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City of Menlo Park's failure as a Lead Agency

Original post made by Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Dec 8, 2011

The City of Menlo Park has taken the responsibility as the Lead Agency for the environmental impact review of the proposed Facebook expansion. This expansion involves 6,600 employees to occupy the East Campus and 2,800 employees on the the West Campus. No employee cap is proposed as part of the Project.

A Lead Agency is required by law to examine the impacts of the propose project on all of the other impacted entities. Yet the Draft EIR blatantly states that this very substantial project there will have NO impacts (mitigations -"none required") on the City of East Palo Alto, the school districts or the Fire District. This is exactly the posture that the City of Menlo Park took with the Gateway Project.

In its haste to approve this project and to enhance the city's revenues Menlo Park is ridding roughshod over all of the other impacted entities. It seems that the only alternative for the other impacted entities is to sue the City of Menlo Park in order to require it to properly fulfill its Lead Agency responsibilities.

Comments (19)

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Posted by what revenue?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Facebook, like the huge office buildings of Menlo Gateway, won't be providing sales tax revenue to Menlo Park. The only revenue is property taxes, and that might be limited for Facebook if the land is leased. Just think if the sites were inhabited by companies that do produce sales tax revenue. This is another Menlo Park folly.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Having had time to read the entire draft EIR I am shocked to find that "

1 -"The employee cap of 3,600 people for the Sun Microsystems campus was established during the entitlement process in the early 1990s and was not based on the maximum number of occupants allowed by the CBC. Assuming a conservative scenario of all-office space at the East Campus, the buildings would have an occupant load of approximately 10,360 people" which is an increase of 6760

2 - the current number of employees in Menlo Park is 29,400

3 - for an increase of 23% in the total number of employees in Menlo Park.

Yet the draft EIR states that in spite of this 23% increase that the project will have no impact on East Palo Alto, Atherton, the school districts or the Fire District.

The draft also makes such statements as "The City of East Palo Alto also raised an issue relating to the potential displacement of East Palo Alto residents. For reasons discussed below, this issue is not evaluated further in the Draft EIR because possible displacement of residents would not result in a significant physical impact on the environment." Tough if you are made homeless but that won't impact the environment!

I cannot decide if this draft EIR and its total neglect of the impact of this huge project on other entities is the result of arrogance or incompetence.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Peter, perhaps it's the result of both. I was looking forward to reading it in the hope it would contain valuable info,but sounds like that's not the case. I will see if our city council has checked it out. This all dovetails neatly w/Equity Residential's purchase of the huge property portfolio here on the west side. They're not honest about their intentions but are deft w/the spin.

Does that 29,000 number reflect the number of employees Facebook intends to have onsite?

Thank you for bringing this to the public's attention. It's not often our small communities have much uncommon, but this one of those times.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Does that 29,000 number reflect the number of employees Facebook intends to have onsite?"

29,400 is the current number of people who are employed anywhere in Menlo Park.

Facebook will add 6,760 more than the 3,600 that Sun had, for an increase of total number of people employed in Menlo Park of 23%.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm

PC:
"I cannot decide if this draft EIR and its total neglect of the impact of this huge project on other entities is the result of arrogance or incompetence."

Neither - it's SOP when it comes to EIRs, which are nothing more than political documents.

You can get on your high horse all you want about it, but it won't matter - it's just politics as usual.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

CEQA does not provide the City of Menlo Park with an exemption for 'politics as usual.

This is what the law states:
"(a) The purpose of an environmental impact report is to identify the significant effects on the environment of a project, to identify alternatives to the project, and to indicate the manner in which those significant effects can be mitigated or avoided.
(b) Each public agency shall mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so."

"The lead agency shall be responsible for considering the effects, both individual and collective, of all activities involved in a project."

"Prior to completing an environmental impact report, every local lead agency shall consult with, and obtain comments from, each responsible agency, trustee agency, any public agency that has jurisdiction by law with respect to the project, and any city or county that borders on a city or county within which the project is located unless otherwise designated annually by agreement between the local lead agency and the city or county, and may consult with any person who has special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved."

Of course, the City of Menlo Park and some members of its City Council have a long record of simply ignoring the laws like CEQA and the Brown Act.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2011 at 9:05 am

"the City of Menlo Park.......have a long record of simply ignoring the laws like CEQA...."

Peter, I have to ask if you would reference some instances where you believe MP ignored CEQA. I don't know of any projects where CEQA applied, but where the City ignored the requirement. Of course, there are projects where, after applying CEQA, the determination is that either a negative declaration or a mitigated negative declaration applies, and such determinations often have those who agree and disagree with the judgment; but that isn't ignoring the law.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

"(b) Each public agency shall mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so."

On the Gateway Project the City refused to either acknowledge or mitigate the demonstrated negative impacts of the project on the school districts and the Fire District but did require substantial flower arrangements to satisfy Fergusson - hardly responsible Lead Agency behavior or compliance with the law.

