The New Tech Campus: How Some Employers Slay Nasty Commutes

By Marisa Kendall
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A quick commute may soon become a reality for some Bay Area workers. Some tech companies are shifting away from the iconic, stand-alone campuses that mark Silicon Valley and are often reached by lengthy car commutes.

SAN MATEO, Calif.

As 90-minute “megacommutes” become increasingly common in the Bay Area, to say that Boramee Seo has an enviable trek to work is a mega-understatement.

While her peers are packed like sardines wearing business suits in crowded BART cars, or spend hours each day quietly fuming behind the wheel in stop-and-go traffic, Seo walks. Fifteen minutes after leaving her San Mateo apartment, Seo arrives at the new glass-walled headquarters of SurveyMonkey.

“I’m so much happier,” said the 39-year-old, nine months after ditching her hour-plus BART commute and moving into the apartment a few blocks from her office.

Seo’s quick commute soon may become a reality for more Bay Area workers, as some companies shift away from the iconic, stand-alone tech campuses that mark Silicon Valley and often are reached by lengthy car commutes.

Instead, employers like SurveyMonkey are setting up shop in spiffy new mixed-use developments that integrate office space, housing, retail and public transit, allowing employees to walk or take BART or Caltrain to work.

Experts say it’s an important change as booming tech companies are blamed for the Bay Area’s clogged streets and dwindling housing supply. But building these developments can be costly and complicated.

“Every company in this sector is struggling with what their responses to these challenges are,” said Benjamin Grant, urban design policy director for SPUR (the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association).

“The days of being able to cruise to the workplace in your car, and get out in your assigned parking space and go into your corner office, those days are just over.”

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