Scott Herhold

Apple's new 'spaceship' campus faces key vote Tuesday

October 14, 2013: 4:50 PM ET

It may be a slam dunk for Apple, but the local paper is playing the story for all it's worth.

MercFORTUNE -- There's a pro forma sign off in November, but the vote scheduled for Oct. 15 is the one that will determine whether or not Apple's (AAPL) $5 billion Campus 2 headquarters gets built in Cupertino or somewhere else.

Apple has about as much chance of losing the Cupertino city council vote as Bill deBlasio, the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, has of losing in November to his Republican opponent, whoever that is.

Still, this is a big story for the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley's hometown paper, and the Merc is doing its best to inject some drama into the decision. Result: The matched set of front-page opinion pieces that ran in Monday's print edition under the headline: iCandy or iSore?

Scott Herhold, who wrote the pro-development piece, didn't really call it iCandy. Quite the opposite. "Every now and then in suburbia," he begins, "you have to take a chance on greatness."

Unfortunately for the Merc's readers, the best they could get for the iSore point of view was Troy Wolverton.

Wolverton, who cut his Apple-biting teeth at The Street, was flying under the radar at the Mercury News until he nicknamed Apple's CEO "Timid Tim" and began catching the skeptical eye of Macworld's Macalope. ("Seriously," the satirical columnist wrote in A No-brainer, "how much lazier does analysis have to get before a pundit is declared 'effectively deceased'"?)

In his Monday piece, Wolverton starts off big. "Instead of being a symbol for Silicon Valley," he writes of the proposed 176-acre corporate campus, "it will be emblematic of urban planning gone way wrong."

If Wolverton was hoping to change the minds of Cupertino's residents and business owners with his apocalyptic vision of snarled traffic, Pentagon-scale construction and "phony" forests, he may be too late. As the Wall Street Journal reported last December, commercial rents jumped 40% after Apple unveiled its expansion plans and property owners were already touting their relative proximity to Apple as a selling point.

Besides, the company seems to be leaving nothing to chance. As Chris O'Brien reported in the LA Times last month, Apple has launched an elaborate community outreach effort that includes

"20,000 updates about the project sent to people in Cupertino and neighboring Sunnyvale; holding 150 meetings with local residents and organizations to explain the project and answer questions; visiting 350 local businesses; and responding to more than 1,000 questions or requests for more information. The company also submitted a 68-page list of 2,231 local residents who agreed to make public their support for the project."

And who can forget that the initial pitch to the city council was made by Steve Jobs himself in the last public appearance of his life? "That Jobs personally presented the project to the council," O'Brien reports, "especially given the advanced state of his life-threatening illness, is something that still resonates widely in this community."

"This project is moving forward," writes one of several dozen readers who have taken potshots at Wolverton's piece in the Merc's comment stream. "To have this labeled as urban planning gone way wrong is comical for a man who has made a living writing about an entire area that has never, repeat, never been able to catch up with the growth brought on by the same industry Apple helped to create."

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