After announcing it was leasing office space in Venice, Google has been refusing to comment on its plans for employees in Santa Monica. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — When Internet search giant Google, one of Santa Monica’s largest employers, announced this week that it was leasing 100,000 square feet of office space in Venice, business and civic leaders immediately began to wonder what that meant for the city by the sea.

There are concerns that Google, which occupies three buildings in Santa Monica, the largest on Arizona Avenue and Sixth Street with over 300 employees, will consolidate operations in Venice and pull out of Santa Monica. If so, that would be a blow to local restaurants and retail, which rely heavily on employees for revenue.

Google has also been a partner in community events and has helped social service agencies. At last year’s Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition celebration breakfast, Google received the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce’s Business Cares Award for their help assisting homeless families.

Representatives from Google would not comment on their plans for Santa Monica or give any details on how many employees would be stationed in Venice. A spokesman issued a statement from Thomas Williams, senior director of engineering at Google, who said, “Los Angeles is a world class city with a talented workforce, and we’re thrilled to expand our presence as we enter our biggest hiring year in company history.”

The Mountain View, Calif. company this week announced it would be hiring more than 6,000 workers this year. Real estate sources said Google is moving into three Main Street-area buildings, including the famed Binoculars Building designed by Frank Gehry. Sitting in front of the building is a giant binocular sculpture created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Real estate sources speculated the move to Venice is an attempt to consolidate operations in the Southland and create a Los Angeles campus.

Mayor Richard Bloom said the Santa Monica Alliance, a partnership between City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce to attract and retain businesses in the city, worked with Google to find suitable office space locally but was unsuccessful.

“It appears the space in Venice was the best choice for them,” Bloom said. “It is unclear whether they intend to continue to have a presence in Santa Monica or will locate all employees in Venice. While we will be sorry to see their current workforce leave us, the additional 6,000 jobs Google is creating are fantastic news for the economy.”

Bloom said he will be “disappointed” if Google packs up and moves, but he believes their employees will continue to live in Santa Monica or visit and spend some cash here. He said Santa Monica will continue to be an attractive location for businesses, citing video-game giant Activision Blizzard and its decision to remain in Santa Monica after looking at alternatives.

At Thursday’s State of the City address, Activision Blizzard vice president George Rose told the audience that the company, which produced the hit “Guitar Hero” and “Call of Duty” franchises, said Santa Monica remains attractive because of its skilled labor pool and investment in technology infrastructure, as well as its proximity to the ocean and other labor centers.

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