Campus

What if Apple didn't build its new 'spaceship' campus?

June 27, 2013: 7:19 AM ET

One of four alternatives to the proposed project is "No Project."

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 6.57.14 AM

Steve Jobs: "It's a little like a spaceship has landed."

FORTUNE -- You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and it turns out you can't build a new 3.4 million sq. ft. corporate campus in the city of Cupertino without breaking a few California environmental quality laws.

According to a 650-page draft environmental impact review submitted in advance of public hearings Wednesday, Apple's (AAPL) new headquarters -- if built according to Steve Jobs' wishes -- will have "significant unavoidable impact" in several areas. Among them, the project would:

  • Not fully implement some provisions of the Land Use/Community Design, Circulation, and Environmental Resources/Sustainability Elements of the General Plan related to bike and pedestrian access.
  • Generate air pollutant emissions during the construction and operational periods that could violate air quality standards at the project and cumulative levels.
  • Cause unacceptable conditions at five intersections, ten mixed flow freeway segments, one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) segment of a freeway, and cause excessive queuing on I-280 off ramps at Wolfe Road.
  • Create new challenging conditions for pedestrians and interfere with pedestrian and bicyclist accessibility to the site and surrounding areas

So as required by the city, Apple hired LSA Consultants to offer a kind of Hobson's choice of "reasonable" alternatives:

1. Keep open a street -- Pruneridge Ave. -- that would have been closed in the plan Jobs preferred, redesign the complex, and haul away 750,000 extra cubic yards of rock and dirt;

2. Minimize construction pollution by replacing the "spaceship" design with conventional office buildings and reduce open landscaped space by more than 1/3;

3. Avoid traffic problems by building a low-density office complex that houses fewer employees than Apple's current headquarters;

4. Scrap the whole idea and, as Jobs threatened, find another city to house Apple's growing workforce.

The alternatives are summarized in the chart below. The residents of Cupertino had a chance to respond to the draft report in person Wednesday night in hearings that were webcast but have not appeared on YouTube. The deadline for written responses is July 22. Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 5.43.12 AM

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