Facebook hopes the city's general plan update will give the company the opportunity to build "a significant amount of housing, including affordable and mixed-income housing, in the near future," a Facebook executive said in a recent email to the Menlo Park Housing Commission.
The email from Fergus O'Shea, Facebook's director of campus facilities, followed a commission hearing June 29 where concerns were expressed about the threat of Menlo Park residents being priced out of their homes due to rising rents, a large influx of new workers and rapid development, including Facebook's expansion plans in the city.
"We share those concerns," Mr. O'Shea said in the email. "It appears the most important thing we could do is build housing."
Menlo Park currently does not have zoning that allows housing to be built in the city's M-2 area, the traditionally industrial zone east of U.S. 101, he said.
Proposed changes to the city's general plan would permit the building of 4,500 housing units in that area, including 3,500 on Facebook property.
"The housing imbalance will exist with or without Facebook's planned growth," Mr. O'Shea said in the email. "The difference is that Facebook is a highly visible company that has resources to develop innovative solutions, and the willingness to invest in the community and take concrete action soon. And we believe that the public benefits, programs and contributions to a housing solution that Facebook will bring to the area will outweigh its housing impacts."
He then listed public benefits connected to the company's proposed expansion: revitalizing an old industrial site, creating public open space that includes a park for a community farmers' markets and an outdoor events space, a bike and pedestrian bridge over Bayfront Expressway, a hotel to generate tax revenue for Menlo Park, and $6.3 million toward funding affordable housing.
That funding could be earmarked for MidPen Housing's plans to build 70 more units of affordable housing on Willow Road. An upcoming development agreement with the city of Menlo Park could also have further requirements for Facebook, Mr. O'Shea said.