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Menlo Park: Facebook gives $250K to nonprofits

This year Facebook surpassed by $150,000 the amount it has agreed to give to local nonprofit organizations in exchange for permission from the city of Menlo Park to expand the company's operations.

In 2012, one condition of the agreement Facebook reached with the city was that the company would set up a "Local Community Fund" that would give at least $600,000 to nonprofits that serve Belle Haven, East Palo Alto or both.

In 2016, Facebook gave $250,000 to local nonprofits, up from $100,000 last year. The total since 2012 is now $750,000.

"By upping the funding this year, we were able to award 57 grants and an adequate amount to have impact for each of those organizations," said Lauren Swezey, community outreach manager at Facebook.

Though Facebook did not disclose how much it gave to each organization, the maximum amount each could receive was $15,000.

Funds were given to 14 nonprofit organizations serving Belle Haven only and 35 serving both East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, a Facebook spokesperson said.

Among organizations receiving Facebook grants are Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, the California Family Foundation (which funds Beechwood School in Belle Haven), Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, the Fit Kids Foundation, LifeMoves and the Peninsula College Fund.

Charles Schmuck of the Peninsula College Fund said the money will go to the organization's mentor program and for scholarships to local students of color who may be financially strained or the first in their families to attend college.

"The bottom line is that there are a lot of organizations that talk a good game as far as community service," he said. "Facebook really from day one has stood by its commitment to the local community."

The board that decides how funds are given is made up of five people: three Facebook employees, and one city council representative each from Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. The grants are administered by the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, a grantmaking agency based in Oakland.

Facebook does fund other community projects. In particular, Ms. Swezey said, Facebook gives to sustainability and STEM education projects.

Facebook has funded solar-panel systems that have been installed on 10 Belle Haven homes, and recently committed to funding 15 more.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Transparent $$$
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 8, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Given that the majority of supporters of the Facebook campus expansion hearing at City Hall were either 1) union members from construction trades and 2) non-profits who had received funds, it looks like Facebook got a great deal buying off neighborhood dissent for a mere couple hundred thousand. $250k would maybe buy 1 new housing unit. All the people who will experience hardship when they are displaced did not factor into the Council's decision. Shame on the non profits who are short sighted to take a little $$ now ($10k and $20k grants are peanuts) and testify in support of a plan that will effect the displacement of the community they serve. SMH.


5 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 8, 2016 at 6:46 pm

@Transparent $$$ - first off, many people spoke or wrote in favor of the new General Plan and Facebook's expansion who fell into neither of those categories. (Me and several people I know, for instance.)

Second, you can't talk about the displacement effect of Facebook's operations without talking about their offer to build 3500 units of housing on their land. That's enough to house all of the workers on their expanded campus, which means that they won't need to be bidding up rents in the surrounding neighborhood.

When you factor in that City Council is considering requiring 15% of the new housing in the area to rent below-market (as "affordable housing"), that's enough to house one fifth of the population of Belle Haven. Rents have been rising everywhere in the Bay Area and pushing people out, and they are going to continue to rise independent of Facebook's campus expansion. I don't think we're going to find a better way to help the population of Belle Haven than Facebook is offering.

They are really trying to be the good guys here. The question is whether we - the city and voters of Menlo Park - will let them.


3 people like this
Posted by Transparent $$$
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 8, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Bob McGrew --
Your data is off. Not a surprise given all the complexity of the Facebook & General Plan proposals. Or are you intentionally putting disinformation into the forum to serve your position?

From The Guardian, 7/20/16: "Facebook – which set up its huge campus in Menlo Park in 2011 – has proposed two new office buildings that would add roughly 126,000 sq ft to its campus, along with a 200-room hotel. The project is expected to bring more than 6,500 new employees to Facebook and the hotel, which would increase the entire Menlo Park workforce by more than 20%."

This is what is in the 7/16/16 staff report to the City Council, "If the ConnectMenlo General Plan update is approved, Facebook would commit to develop at least 1,500 housing units on the Prologis Site, which would include 15 percent BMR units and/or workforce housing units (even if the BMR ordinance does not apply to rental units)."

On 7/26/16, one week AFTER the negative press in the Guardian, the WSJ ran an article titled: "Facebook’s Answer to Silicon Valley Housing Crunch: Build Apartments Social media giant pledges at least 1,500 units for general public, hoping to gain support for its expansion." Mind you -- there wasn't any commitment before this that this housing would be for employees or the general public -- nor has it been made clear that Facebook could control who would move into the housing that they might build (though Google has apparently master leased housing in Redwood City for their staff presumably as an executive perk or visiting global staff? So perhaps that's what they have in mind.). Even CNET reported it as follows: "To accommodate plans for expanding its campus and hiring 6,500 new employees, the tech giant will build 1,500 housing units open to the general public, according to The Wall Street Journal." But again -- no written commitment that has been made despite what's being reported in the echo chamber.

Now there is a proposal in the city's General Plan update to entitle Facebook owned land with zoning which would allow them to build housing. But there is no commitment that I've seen in writing as to their plans as to what they'd actually build there. An entitlement and a commitment to build are very different things.

And, even if Facebook were to commit to build 3500 units for their own people, that is a far cry from the 6550 new employees the campus expansion would allow. Unless you expect that Facebook would require a roommate matching program maybe with bunk beds ala the old company town model?


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