Lessons learned from the draft environmental impact report for Facebook's upcoming campus development: (1) 9,400 employees can make a lot of traffic. (2) A lot of traffic makes a lot of noise. (3) Traffic's not the only problem, at least according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
The report suggests that traffic is the main challenge facing the city if Facebook proceeds as planned on its two Menlo Park campuses -- the main headquarters on the former Sun/Oracle site at 1601 Willow Road, now known as 1 Hacker Way, and the east campus across the street on Constitution Drive -- and that other aspects of the project present "less than significant" impacts to entities such as the fire district.
The actual significance of those "less than significant" impacts depends on whom you ask, though. The fire district begs to differ, according to Chief Harold Schapelhouman, who said the district had hired an attorney to review the report and draft comments to the city.
Less than public
The Almanac asked the city for a copy of those comments, and got the following brain twister of an email from City Attorney Bill McClure:
"There is no public record of fire district comments -- there were a couple of memos from the District's outside counsel to me as the City Attorney providing comment on the administrative draft EIR and the administrative draft of the Fiscal Impact Analysis -- neither of which are public documents since they relate to non-public draft documents and simply summarize comments/feedback on information provided by the District in preparing the DEIR and DFIA. Their comments will be reflected in the documents when the documents are released and made public. If inter-agency comments/memos on administrative draft documents were public documents, that would discourage seeking input and comments on non public documents from other agencies -- therefore the need to maintain confidentiality with respect to such documents -- used to correct erroneous information, etc. None of the drafts are public documents, nor are the internal or inter or intra agency memos on such draft documents -- and none of those documents are maintained in the ordinary course of business. To the extent any comments are not incorporated into the draft documents, or to the extent the district does not agree with the conclusions or information contained in the DEIR or the (draft fiscal impact analysis), I am confident the District will raise those issues/concerns as part of the public comment period for those documents -- which comments will be public documents."
The Almanac got copies of the documents anyway, just not from the city. In a letter to Menlo Park, the district's attorney wrote, "The District strongly objects to the conclusion. The District believes that the factual information that it provided supports a finding of significant impacts to the District that should be addressed by mitigation measures or conditions that require Facebook to provide funding, equipment and/or other measures to reduce the Project's impacts."
Those significant impacts include, according to the fire district, an inability to provide adequate services to the Facebook campuses under current staffing levels. To do so, the district told the city, will require acquiring another aerial ladder truck, remodeling Station 77, which is closest to Facebook, so there's room for an additional staff member as well as the new truck, and installing traffic signal controls to make sure emergency personnel can cut through the expected traffic to reach Facebook in time.
When the social networking company asked the city to let it bring 9,400 employees to work on the sites, it also offered to implement a cap on the number of vehicular trips to and from the east campus to 15,000 per day. The draft environmental impact report suggests a trip cap of 2,600 to the east campus and 1,100 to the main headquarters during peak morning and evening commute hours.
With the traffic comes noise. The draft report points to stretches of Willow Road and Marsh Road that would defy efforts of noise walls to dampen the sound for those living nearby because of property access requirements and state regulations limiting wall height. The only feasible mitigation, according to the report, is to reduce traffic.
Facebook is acting proactively to ease other "less than significant" impacts predicted by the report. The draft report concluded the project won't bring so many people into the city that its housing supply would run out, but Facebook is discussing whether to build 200 to 250 units of high-density housing within walking distance of the campus on nearby Hamilton Avenue with the Sares-Regis Group, according to a presentation displayed on Dec. 6 at a community open house at the main campus.
It also plans to hire two emergency medical technicians to work on site to reduce the impact to fire services. According to the project's draft fiscal impact analysis, most emergency calls are related to medical incidents. But the fire district said those technicians don't change the requirements for emergency services provided by the district.
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