Menlo Park: Council approves terms of development agreement for Facebook expansion project


Facebook is one step closer to expanding its offices again. The Menlo Park City Council on July 19 approved the terms of a development agreement to allow Facebook to build two new, 75-foot-tall office buildings and a hotel on its Menlo Park campus.

The new office buildings would total about 962,000 square feet, and the proposed hotel would contain 200 rooms and total about 175,000 square feet. The project requires tearing down several buildings on the former TE Connectivity campus, located along Bayfront Expressway, Constitution Drive and Chilco Street in eastern Menlo Park.

The term sheet for the agreement was approved on a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Rich Cline absent.

Mr. Cline conveyed his approval in written remarks read aloud at the meeting by Menlo Park Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith. "I am happy with the terms," he wrote. "But for Menlo Park, this is just the start."

He and Ms. Keith made up the subcommittee in charge of negotiating the terms of the development agreement.

Under the agreement, Facebook would contribute funding for studies, subsidies and projects worth about $15 million in one-time payments, along with providing an ongoing revenue source of at least $636,000 per year. The project includes subsidized rental housing for 22 teachers, public safety officers or nonprofit workers; $1.25 million annually in hotel taxes; $1.5 million to start a "Housing Innovation Fund"; and continued funding toward research and planning of transportation improvements in the Dumbarton Corridor.

The terms of the agreement for Facebook's expansion were praised by a number of union leaders, who lauded the company's commitment to working with local labor unions, while Facebook's overall contributions to local nonprofits were highlighted by several nonprofit leaders of the Midpeninsula as reason to support the project.

Matthew Franklin, president of MidPen Housing, an affordable housing developer, said Facebook's contributions could go toward accelerating a project on Willow Road to add 75 below-market-rate units to the city's affordable housing stock.

Fran Dehn, president and CEO of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, called the agreement "thoughtful, generous and relevant." "Facebook has become the city's change agent," she said.

Others expressed some reservations about the agreement.

Adina Levin, a member of the city's Transportation Commission, said she wanted to see clearer language to cement a public-private partnership for future transportation projects.

Keith Ogden of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto said he wanted clearer information about how the below-market-rate housing would be distributed between categories ranging from very low- to moderate-income households.

Javanne Murguia-Brown, a planning commissioner in East Palo Alto, pointed to two of the conditions in the development agreement that have already been committed to or are already required and shouldn't count as "public benefits." That includes the $6.3 million below-market-rate fee Facebook is required to pay according to city policy, and a $1 million contribution Facebook has already made to launch a study on how to improve transportation along the Dumbarton Corridor.

"I don't see Facebook as a hero. I don't think they're trying to save people. (I don't think) they're villains either," she said.

David Laurance, who is the principal at Beechwood School, a private school for low-income families in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto, said he has witnessed a number of neighborhood improvements since Facebook has been in Menlo Park, including new park and playground facilities, but he has also seen the loss of numerous families from the area due to skyrocketing housing costs.

"We see the benefits, but the question remains: Who will all these benefits be for?" he asked.

What's next

Next steps for the project are for city staff to respond to issues that were raised during the public comment period of the project's draft environmental impact report. According to a timeline discussed July 19, the final environmental impact report could be released on Sept. 15, before the project goes before the Planning Commission for a public hearing on Sept. 26. After that, it's set to move on to the City Council on Oct. 18 and Nov. 1.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm

This is a good call by City Council. Facebook is making a big investment in improving the neighborhood, providing revenue to the city, and providing benefits to the people of Belle Haven.

The gentrification that's happening in Belle Haven is part of housing prices rising everywhere in the Bay Area. It's nothing specific to Facebook, and rejecting this development won't stop it. But we will lose the affordable housing that Facebook is funding and MidPen Housing wants to build.

Let's actually do this and get those benefits. As we've seen in downtown, if you ask for too much, you get weeds.

5 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 21, 2016 at 5:30 am

Next steps.
Ballot measure, let the people decide what's good for their city.
Recall vote. Time for a new council that doesn't rubber stamp everything big business wants. Time for a council with concerns about quality of life for the residents of the city.

11 people like this
Posted by Need new council
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2016 at 8:38 am

"Whatever" almost got it right when he(she) wrote:

"Next steps.
Ballot measure, let the people decide what's good for their city.
Recall vote. Time for a new council that doesn't rubber stamp everything big business wants. Time for a council with concerns about quality of life for the residents of the city."


What is needed NOW is:

1. Referendum of the Facebook project and General Plan.

2. Recall of existing council, who have put "quality of life" as a non existent goal of the City.

Removal as quickly as possible, the present City Manager, with many firings of the present City planning staff.

9 people like this
Posted by Old Menlo Park Politics
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2016 at 9:37 am

History repeats itself with a throwback to the same old tired Menlo Park political up, the savior of Menlo Park will appear with a plan to save Menlo Park from "greed and destruction" accusing everyone of all sorts if vileness and villany and history will repeat itself....again.

Same old playbook. Same old politics.

4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2016 at 9:57 am

We've hit the international news!

Web Link

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Good job Ray, and council,

Thanks for thinking ahead,

Give a kid an education and a good start in life and you will see results instead of complaining later.

Thanks FB, This is a win win,

Like this comment
Posted by correction needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm

The council approved the term sheet, not the final development agreement. The story needs corrected.

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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Vegan cafe to land in Mountain View this week
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 4,076 views

What Would it Take to Get Tech Companies to Move Jobs Out of the Region and Is This a Good Idea?
By Steve Levy | 14 comments | 1,184 views

A Power Play
By Sherry Listgarten | 5 comments | 997 views

College Match
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 880 views

Piles of artwork
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 389 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.