Menlo Park clears path for Facebook
One by one, the public speakers at the April 17 meeting told the council in no uncertain terms what they thought about the proposed agreement with Facebook. And what they thought was all good.
The council apparently shared those sentiments, as it voted 5-0 to approve the terms.
The agreement lets Facebook go ahead with plans to employ as many as 6,600 people at its new headquarters at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park in return for a number of public benefits, including cash for the city.
Ten weeks of negotiations led to an agreement described as "so generous, so fair" by one speaker. The terms include:
• A total of $8.5 million in graduated payments during the next 10 years, and followed by $5 million during the subsequent four years as long as Facebook chooses to still exceed the former employee cap of 3,600 at the campus.
• Funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, including at the intersection of Willow Road and U.S. 101.
• Capital improvement funding, local internship and job training programs, and economic incentives for Facebook employees to shop locally.
• A vehicle trip cap of 15,000 per day, with no more than 2,600 during each commute period. The periods are from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Go to tinyurl.com/75wogfn to view the staff report and complete term sheet.
Exceeding the trip cap carries stiff daily penalties of $500 to $100,000 depending on the number of violations, according to a table provided in the staff report. "That table was kinda scary to me," admitted David Ebersman, Facebook's chief financial officer, during the meeting. "I hadn't seen it presented that way before."
Since East Palo Alto would also be impacted by traffic, the agreement includes a clause that splits the trip cap fines between Menlo Park and the neighboring city, at a percentage to be determined in the future.
Councilman Rich Cline, who along with Mayor Kirsten Keith sat on the negotiations subcommittee, said he was grateful for Facebook's willingness to collaborate. "You back up the brand with what you do," he observed at the meeting.
He described going home during the last round of negotiations and wondering "if there's a mushroom cloud on the horizon. There was frustration on their part when they heard our final ask. They didn't express it, but came back and collaborated again" and said the agreement would lead to a better community.
News about agreements with other impacted agencies, such as the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, trickled out following the council's approval of the development agreement.
Facebook agreed to fund up to $300,000 in fire-safety enhancements, including traffic pre-emption devices along four primary emergency access routes leading to the new Menlo Park campus, which will give emergency vehicles the right-of-way through traffic signals, district chief Harold Schapelhouman announced on April 19.
"We are very appreciative of the financial and community support Facebook is providing to help support emergency response so the fire district can respond quickly in any emergency situation to the eastern areas of Menlo Park," the chief said. "This agreement is only part of a broader relationship we have developed with Facebook to address the support of essential emergency services to this community and the Facebook campus."
The final environmental impact report for Facebook's planned campus expansion is expected to be released this week.