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Google Opens New Campus in Venice

In the latest installment of the Silicon Beach series, Patch looks at the arrival of Google Los Angeles to Venice. The tech giant is preparing to expand its presence in Southern California with a new campus at the famed Binoculars Building.

Forget Jim Morrison or Jean-Michel Basquiat or even Lindsay Lohan. Venice's new most famous resident is Google.

The company opened the doors of its Binoculars Building campus on Thursday evening to applause from Los Angeles politicians and cautious optimism from local residents.

About 500 Google employees – Googlers – will start work Monday in the Frank Gehry-designed building at 340 Main St. and in two adjacent buildings. Three  previous locations in Santa Monica will be closed, so the area's teams, including about 375 engineers, working on products such as YouTube, Google Chrome and Google+, and 125 sales people will be united in one campus, similar to the company's Mountain View location.

Attracting Google to Venice is seen as a win for the city of Los Angeles. "I couldn't be prouder to welcome you to Silicon Beach," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who began meeting with Google executives more than a year ago.

Since those initial meetings, the city has reclassified Internet companies out of a higher, media company tax bracket and created a three-year "tax holiday" for new or relocating companies in the city, said former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Austin Beutner, who resigned in the spring to launch his own mayoral campaign.

"My aspiration would be to have Los Angeles become known as a world center of creative content, not just in traditional platforms but in newer platforms," Beutner told Patch.

The phrase "creative content" may be the key to the success of Silicon Beach, a term which has come to signify the burgeoning Internet businesses along the western edge of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles combines intellectual capital, a diverse community and a history of creative enterprise, Beutner said. "Combined, those three things are pretty powerful."

Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that Google video search technology started in Los Angeles, a fact Google's office director, Thomas Williams, mentioned in his remarks Thursday evening.

Williams was upbeat about the move, telling the crowd his team looked at more than 100 potential locations for a unified Los Angeles-area campus.

The campus includes a game room, a climbing wall, a bike and surfboard station, a farmers' market and a large cafeteria stocked with locally sourced food and snacks, part of Google's pledge to be a good neighbor. In a gallery-style common area, prints from the are currently on display, and Google plans to continue to show local work. There is also a large courtyard with a full-size, retractable movie screen, which is expected to be available for some community events.

Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president of advertising, also addressed the crowd. She gave a quick recap of Google's presence in Southern California dating back to 2003, when the company bought Applied Semantics – a key acquisition that led to Google's landmark AdSense program.

"This is really just the beginning," Wojcicki said, a sentiment that was echoed by Googlers throughout the evening.

The company hired about 100 new people this year in the Los Angeles area, and there are plans for additional growth. On several office cubicles, placeholder nametags read, "Future Googler."

In addition to the space opening Monday, Google has another 70,000 square feet of space at an undisclosed location nearby, Williams told Patch in September. Attendees at the reception speculated the building across a parking lot from Google that houses Gold's Gym, a Venice fixture for more than 40 years, might be emptied to make room for Google's expansion.

In any case, both Googlers and Venice residents are expecting the tech company to continue to expand its presence here. 

As Google engineer Steve VanDeBogart said, "We have a very longterm view of everything."

This article is part of a Patch series on Silicon Beach, the growing high-tech coastal sector along the Santa Monica Bay, from Malibu to Palos Verdes.

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