Facebook's long-term stay tied to benefit deal
Facebook may at times feel as if everyone in Menlo Park expects a helping hand from the social networking giant.
With the demise of the city's redevelopment agency, along with other budget troubles, there's a sense that a company worth billions of dollars could be a savior.
Those hopes got a dash of reality at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting. On the agenda was a discussion of what public benefits Facebook should deliver in exchange for its planned Willow Road campus expansion.
As community members sat in the audience in the council chambers holding signs that read "Like" next to Facebook's "thumbs up" icon, David Ebersman, the company's chief financial officer, made it clear that while the company is currently happy with its new Menlo Park home, the next few months of negotiation will decide whether Facebook sticks around long-term.
"We're ready to engage constructively in negotiations," he said, "and hoping the council will enter negotiations with considered, appropriate goals."
Councilman Rich Cline advised everyone to be realistic, noting that the city has its own budget restructuring to do and can't rely on one organization as a solution.
Facebook is not, he said, going to save everybody's life and give everyone a job. "There are so many people lined up now to talk to Facebook about what they need," he commented, "that I think it's overwhelming for Facebook, overwhelming."
Facebook is asking to swap the existing cap of 3,600 employees for limiting traffic to and from its main Willow Road campus — now known as 1 Hacker Way — to 15,000 daily trips, including 2,600 during rush hours.
As the council narrowed the list of which public benefits to negotiate, key areas included completing a one-mile gap in the Bay Trail; affordable housing; creating an ongoing community foundation; jobs; penalties for exceeding the vehicle trip cap; and in lieu fees to compensate for lost tax revenue.
The city's negotiation team plans to present proposed terms for the development agreement to the council in April, according to staff.
On the team are City Attorney Bill McClure, Public Works Director Chip Taylor, Development Services Manager Justin Murphy, and one non-staff member, former city and former county manager David Boesch.
Mr. Boesch joined the team as Interim City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson has a conflict of interest and incoming manager Alex McIntyre doesn't start until March 5, halfway through the negotiating period, staff said.