And in the Facebook project draft EIR the City boldly states "The City of East Palo Alto also raised an issue relating to the potential displacement of East Palo Alto residents. For reasons discussed below, this issue is not evaluated further in the Draft EIR because possible displacement of residents would not result in a significant physical impact on the environment." - hardly responsible Lead Agency behavior or compliance with the law.


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Posted by And Another
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

How about we continue to complain, argue and delay about businesses, GOOD businesses, businesses that employ people, getting ready to employ more people, and WILL supply additional taxes to Menlo Park. I love reading posts about FB not supplying any taxes to MP, we get it, it's sales tax. HOWEVER, what about the tens of thousands, possibly millions of dollars worth of revenue and taxes going to businesses surrounding, or near FB? Or how about the homes that will be purchased, the apartments that will be rented? Always complaining, always the naysayers, and why is it always over an already abandon property?(aka car dealerships) Sun Microsystems is gone, nothing was there, nothing was going to be there. Thank you FaceBook for coming to our town!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm

This project should NOT be delayed. The way to ensure that it is not delayed is to recognize and mitigate its impacts NOW, not after a court orders that the review and mitigation process was defective and the whole EIR has to be redone.


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Posted by The Voice
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

The city is doing the right thing by making this happen. With employess come more taxes to local businesses. It simply does not matter what EPA thinks. They complain more than residents of Menlo. EPA adversly affects Menlo Park. They are not good neighbors. How is Facebook going to push out people in EPA? Good luck getting a house in the Village lol


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm

The Voice clearly has no idea how to be a good neighbor, given their nasty comments. Menlo doesn't get to ignore Facebook's negative impact on EPA just as we didn't get to ignore Menlo's concerns re The Four Seasons & Univ Circle.


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Posted by 101 lessons
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Many of you seem unaware of the fact that the section of Menlo Park east of 101 used to be our city's economic engine. Taxes paid by the light industry that populated the area contributed tremendously to the city coffers.

Those of you who scoff at concerns that Facebook et all provide no taxes and proclaim that FB employees will be spending money in town (because 20-somethings love to hang out in Menlo Park) are ignoring the fact that the former occupants of our industrial park also hired employees who spent money in town. But the funds generated by those kinds of companies are forever lost to Menlo Park. And in their place, more traffic!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2011 at 8:08 am

Thank you And Another, Voice and101 lessons. The only NEW taxes generated by Facebook, because of their clever lease arrangement and the nature of their business, will be sales taxes of the businesses that their employees frequent. The school districts, Atherton and the Fire District get NO sales tax revenue and East Palo Alto businesses will get very little.

The City of Menlo Park has intentional focused the EIR solely on those things that benefit Menlo Park and has intentional and irresponsibly ignored the costs that will be incurred by other entities, except CalTRANS who is too powerful to ignore, that will be negatively impacted by this project. In the end it will be the taxpayers who are served by these other entities who will end up paying a hidden Facebook tax in the form of a reduction in their services.


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Posted by And Another
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

So, based on the above negative "we won't get tax dollars from FB" posts, I guess we should forget about the 7K folks that may need a place to live, possibly rent or buy, fill up with gasoline for their commute, provide philanthropy to the schools in the immediate vicinity (this has been discussed, and something WILL occur) or help rehab the bike paths in and around the immediate area, AND most importantly, put bodies in a cavernous EMPTY office building that would have taken years to fill, or perhaps a decade (aka car dealerships) FB will be a very good thing for this community, regardless of the stuff many of you think MP deserves or are "entitled to" at this point. I think it's an absolute travesty for the complaining going on and on about the same development points that occur ANYWHERE there is improvement in our town. Most of you, I am willing to bet, have not even been to that side of town!


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

A number of these FB employees already live in the area, so where is this idea that 7k people need housing? Sure, FB is now hiring & that means more people in the area, but it's not like 7k people suddenly need housing or suddenly will be spending in the area. Many of them already live in the area & already spend in the area. Many worked & spent just a few miles away in PA. The FB employees I know spend in MP, PA, MV, up & down the peninsula & even somewhat in EPA. Ditto the Menlo Business Park employees that I know.

When it IPOs, some home sales may be impacted in the area, but we don't know where those homes will be.

Complaints are valid & important because they may indicate real issues that the City of MP hasn't mentioned or has glossed over - incl issues facing EPA & Atherton. MP needs to be a good neighbor & sure isn't at this point.

