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Facebook aims to build 'significant' amount of housing in Menlo Park

 

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.

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

The 4500 units that Facebook has proposed is critical to addressing the jobs/housing imbalance we have across the entire Peninsula. The $6.3 million for affordable housing is also nearly as much as is in the city's entire affordable housing fund right now. Facebook is also funding SamTrans to study reactivating the Dumbarton rail bridge to provide a second way across the Bay to Menlo Park.

This is a very positive, dynamic vision that will be an asset to Menlo Park. It's so much more than just building a new building for their workers. Absolutely, the City Council needs to seek assurances that these benefits will be delivered.

But, as a city, we also need to learn how to say yes when someone proposes a great project.


13 people like this
Posted by Michael Levinson
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:58 am

Michael Levinson is a registered user.

This is great—expanding the area where housing is allowed, and building a significant number of new units (including funding for affordable housing), are both positive signs towards addressing our housing shortage in Menlo Park. Kudos to the city for its vision here!


17 people like this
Posted by Camille Kennedy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:21 am

These opportunities --new housing and community infrastructure--do not come along often!! it's time to say yes to creating a well-visioned future for Menlo Park!


15 people like this
Posted by Nikki Sokol
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

I agree with Bob, Camille, and Michael that this is a fantastic opportunity and that it's time to say yes when a great project is proposed.


16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hopefully everybody will support these bold proposals when the proposals are before the Planning Commission and City Council. The City of Menlo Park has an almost unique ability to impede progress.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm

I feel like we're on the VERG of something....


7 people like this
Posted by dave rahn
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm

when a community member is doing the right thing how can we say no??


5 people like this
Posted by Happy
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm

In could not be happier to hear this! Maybe this will slow down the greedy landlords and management companies who are taking advantage of people who are not making Facebook incomes, thus allowing them to continue to live in Menlo Park. Positive growth, affordable housing -- I might actually get to stay where many of us have jobs, kids in school and roots.


23 people like this
Posted by Christin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm

I feel its necessary to say that Facebook's "plan" calls for 6550 more employees and 3500 housing units which still sounds like a recipe for greater displacement and a worsening of the housing crisis. Fergus O'Shea's quote makes it sound like Facebook is doing the community a big favor by building housing which would most likely be used for its own staff. If Facebook really cared about reducing displacement, they would build at least 6550 or more units of housing that community members could rent or buy as well.

Moreover, approval of their proposal doesn't mean that it would necessarily happen. If Facebook's "plan" is greenlighted, the company could build the office and not the housing since there is no binding agreement that both would have to be built.

Either Facebook is part of the solution or they are worsening the situation. They are in a financial position to make real change. But so far I'm not seeing them coming to the table with a sufficient proposal to address my concerns. Those concerns are for the renters at high risk of displacement if the housing/jobs imbalance in the city is allowed to worsen.


14 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Everyone seems to be mixing up their own version of Kool-Aid.

There are only three kinds of housing that Facebook can build: Market Rate, Company Housing, and Below Market Rate. More market rate will exacerbate the problem, depending how you look at it. Company housing, owned and used by Facebook, will help to alleviate the effect of adding 6500 jobs, but isn't housing for the masses.

BMR is managed by groups who ration it out to a very long list of needy families all over the area, certainly not earmarked just for extended families and friends of Belle Haven. So all this will create is just more people in the community.

There is no version of 'affordable housing' that is openly available to the people demanding it. Belle Haven is in a lousy situation and doesn't really appreciate what they're asking for.


9 people like this
Posted by Motivated Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:22 pm

As a long time Belle Haven resident, anyone who has not lived in Belle Haven should have no negative comments. Yes there are some
Challenges and this is a long overdue job...it will just take sometime to adjust to the changes before it settles down. The older people need to take advantage of the home values by selling and going into a nice retirement community to enjoy their elderly lives. This will make room for the new families relocating to Menlo Park as a result of the changes.

Blessings to the positive changes that is giving Belle Haven residents new opportunities!


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"when a community member is doing the right thing how can we say no??"


Because the City Council allows small dissent groups to bring any project to a halt:

" A new coalition has formed to oppose what it calls "the dangerous direction that our elected officials are taking" on development.

Steve Schmidt, a former Menlo Park mayor, is a core member of the coalition called Voters for Equitable & Responsible Growth (VERG)."

And the CC cop-out is to not decide and delay rather than say Yes or No.

It will have taken SEVEN years before ground is broken for the replacement fire station on Oak Grove while a beautiful $10 million fire station in East Palo Alto was designed, approved and built in three years.

Do you wonder why Stanford is in no hurry to submit plans for its ECR project?


