Almanac

News - October 9, 2013

Menlo Park: Commission studies Facebook housing plan

by Sandy Brundage

One question that quickly arose when Facebook decided to relocate to and then expand in Menlo Park was: "What about employee housing?"

The Menlo Park Planning Commission prepared to hold a study session to discuss an answer to that question during its Oct. 7 meeting: Facebook has announced its partnership with St. Anton, a real estate developer, to build a 394-unit apartment complex on 10 acres of land off Marsh Road.

The complex, to be built from 3606 to 3639 Haven Avenue, will include 15 affordable housing units subsidized by the social networking company that will be income-restricted for 55 years and indistinguishable from other apartments at the complex, Facebook said.

St. Anton will provide another 23 affordable units, according to the staff report, adding 38 total to the city's inventory.

Construction of the $120 million project of approximately 630,000 square feet should start in October, according to Facebook, and finish within two years.

Tech companies are known for the amenities provided on campus for employees; in this case, Anton Menlo extends that off campus. The project will offer everything from a convenience store and a sports pub to a bike repair shop and doggy daycare. Public transport will be accessible via bike and pedestrian connections to the Bay Trail, on-site shuttles and new sidewalks and crosswalks along nearby Haven Avenue.

The site design incorporates the addition of 400 new trees, according to the planning staff report, as well as 691 parking spaces.

"We are thrilled to have new housing options coming to the City of Menlo Park to serve the Silicon Valley and the Marsh Road and Willow Road business areas," said Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki said in a public statement. "Providing new housing opportunities for employees working in the area will allow people to live where they work and to spend more time enjoying this great city."

The Planning Commission does not need to approve the project, but will have the chance to provide feedback on the architectural design during the Oct. 7 study session.

The community development director will determine whether the project complies with the zoning code, which was recently modified during the city's housing element update to allow high-density residential development on the Haven Avenue site. With the provision of affordable units, the new zoning allows a density bonus to permit construction of 40 units per acre.

While staff agreed that the density bonus is appropriate, the report indicates they don't agree with the applicant's request to slightly raise the maximum building height from about 54 feet to a little over 57 feet. The current design proposes using the height increase to build three apartments on top of a fitness center. Staff has suggested that those units could be put somewhere else on the site instead.

Check AlmanacNews.com for updates. The Planning Commission study session was held after the Almanac went to press.

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