Google's plan for floating retail stores runs into legal quandary

in Genius Bar edited January 2014
Google has tried to keep its construction plans for giant retail showroom barges under wraps, but with new details leaking that the "temporary technology exhibit spaces" are actually floating stores, legal permits may be hard to obtain.

Google Glass barge retail store
Google's low cost, super-sized floating retail strategy being assembled on a barge. Photo: Daniel Eran Dilger

Google was quickly identified as the money behind a barge structure being assembled from shipping containers on a large pier on Treasure Island (below, top left of photo) in San Francisco.

A report by the SF Chronicle states that the structure is the first of three in a $35 million project being built by Turner Construction.

The site obtained a confidential report by the construction company that indicates the barge structures are not exactly a "studio" or "temporary technology exhibit space" that Google represented them as being in permit applications submitted to the Port of San Francisco.

Instead, they are "floating retail stores." Mirian Saez, the director of operations of the Treasure Island Development Authority, said representatives from Google told her the floating stores "would be an important opportunity for the launching" of Google Glass.

Google Glass barge retail store

Such an effort would mimic Apple's retail store plans, which Steve Jobs credited with enabling the company to launch its status quo disrupting iPhone and iPad.

However, rather than spending billions to build permanent new retail stores or lease high traffic locations in existing malls as Apple did, Google appears to be floating a lower budget experiment to expose customers to its face mounted Glass device.

However, that strategy may not fly in San Francisco, where a permit from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission is required to moor a barge for any period of time. Gaining such a permit requires a legitimate plan involving maritime or recreational use.

Google Glass barge retail store

Commission executive Larry Goldzband told the Chronicle investigators Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross that "a floating retail store that is not a bay-oriented enterprise would probably make a lot of jaws drop at a commission meeting."

Goldzband characterized Google as not being very open about its plans, stating "we have told them we don't want to wait a heck of a lot longer because [...] the public needs to know what Google is doing."

Google Glass barge retail store

Asked about whether it plans to use the barges as retail stores, Google told the reporters, "while we have explored many ideas in the past around the barges, our current plan, as we've stated before, is to use them as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

Previously, Google said its structures were intended to "drive visitation to the waterfront," and the company's plans indicate the stacked container barges would be outfitted with decorative sails to look like a boat. That might not be enough to sneak a huge Google Glass retail store through the permitting process.

"The commission is going to ask, 'Is there an alternative (land) location for this program to occur?'" Goldzband stated. "If there is, then the commission is going to have a very difficult time convincing the public there should be something happening on the bay."


  • Reply 1 of 46
    irelandireland Posts: 17,796member
    Google Insider.
  • Reply 2 of 46

    So Google is going to whore itself out like a Carnival cruise, roaming the ocean searching for unsuspecting senior citizens to hock their wares…


    Hopefully the ships get captured by Somalians. And then returned to Mountain View the next week with a note: “You can keep it.”

  • Reply 3 of 46
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,191member
    If this "store" is going to stay on Treasure Island, it will have problems attracting the number of people Google is hoping for. I've gone across the Bay Bridge and the exits to Treasure Island are not that easy to use. Try getting there during rush hour!

    Add this to Amazon's insane drone delivery service and while these two ideas are definitely "thinking differently" there is a difference between "different" and absolutely crazy. Of course, Google is just trying to get out of paying property taxes. I'd love to hear how they plan of handling sewage. One spill in the Bay and they better be closed.
  • Reply 4 of 46
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    And how are all of the people that don't have any money that typically buy Android products get on the boat? Are they going to run them like some of these pop up stores where you can't take an actual product home? Apparently, they opened up a Pop Up store in my area for Christmas, where you can see all of the products, order the products over the internet (probably trying to get better internet sales numbers) but you can't take anything home and I don't think they have anyone there that will repair/replace a product and these are just temporary stores.

    I think Google is thinking so outside the box, that there's no logic involved in actually providing the customer with a solution.

    Freaking idiots.
  • Reply 5 of 46
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Drive them far enough out to sea and there's no worry!

    (Impulse foot-traffic will be reduced somewhat.)
  • Reply 6 of 46
    vqrovqro Posts: 66member
    man, google is run by idiots. first the nexus q. then google glass. now this. fail fail fail.
  • Reply 7 of 46
    No point in sinking money into this idea. It's dead in the water.
  • Reply 8 of 46
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,069member

    Good luck with that concept kids.
  • Reply 9 of 46

    Something like this on the San Francisco waterfront, along the busy Embarcadero, would make sense as a marketing tool and generate lots of buzz. 


    Docked on Treasure Island, this is a headscratcher at best.  Treasure Island is a couple of miles away from the mainland and does not have a lot of residents or regular visitors.  It's a low profile and low visibility location, and as others have pointed out, you do not want to go there when traffic backs up on the Bay Bridge.  As a special events venue or marketing/promotion vehicle, I can these barges working quite well, but not at that location. 


    I guess that's the point of a barge -- they can tow it wherever it needs to go.  Given that Treasure Island has nearby hangars that movie studios and special effects shops use as soundstages, as well as other spaces used by artists, maybe the barge is just docked there for fitting. 

  • Reply 10 of 46
    How innovative: When it fails, they can just sink it for the tax write off.
  • Reply 11 of 46
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,153member

    Standard Google modus operandi: do whatever the hell you want and worry about any legal ramifications later.

  • Reply 12 of 46
    Titanic, meet Project Iceberg...
  • Reply 13 of 46
    tommcintommcin Posts: 108member
    How does Eric plan on getting these stores into Arizona or the Mid West?
  • Reply 14 of 46
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member

    Originally Posted by TomMcIn View Post

    How does Eric plan on getting these stores into Arizona or the Mid West?

    That's just flyover country, apparently not worth worrying about.  Unless the next version will be like the SHIELD helicarrier.

  • Reply 15 of 46
    inklinginkling Posts: 745member
    Google has been in California for ever so long. It ought to know that anything new or different would excite the anger of the state's myriad of regulatory bodies.

    In California, you can't build until the weight of your filing paperwork, surveys, environmental studies, and the like exceeds the weight of what you want to build. There's a host of rent-seekers that want their share. That's also why that $80 billion train line will never be finished.
  • Reply 16 of 46
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,042member

    Didn't google say this things it going to cater to the rich and famous and VIP crowds and this is going to drive visitation or tourism.


    Yeah google is thinking outside the box, and trying to market product is different way, but you still have to deal with people in government and we all know how they can be. I wonder who will get fires over this if they can not pull it off.

  • Reply 17 of 46
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,675member
    tommcin wrote: »
    How does Eric plan on getting these stores into Arizona or the Mid West?

    I don't think he saw this question coming, but he might have been wearing their Google Glass.
  • Reply 18 of 46

    yeah right, floating stores. 


    Next you'll hear that Amazon is delivering packages via DRONES.... pshhht...

  • Reply 19 of 46
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,069member

    Originally Posted by TomMcIn View Post

    How does Eric plan on getting these stores into Arizona or the Mid West?

    There are some leaked photos of Google's plans for the midwest/desert areas of the US.  Perhaps in one of these they will find the Droids they were looking for. :)


  • Reply 20 of 46
    mknoppmknopp Posts: 257member
    Hey Schmidt remember this line?

    "If you have something that you don%u2019t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn%u2019t be doing it in the first place."

    Irony is great. Not so much hypocrisy.
Sign In or Register to comment.