14 people like this
Posted by Housing
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Sounds great that Facebook is planning to add housing. It would certainly be better to build more housing that addresses the current need, and not 3500 housing units PLUS 6550 more employees. That doesn't help as much (though I recognize many people share housing).

How about 6550 more housing units and 3500 more employees? More reasonable.

Add more hotels, groceries and amenities near Facebook too, while you're at it.


3 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm

I think this will help affordability; more supply means prices will be moderated.

I have no idea if this would improve or worsen the traffic situation - which is my personal concern. In theory, it could help - if a fair number of people who work very locally lived there (i.e., Facebook and the neighboring business parks), were taken off the road during rush hour, and this provided enough "critical mass" to improve the frequency and capacity of local mass transit. But all of the pieces have to fall in the right places. If they don't, this could make even worse than the extra Facebook employees. It's putting a lot of people into a choke point of traffic crossing the Dumbarton bridge, and if those people jump into cars...


10 people like this
Posted by Sheila
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:56 pm

"The older people need to take advantage of the home values by selling and going into a nice retirement community to enjoy their elderly lives." I wish it were so easy to sell and move. I've looked at my costs for selling and moving. I know that I'll get $250K tax free ('m single now), but $250K doesn't go far in our local market and I don't want to move away from my family and friends since they are my support group. I'll need to pay off my remaining mortgage and it's unlikely I'll qualify for a new one at my current low rate. Then whatever I don't spend on my new abode, I'll pay state and Federal tax on--that's also a quite a bit of money. And let's not forget the 6% realtor's fees and other expenses. at the end of the day, there's not much of a nest egg left. The largest expense is the taxation. Perhaps a reduction in capital gains taxes for long time home owners would encourage older people to sell their homes and so release those family homes to the market.


5 people like this
Posted by Contact Information
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm

If I am upset with the Mayor, I can call the Mayor, send the Mayor an email, or go to a City Council meeting and complain to the Mayor.

If I am upset with former Mayor Steve Schmidt, what can I do? Is there a way Menlo Park residents can register their complaints with Steve Schmidt?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If I am upset with former Mayor Steve Schmidt, what can I do? Is there a way Menlo Park residents can register their complaints with Steve Schmidt?"

In Menlo Park the only effective thing that you can do is to organize a larger and more vocal group. Schmidt understands how the game is played so you would be smart to get someone on your side who also understands the unwritten rules of the delay and destroy strategy. And then make sure that your group turns out for the key meetings and inundates the Planning Commission and City Council with emails.


14 people like this
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Housing is helpful at all levels - including new market rate housing - to protect against displacement. If a Facebook employee has a spiffy new apartment or condo to choose from, they are less likely to look at an older home in Belle Haven or East Palo Alto. Currently, Facebook employees are competing for existing older housing - giving them choices of new homes keeps them from bidding up existing older homes.

The concern about the jobs/housing balance worsening, despite the welcome proposals for housing near Facebook, is a valid concern. An opportunity might be to look at options over time for more housing near jobs elsewhere in the city as well.

In the bigger picture, what's being planned in Mountain View, a neighborhood with substantial housing near Google, and in Menlo Park, with more housing and services near Facebook, is part of a trend that's happening nationwide. The old, mid-20th century model of single-use office parks is waning in popularity. More businesses, and more people, prefer "live-work-play" areas, where more people have choices to live near work, and to run errands with less driving.


8 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm

"More businesses, and more people, prefer "live-work-play" areas, where more people have choices to live near work, and to run errands with less driving." In your dreams. This "vision" is being foisted on people who came to the suburbs to live in safe, tranquil neighborhoods, and raise families in our bedroom community.
Such huge increases in both offices and housing as Menlo Park is now embracing, will drastically impinge on the quality of life our residents have enjoyed for decades.
To sensibly control growth while preserving our city's character is one of the fundamental jobs of our representatives on the City Council. And let's not forget that they are OUR representatives, not Facebook's, not the City Staff's, and not the Planning Commission's.
People value their freedom of choice, their mobility, and their tranquil neighborhoods--all of which suffer or disappear under the stultifying new paradigm of one-size-fits-all stack-and-pack apartment complexes plopped ontop of offices, and close to the train or bus lines. Perhaps the better question is who would want to live this way?
If the City Council abandons its duty to the residents this way, welcome to urban squalor.


15 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:23 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Enuff:

We can either accept that the population of the Bay Area is growing and figure out how to deal with it effectively, OR stick our heads in the sand an try to pretend it's not happening. Sticking our heads in the sand has created the problems we already have. Continuing to do so will only make it worse. Population growth is not going to stop.


3 people like this
Posted by Michael Levinson
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Michael Levinson is a registered user.

To Enuff:

> People value their freedom of choice, their mobility, and their tranquil neighborhoods--
> all of which suffer or disappear under the stultifying new paradigm of one-size-fits-all
> stack-and-pack apartment complexes plopped on top of offices, and close to the train
> or bus lines. Perhaps the better question is who would want to live this way?