I'm not personally against FB's move, but I think that given the "narrowness" of the EIR, important issues need to be examined & resolved. If MP had done the right thing, people wouldn't now be "complaining." BTW, it's interesting that bringing these issues to light is called "complaining" instead of what it really is - bringing issues to light. Please, quit trying to shut down anyone who doesn't immediately agree w/your POV just because they or their town won't reap all the benefits you or your town does, but still are paying a high price in quality of life.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm

And Another states:" FB will be a very good thing for this community," How true but the way that the City of Menlo Park has treated its responsibility as the Lead Agency for this project is that the City of Menlo Park has instead become the Sole Agency for this product and therefore the only beneficiary will be Menlo Park.

This project should move ahead and do so promptly. Unfortunately, because the city is blatantly ignoring the impacts of this project on other entities, this process will be delayed rather than accelerated. The EIR is supposed to be an independent analysis of the impacts of this project by an outside expert yet the city has provided detailed and on-going guidance to the contractor as to what to include and what not to include - leading to such crazy statements as "The City of East Palo Alto also raised an issue relating to the potential displacement of East Palo Alto residents. For reasons discussed below, this issue is not evaluated further in the Draft EIR because possible displacement of residents would not result in a significant physical impact on the environment." The initial "independent" analysis looked at the per capita impacts of the additional employees and, since that would have logically lead to having to consider the impacts on other agencies, the city direct the 'independent' contractor to remove that analysis for the draft EIR. EIR's seldom fail on substantive grounds but almost always fail on process grounds - the 'independent' analysis which fails, at the city's direction, to acknowledge the impacts on other agencies will doom this EIR to failure.

Just as it did with the Gateway Project the city is intentionally ignoring the impacts of this project on East Palo Alto, Atherton, the school districts and the Fire District. In the Gateway process the city actually said to the other entities that there is only so much money we can get out of the developer and we are taking all of it - including a last minute demand by Fergusson for $50k of landscape additions.

The result of this unprincipled behavior by the city would be to place an involuntary tax on the citizens of all the other effected entities in the form of a reduction in service levels as the resources of those agencies, unmitigated by Facebook, are diverted to serve the impacts of this project.

Hopefully someone from Facebook is reading this Forum and realizes that it is Facebook that will suffer from the legal delays that will occur if the city continues in its Sole Agency mode rather than being a responsible Lead Agency.

Benjamin Franklin said "You may delay, but time will be lost and lost time is never found again."


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Posted by DJBrawner
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

ONE WOULD HOPE THAT THE CURRENT COUNCIL WOULD COMPREHEND WHAT OVER-DEVELOPMENT IS as we see that happen daily in Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo, Daly City and number one,San Francisco, not to ignore MtnView , Sunnyvale, & San Jose.It seems that peninsula politicos do not read the daily newspapers, nor ever venture outside their home town...Elections may not solve our increasing problems, so we may have to threaten annual RECALLS for the worst & dumbest offenders...San Mateo & Santa Clara counties seem to attract the worst of the " political prostitutes for GROWTH "Assuming that YOU use 101 to commute to work, how much fun are you having & how long does it take you to get there & back home. Gutless wonders need to be removed from their elective office NOW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well we now have the staff report on this proposed expansion. Here is an excerpt:


"1. On-Going Revenue: Provide a source of on-going revenue for as long as the land
use entitlement to exceed 3,600 employees is in place.
Given the City needs, there appears to be a consensus that a high priority
parameter is the provision of a source of on-going revenue for as long as the
land use entitlement to exceed 3,600 employees is in place. The revenue could
be in the form of an in lieu of sales tax fee or some other mechanism."

There is NO mention of revenue for all the other impacted local entities.


And the report then goes on to enumerate suitable public benefit ideas - notable by their absence is anything for the Fire District, EPA or Atherton:
Attachment A
Facebook Campus Project
Public Benefit Ideas
February 14, 2012
 Improved bicycle access to the site, including improvements to the Bay Trail,
freeway overcrossing, and commonly used bicycle access routes to the site;
 In-lieu fee for loss of tax revenue;
 Use of Facebook shuttles for public transportation, similar to the Marguerite
shuttle system implemented by Stanford;
 Revenue for Menlo Park City School District;
 Improvements to Flood Park;
 Landscape and street sign improvements along Willow Road;
 Provision of free wireless access to Belle Haven;
 Construction of a centrally located library branch at Ivy Drive Plaza;
 Installation of bus shelters at key locations;
 Improvement of existing City resources, including the Senior Center, Belle Haven
Library and Belle Haven pool;
 Construction of a housing complex at Flood Park;
 Installation of public art;
 Financial support for senior/low income households and transit oriented
development;
 Provision of a major grocery store in Belle Haven;
 Provision of job opportunities with preference given to Menlo Park residents;
 Facebook funded employee supported mentorship and volunteer programs;
 Provision of child care for Facebook employees and the public;
 Construction of a sound wall between Kelly Park and US 101; and
 Native landscape plantings along Bayfront Expressway.

******
Clearly Menlo Park's definition of being the Lead Agency is to be the Lead Crook and to hell with everybody else.


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