The latest council appointments came wrapped in an agreement to not allow Facebook to pressure subcommittee members during negotiations over how the social networking company can develop its new Menlo Park headquarters.
Mayor Rich Cline and Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith were elected by the council at its Tuesday (Oct. 18) meeting to serve on the subcommittee, which is meant to serve as a liaison between the council and the negotiating team, without the subcommittee members doing any actual negotiating themselves. The negotiating team is made up of the Menlo Park city manager and other city staff.
Before the selection, the mayor commented that he was worried about subcommittee members being "buttered up" with goodies from Facebook, such as lunch with the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He said the subcommittee should be "fully invested, but not targeted" as there was already enough pressure from Facebook.
While City Attorney Bill McClure cautioned that the council couldn't prohibit individual council members from holding private meetings with project applicants, he acknowledged that the members themselves could agree not to do so.
"By council members having direct interactions with people on the other side of the table, you in essence potentially emasculate the power of the negotiating team and the authority," Mr. McClure noted, creating a possible "divide and conquer" scenario.
The council agreed to limit the subcommittee members' access to Facebook employees.
Earlier this year the company signed a 15-year leaseback agreement for the 1-million-square-foot, 11-building campus at 1601 Willow Road that used to house Sun and Oracle employees. Facebook also bought two nearby lots on Constitution Drive, linked to the 57-acre Sun campus by a pedestrian tunnel under the Bayfront Expressway. That gives Facebook the growing room to triple the number of employees to 6,100.
Facebook now hopes to get the city's permission to have more than the currently allowed 3,600 employees on site in exchange for limiting the number of vehicular trips to the campus per day to 15,000. Public benefit will be part of the negotiation, as would criteria for future projects, including infrastructure improvements.