earlier this month, a California state agency said Google either had to move the project somewhere else or get a permit to finish construction at Treasure Island's Pier One.

According to Mirian Saez, director of island operations at the Treasure Island Development Authority, Google informed her staff last week that the project -- made out of dozens of shipping containers built atop a freight barge -- would be "gone within 30 days."

Saez said Google did not offer additional details of its plans, and the company did not respond to multiple CNET requests for comment.

In October, CNET was first to reveal the connection between Google and the then-mysterious structure being built in the shadow of the brand-new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Around the same time, Google stopped work on the project due to scrutiny from both the state agency -- the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) -- and the U.S. Coast Guard, which was said to have taken issue with the interior design of the project.

For its part, BCDC had determined that Google needed a permit to work on the project, and in its early-February letter, it gave the company a 35-day grace period to either apply for such a permit, move, or begin paying fines.

Though it's not known where Google plans to relocate, one thing is certain: If it's going to be in the San Francisco Bay, it will be to a place that has the proper BCDC permit. But that could be any number of boatyards, according to Brad McCrae, BCDC's director of regulatory affairs.

Separately, on Friday afternoon, BCDC and Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) representatives met and, according to Saez, reached an understanding regarding permitting. She said that as a result of the meeting, TIDA will be notifying applicable tenants of the permit requirements and their responsibility for acquiring them. However, she believes Google will avoid having to get such a permit -- at least relating to its work on Treasure Island -- because it will be moving the barge project elsewhere.

Such a move would help Google steer clear of penalties that could top out at $30,000. That amount might be considered paltry for a company with resources like Google, but being known to be in violation of state laws meant to protect a crucial waterway like the San Francisco Bay would be a public relations disaster the company would surely want to avoid.

In the meantime, the fate of a second Google Barge in Maine is also unknown. That project has also been on hold for months, and Coast Guard officials there told CNET last fall that they expect Google to wait until it has completed work on the San Francisco project before moving forward with the work in Maine.