Many many people. My family lives in a single-family home in Allied Arts, less than a mile from both Santa Cruz Ave and University Avenue. None of my friends can afford to live in my neighborhood. It is absolutely ridiculous that we don't have denser housing so close to two downtowns and Caltrain. I for one think my neighborhood would be much improved with more young families walking around, as well as the restaurants, shops, and other amenities their presence would allow. Our downtown businesses should have two or three stories of apartments above them—maybe then we'd have enough foot traffic to support a real downtown!

Speeding cut-through commuters are a much bigger threat to the "tranquility" of Allied Arts than the few apartment-dwellers we do have riding their bikes to get lunch at The Refuge.

We are a global economic center and people want to live here. I say welcome!


6 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 17, 2016 at 1:21 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

No one's talking about where the children of families living in these proposed 4,500 housing units will go to school. MPCSD's schools are at capacity already, so does FaceBook intend to fund the building of new campuses? Build out its own school district? Housing isn't the magic bullet solution; there are many infrastructure and service issues that need to be resolved when planning new housing developments, and I don't see those issues being acknowledged or addressed by Facebook or the Menlo Park City Council. That's very concerning to me, as it should be to all of us.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2016 at 5:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"No one's talking about where the children of families living in these proposed 4,500 housing units will go to school"

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is very telling that the City of Menlo Park, which is the Lead Agency for this project, negotiated a development agreement where 100% of the payments will go to the City and NONE will go to the other agencies like the Fire District and the School Districts that will be equally impacted by this project.

What a sad example of "leadership".


13 people like this
Posted by Major Changes
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:51 am

This proposal represents a *major* change to Menlo Park. I don't know if it is good or bad. Time will tell. One thing we can be sure of is that the character of the town will be forever changed. The most current population estimate for Menlo Park from the U.S. Census Bureau lists 33,449 residences for 2015 (their most current recording). Going back to 2010 they list the population as: 32,100 (2010); 32,521 (2011); 32,910 (2012); 33,105 (2013); 33,441 (2014); and 33,449 (2015). This represents a year-over-year growth rate of 1.01%. I think we’ve seen a slight uptick in the last year or two, but the point is, we aren’t a growth city. Yet, we still feel the pressures from our pro-growth neighbors to the north and south.

The 4,500 new units of housing may represent an additional 11,500 people (@ 2.4 people per unit), making for a new population of 44,540; an increase of 32%. If we assume the generous position that recent growth has been 300% of normal (3% per year vs. 1%), and that it will continue at this non-historic rate indefinitely, then you can see that this trajectory won’t have us reaching 44,540 until 2039.

In other words, we are proposing to incur, encourage even, 23 years of growth essentially overnight. This is the perspective that all of the city planners and Facebook need to have as they consider the proposal before then. Impacts on traffic, and policing, on business and on schools.

On the later point, I sincerely hope that the Sequoia Union High School District considers this in their growth plans. Certainly, this massive amount of growth should finally support a new large high school dedicated and close to this new housing project and put an end to the practice of bussing kids out of their neighborhoods and to M/A, Sequoia, and Woodside. This will also reverse and slow the growth of the study body population at these schools which are already budging at the seams.


5 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:36 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Major Changes, I strongly encourage you to submit your comments as an email to the MP City Council in advance of Tuesday night's meeting, and/or present them during the public comments portion of the meeting. Your figures illustrate the stark reality of the Facebook expansion and the other large projects that are being proposed and planned. Our City leadership seems to be quite sanguine about adding, essentially, a small city to Menlo Park, with virtually no thought for the severe and long-lasting impacts of such rapid and unprecedented expansion. It alarms me to think about what will become of our City if we continue down this road. I guess we'll all just cede our future well being to our benign (or not so benign) overlords at Facebook.


Like this comment
Posted by explosive irresponsible growth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 21, 2016 at 1:57 pm

@ Major "then you can see that this trajectory won't have us reaching 44,540 until 2039."
According to the draft General Plan environmental study, Menlo Park would reach a population of 50,530 by 2040 because of even more projects. and that wouldn't provide enough housing for all the workers for the projects this Council is likely to approve.
I agree that major changes are likely to happen quickly in today's hot commercial real estate market. The traffic impacts on neighborhoods are likely to happen immediately due to he reluctance of our council to require housing even when sites are zoned for it. The update to the General Plan forecasts a proportionately bigger housing deficit than exists now.
We need growth that is responsible, with adequate housing to achieve an improved balance (that will make things more affordable too), school and fire safety and water supply impacts anticipated and addressed, more playing fields, etc. What is being pushed is irresponsible


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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