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Atherton and Facebook: Friends at last

Contract gives $350,000 payment plus other benefits to town

It appears that all's well and friendly between the town of Atherton and its new neighbor, Facebook, after a period of disagreement over what should be done to lessen traffic impacts to the town as the social network giant expands its nearby campus in Menlo Park.

The town announced in a press release Tuesday afternoon (July 3) that the two parties have "agreed to mitigation efforts where anticipated Facebook traffic may impact Atherton's traffic."

The announcement didn't specify what mitigation measures would be put into place, mainly because the agreement itself doesn't specify. According to Mayor Bill Widmer, Facebook will pay Atherton $350,000 to be used to at the town's discretion and not restricted to traffic improvements.

The town had challenged mitigation measures identified in the Facebook expansion project's environmental impact report, certified several weeks ago by the city of Menlo Park. Those measures, focused on the already problematic intersection of Marsh and Middlefield roads, were inadequate because they were based on flawed data, the town maintained.

Right now, there are no plans to change the intersection of Marsh Road and Middlefield Road identified in the expansion's environmental impact report as a potential area of congestion, the mayor said.

"The EIR was covering total growth, but that total growth won't happen immediately. We'll evaluate what's happening when it's happening," Mayor Widmer said.

In addition, Facebook will spend up to $5,000 on a consultant to work with Atherton's public works department on other transportation initiatives, and up to $10,000 to plan bike routes, according to the contract. The social networking company also "agrees to make its transportation manager reasonably available from time-to-time to discuss bike improvements" for a period of two years.

A third benefit will be an influx of surplus equipment, including computers, to help upgrade the town's internet resources. Mayor Widmer said he hopes to turn council meetings into a paperless exercise by using wireless networks and display screens to help residents review documents related to items on the agenda.

And, of course, Atherton wants to develop a Facebook page. The agreement includes Facebook lending social media consultants to the town to help. "A Facebook page will help us engage more with residents and run our own surveys very easily," Mayor Widmer noted.

The agreement closes what could have been a contentious chapter in Facebook's relocation to the area. In an April 26 letter to Menlo Park officials, 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."

The Atherton City Council met several times in closed session to discuss possible legal action. After one such session on June 29, Mayor Bill Widmer announced that the council had authorized him to "conclude discussions" with Facebook officials.

The newly approved contract includes a clause stating that Atherton won't file a complaint or take any other action objecting to the campus expansion, and the benefits will kick in Sept. 6 as long as no challenges arise.

Mayor Widmer described the agreement as "very fair" for both the town and Facebook. "They're proving they want to be a good neighbor. I'm very, very impressed."

Almanac staff writer Sandy Brundage contributed to this report.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 4, 2012 at 11:06 am

Talk about hijacking a company. Peter Carpenter should be the first to criticize Atherton for holding FB hostage and then asking for items that are unrelated to the EIR.

Atherton is as sleazy as it gets.

Rich and sleazy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Facebook is simply more aware of and responsible for its impact on the surrounding communities than was the so-called 'lead agency' - Menlo Park.

Well done Facebook.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

Who wants to bet that Atherton will not use any of the money to actually mitigate issues they whined about in the EIR? They will use the money on some dysfunctional BS issue like the library. FB got fleeced by a bunch of rich old folks and MP was smart enough to not get taken. As a tax payer, kudos to MP staff.

[Portion removed. No need for personal attacks.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"MP was smart enough to not get taken"

No, MP was 'smart enough' to just get millions for themselves and then to tell others to go suck. Horrible leadership. EPA, MPFPD and Atherton then had to negotiate their own mitigations with Facebook..

The kudos go to Facebook, not Menlo Park. Facebook is simply more aware of and responsible for its impact on the surrounding communities than was the so-called 'lead agency' - Menlo Park.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Menlo Park owes nothing to EPA and Atherton. Both agencies had the time and the right to make known their issues and needs. They only threatened legal action when they felt they could fleece FB. Once they realized they could hijack FB they did.

Menlo Park acted responsibly and the resulting deal is one of the greatest in the history of the city. My personal opinion is that MP carries the weight for both Atherton and EPA for services, shopping, parks and recreation without any return.

Without MP, name the long list of recreation services for Atherton kids? Name the huge list of narcotics officers for EPA? Have you looked at the amount of taxes the fire district sucks up from MP revenues? Without that huge influx what does Atherton have? One truck?

You rant on and on and give nothing to our community. Nothing.

But you got some sweaty money out of FB.

Yes, kudos to Atherton indeed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Have you looked at the amount of taxes the fire district sucks up from MP revenues?"

Zero!!!

"Menlo Park owes nothing to EPA and Atherton".

Just responsible lead agency behavior - which it failed to provide just as it did on the Gateway project.


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