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Atherton, Menlo Park continue talks on Facebook EIR dispute

Oh, the irony of it all: The very same company that has encouraged millions of "friends" to get all warm and fuzzy online -- whether they know each other or not -- is now at the heart of a disagreement that could drive a wedge in the long-standing friendship between next-door neighbors, Atherton and Menlo Park.

The dispute stems from an environmental report identifying significant impacts on Menlo Park from Facebook's operation in that city, but, according to Atherton officials, giving the city's neighbor to the north short shrift. That report, the environmental impact report (EIR), is on the verge of being certified by Menlo Park.

In a strongly worded April 26 letter to Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith and City Manager Alex McIntyre, Atherton urged Menlo Park to reconsider mitigation measures identified in the EIR for the impacts that built-out Facebook campuses will have on the Marsh and Middlefield roads intersection, saying that the "traffic analysis performed for the ... EIR is flawed and inadequate."

The letter, written by Interim City Manager Theresa DellaSanta, said that if the issues raised by the town aren't resolved, the town "must explore all options including legal challenges to the mitigation measures to effect a more reasonable and responsible position by Facebook and the City of Menlo Park."

Although some observers have interpreted the letter as a threat to sue Facebook as well as Menlo Park, Atherton City Attorney Bill Conners said last week that Atherton "has not ever ... considered the possibility of a lawsuit against Facebook. I don't know of any cause of action to sue Facebook."

Because Menlo Park has legal oversight over the EIR, that city would be the party to dispute with, or take legal action against, if Atherton has a disagreement over the findings, he said.

But, he added, Atherton is hoping to resolve its issues over the EIR with its neighbor without litigation -- a sentiment echoed by Ms. DellaSanta. "We prefer to work with Menlo Park and have it be a win-win situation," she said. "Our main concern is the safety of our residents. And it (the planned roadway mitigation) is just not safe."

The dispute

Atherton staff asserts that one of the EIR's key mitigation measures proposed to address traffic impacts at Marsh and Middlefield is not feasible because it requires widening lanes into private right-of-way. In addition, they say, it understates cumulative traffic impacts that will occur once Facebook builds out its current campus at Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway and the land it owns across the expressway on Constitution Drive, resulting in inadequate mitigation measures.

The EIR suggests that Facebook pay about 30 percent of the cost for adding another turning lane westbound on Middlefield and a merging lane northbound on Marsh, in addition to other roadway changes.

Chip Taylor, Menlo Park's public works director, said the information city staff and the EIR consultants were working with indicates the area needed to widen lanes is in the public right-of-way.

Mr. Taylor, Mr. McIntyre and other staff members met with Atherton staff on May 22 to discuss the matter, and Mr. Taylor said afterward that they are reviewing some of the information and concerns raised at that meeting.

He and Mr. McIntyre said in interviews that the city believed Atherton had signed off on proposed mitigation measures discussed prior to the completion of the draft EIR, saying that Menlo Park staff had met with Atherton staff and the town's Transportation Committee, and had met with agreement.

Ms. DellaSanta noted, however, that people in city government "should know that a (citizen advisory) committee ... doesn't have the authority to approve anything."

Comments

Posted by Pat, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 30, 2012 at 12:35 am

I've heard $15 million being talked about as a great deal for Menlo Park, and then I hear that it is $15 million over 14 years. That's only ~$1 million a year--always supposing that FB is still around in 14 years.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 30, 2012 at 7:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Given Menlo Park's total failure as the Lead Agency for the EIR on the Facebook expansion project the current situation was totally predicted and completely preventible.

Why didn't the City of MenloPark call an open meeting with ALL of the impacted jurisdictions at the very beginning of this effort to insure that everyone's issues would be on the table so that there would be an equitable mechanism for dealing with those issues - as is required by CEQA?


Posted by Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

Good question Peter.

Answer: incompetence, arrogance or a mixture of both.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

Anyone who attended or watch the MP CC meeting last night and listened to Chip Taylor's very clear and detailed presentation of Atherton's issue regarding Marsh Road now knows that what they want is for someone else to pay for an existing condition on Marsh that they want to change. The issue was raised on two previous recent projects during their EIRs, and in both instances, the EIR discounted the issue as a pre-existing condition and therefore not the responsibility of the project owners under CQUA. The FB EIR now makes three times. Three strikes and your out Atherton, if you want to make the changes on Marsh, pay for it yourself; including an EIR to make sure the change does not negatively impact any of your neighboring jurisdictions and that you fully mitigate destroying the heritage trees involved.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wrong - the 'existing condition' works for the existing traffic.

Existing Peak Hour Volumes
7. Marsh Rd and Middlefield Rd AM Peak 22.6 LOS C PM Peak LOS 28.3 C

2018 projected
7. Marsh Rd and Middlefield Rd AM Peak 31.8 LOS C PM Peak 45.4 LOS D

2025 projected
7. Marsh Rd and Middlefield Rd AM Peak 36.1 LOS D PM Peak 55.0 LOS E

Facts are often just too painful for some people to acknowledge.

The Facebook project, as clearly noted in the EIR, will significantly change the traffic conditions at this location and that change is what must be mitigated.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm

So why have three separate EIR's in the past few years, most recently Gateway and FB, concluded this is an existing condition, and therefore exempt from CQUA mitigation requirements? Not being argumentative, just seeking to understand all views.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Facebook EIR DOES call for mitigation.

"7. Marsh Rd and
Middlefield Rd
Town of
Atherton
D LOS becomes E or F or 4.0 second increase to critical worst
approach if LOS is currently E or F"

"The proposed mitigation measures for the intersection of Marsh Road and
Middlefield Road include an additional southbound left turn lane and restriping
an additional eastbound receiving lane. The improvements would require
potential additional right of way, widening the edge of pavement for the
southbound direction of traffic into the existing landscape buffer, signing and
striping improvements, and relocation of utility poles and traffic signal poles
along the west side of Middlefield Road.
Prior to the Development Agreement approval, the Project Sponsor shall
prepare an updated construction cost estimate for the proposed mitigation
measures at the intersection of Marsh Road and Middlefield Road for review
and approval of the Public Works Director. Within 90 days of the effective
date of the Development Agreement for the East Campus, the Project Sponsor
shall provide a bond for the improvements in the amount equal to the Project's
fair share contribution of the estimated construction cost for the intersection
improvements plus a 30 percent contingency. The Project's fair share
contribution is estimated to be 30.4 percent."

The Gateway EIR also noted an impact which the City of Menlo Park simply ignored.


Posted by GOLLY, a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

How come people think Facebook has any chance of being around for even five years? I thank them for making me a ton of money shorting the stock.


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