The probe, which began in the past week, will examine what permits
are needed to build the barge and whether the owners of the Treasure
Island pier where the vessel is moored have the proper permits, said
Larry Goldzband, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay
Conservation and Development Commission.
"We want to make sure that the permits that are used by the owners
of the pier actually allowed for construction to happen," Goldzband
told Reuters on Wednesday, referring to what he described as "a
preliminary and formal enforcement investigation."
Google officials informed Goldzband in a recent meeting that they
are in the process of making changes to the barge's design which
have been requested by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Jason Tama, a Coast Guard commander, said he could not comment on
any specific cases, but noted that it was standard practice for the
Coast Guard to inspect new construction to ensure that safety,
security and environmental protection regulations are met. Changes
to vessels are a common part of the process, he said.
Google did not return requests for comment.
The barge, which is made of steel shipping containers stacked
four-stories high, has stirred intense speculation about its purpose
since its existence was first reported in October. Google, the
world's No.1 Internet search engine, has kept mum on what it intends
to use the barge for.
Documents submitted to the Port of San Francisco in August describe
an "artistic" technology exhibition space.
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A report in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, citing documents
that Google submitted to barge builder Turner Construction Co, refer
to a "floating retail store."
A floating retail store might raise questions with the conservation
and development commission, which issues permits for vessels that
are moored in one spot for an extended time.
The current investigation is focused on the construction of the
barge, rather than its future use. The probe, which should take a
few weeks, will look at who owns the pier, who uses it and for what
purposes, said Goldzband.
Bay Ship and Yacht Co has a lease with Treasure Island for Pier One
which ran until November 30, according to documents provided to
Reuters by the Treasure Island Development Authority earlier this
year. The director of the development authority was not immediately
available on Wednesday.
Bay Ship and Yacht Co could not immediately be reached for comment.
Goldzband would not speculate about what kind of action might result
if it was determined that there was a violation, but he said that
the commission has the power to levy fines as well as to issue
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Jackie Frank)