Google held extensive talks with the National Park Service about bringing its mysterious barge and floating tech exhibition studio to San Francisco's historic Fort Mason Center last fall, until the project was put on hold because of construction delays, according to documents obtained Tuesday.
Talks began last March, when Google representatives met with park service officials including Frank Dean, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Over the next several months, federal officials toured the barge at nearby Treasure Island, held a series of meetings and phone consultations with Google, and exchanged proposed drafts of a multipage special use permit that would let Google use one of the piers at Fort Mason.
At one point, a Google representative told federal officials the company hoped to "come and go" from Fort Mason over a period of six months.
But the project was postponed twice and went into "temporary hibernation" last September, according to Steve Kasierski, a park service property manager, who notified other officials that constructing the barge and obtaining Coast Guard permits was taking "much, much ... longer than anticipated."
Other officials say Google has told them the barge won't be ready until later this year. Google has also run into snags with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which must approve structures in the bay.
The company has said little about its plans, except that it wants to use the floating platform "as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology." After word of the project surfaced in October, park service spokesman Howard Levitt said Google hadn't explained how it planned to use the barge.
Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Google submitted a lengthy presentation and had several conversations with parks officials. But officials withheld part of the presentation and other documents, saying they contain privileged information exempt from disclosure. Levitt said Google provided information about the barge but not about the activities it planned to hold on board.
Although it's still under construction, Treasure Island officials reportedly have said a Google subcontractor planned to move the barge this week, possibly to Stockton, although those plans are unconfirmed.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022 or follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey