Menlo Park: Facebook expansion approved unanimously


The Menlo Park City Council on Nov. 1 unanimously approved Facebook's plans to build two large office buildings and a hotel in the area bounded roughly by Bayfront Expressway, Constitution Drive and Chilco Street overlooking the bay.

The office buildings will be 75 feet tall and provide a total of 962,400 square feet of floor space. The hotel will have 174,800 square feet of floor space and accommodate up to 200 rooms.

The new buildings are intended to be built in two phases, with one office building slated first, then the other office building and the hotel.

Replacing the TE Connectivity buildings there now, which would be demolished, the new buildings would add 121,300 square feet of floor space.

According to architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners LLP, the designs will be a continuation of some aspects of the Facebook's Building 20 at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, also designed by Gehry Partners, including tree-covered rooftop parks. But the designs will be a departure from the previous building in other ways.

The new plans show the side of the buildings facing Belle Haven will be less imposing than the side facing Bayfront Expressway.

Between the new office buildings, there will be a public-access park, which could be used for farmers' markets or movie nights, and a 24/7 access bike and pedestrian bridge that people could use to cross into Bedwell Bayfront Park.

Facebook doesn't yet have permission from Caltrans to build the bridge, but the company will have to get that permission or else return to the City Council before moving past the first phase of its project, said City Attorney Bill McClure.

John Tenanes, Facebook's vice president of global facilities and real estate, said in a statement: "We are pleased with the City Council’s decision to approve our expansion project, which will revitalize a once-isolated industrial site into a multi-functional space for both Facebook and all community members. Menlo Park has been our home since 2011, and we’re invested in its preservation and enhancement."

Community response

Of 25 comments that were presented to the council, only two asked for further steps to address traffic and housing impacts. Most didn't refer to the project at hand, but spoke positively about the impact Facebook has had in the community.

At least 12 positive comments came from local nonprofits, or recipients of those nonprofit services, that Facebook funds or supports in some way.

One portion of Facebook's philanthropy, its contributions to what's called the Local Community Fund, has been mandated by the city in previous development agreements. In 2016, Facebook fulfilled its five-year commitment, and the company gave more than was required. The new development agreement would require Facebook to give $100,000 a year to nonprofits for the next five years, according to the staff report.

Several other letters of correspondence were submitted to the council that also urged further action to reduce impacts to the area.

Representatives from local environmental conservation organizations such as Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park, the Audobon society and the Citizens' Committee to Complete the Refuge praised the company for working with them in planning a big yellow bridge Facebook plans to build that will go through the Facebook campus and cross over Bayfront Expressway into Bedwell Bayfront Park.


Facebook will have to pay $6.5 million or find a way to get 20 units of affordable housing built – though it's not specified what kind of unit is required. Facebook says it is working with MidPen Housing, a local nonprofit housing developer, to figure out how to get housing built as fast as possible. The $6.5 million could be used as seed money for a MidPen housing project that would get more than 20 units built, Facebook representatives said.

Facebook would also cut down all 770 trees on the site, 274 of which are heritage trees, with plans to plant 1,605 trees, 423 of which would be heritage tree replacements., according to the staff report.

The office buildings will meet the LEED Gold equivalency, an indicator of environmentally sustainable design, and will have water recycling and solar panels.

Development Agreement

Facebook will be contractually required to follow through on certain steps it has committed to pursuing in a development agreement it signed with the city. A previous City Council discussion covered those terms, which were negotiated by a council subcommittee that included Mayor Rich Cline and Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith.

As part of that requirement, Facebook will pay to help Menlo Park work on its housing and transportation problems. That includes $1.5 million for a "Housing Innovation Fund," $1 million for a "Housing Preservation Fund," $350,000 for a housing inventory study with Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, and $430,000 per year for five years toward subsidizing rent for 22 teachers, public safety or nonprofit professionals at 777 Hamilton Ave.

On the transportation front, Facebook will put an additional $1 million toward following recommendations in the $1 million Dumbarton Corridor study it previously funded, and another $1 million toward a regional forum to implement next steps faster.

Facebook will put $100,000 toward setting up a transportation management association and $700,000 into a pedestrian and bike path between East Palo Alto and the Redwood City Caltrain Station. It would also give $1 million to maintain and operate Bedwell Bayfront Park.

The company will pay $60,000 per year for five years toward maintaining the Belle Haven pool and set up a scholarship program to give at least $100,000 per year for 10 years to Menlo Park and East Palo Alto students.

One measures in the agreement that has generated the most buzz requires Facebook to plan and design 1,500 housing units – with a minimum of 15 percent intended for below-market-rate tenants. Ultimately, City Attorney Bill McClure advised council members against requiring that the housing actually gets built because it could create legal risk.

Finally, the city will get $300,000 per year, plus $336,000 per year, until the city would be guaranteed $1.25 million per year in hotel taxes when the hotel is built.

If all the proposed buildings are constructed within 10 years, Facebook's project would add about $2.1 million per year to Menlo Park's revenue, according to the staff report.

See related stories:

May 27: Environmental report released on Facebook's expansion plans

June 24: Facebook expansion could exacerbate housing issues, report says

July 6: Menlo Park: How Facebook's expansion might affect local traffic

July 15: Facebook willing to pay Menlo Park $15 million-plus for company's expansion


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32 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:53 am

Bye bye Menlo Park, it was nice knowing you. You are now officially a company town.

33 people like this
Posted by irresponsible council
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:16 pm

This Council just sold out Menlo Park. Facebook is a nice company, but the Council has not done its job to protect our community from excessive traffic from thousands of new commuters or to protect residents at risk of losing their homes.
Instead they dismiss concerns as regional problems as if they have no responsibility or accountability.

11 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Residents
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:20 pm

All of the speakers from Belle Haven spoke very positively of Facebook at last night's meeting.

Even Pam Jones, Cecilia Taylor's mother, spoke in public comment and said she was very happy to see the project moving forward.

31 people like this
Posted by just another small time MP resident...
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:55 pm

As I sit at my desk, in the shared office space facility across the street and down the block from the BURSTING FB HQ - I am now scrambling to find alternative space for my small/poorly funded biotech company. I am not alone. All of us just got notified and are all getting the boot. The building I have been renting space from for 3+ years (called "the pad" in the multi-building offices on Willow) has now dropped the ax and we are all being shoved out, with little notice by 12/16. Nice. Good old FB has already cannibalized all the buildings around us (blue bikes and valet parking galore for the FB staffers) and finding parking outside my office and getting out of our parking lot - due to swelling traffic, takes an act of god. Be careful what you wish for. I now can no longer have an office near my home in MP that I can afford,....this really sucks. Keep in mind that FB functions (and is increasingly functioning) like the unfortunate "sharecropper" work & live business model,...FB feeds (3+ meals/day) and will soon house their own employees - and I see NO improvements or positive changes around this entire area that don't prioritize and favor FB itself. The restaurants in the area don't get more business from them - in fact they all seem to be dwindling. Why pay to eat out locally when you can dine for free at work?! And housing will only be aimed at their own employees,...those who chose and can afford high rents in former lower income areas...Eventually the schools will be increasingly more crowded and pressed for $$ and space and the roads and streets are now already impossible to traverse at all times of the day/night. The future,....from my perspective, is going to be shoved into a dozen moving boxes,....with no place to go. I don't want or need anymore FB "friends",...if this is what the future holds.

16 people like this
Posted by 70s gal
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Money talks. It is not only Menlo Park that is being destroyed and overpopulated- the entire bay area is being taken over. Double decker "bus only" lanes will be next on El Camino.
I know, I'm being negative. It is sad though, that all of these people are coming into the same 30 mile radius area here on the peninsula. Again, why not spread out a bit and build on the other side of the bay?

22 people like this
Posted by Development or Destruction?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 2, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I have no objection to Facebook and other companies located in Menlo Park. Even though the downside has been increased traffic and gentrification that is displacing average homeowners at an alarming rate, there has atnleast been give-back to the community. But what is truly horrifying and impossible to understand is how a supposedly world-class architectural firm is intending to destroy the natural environment without objection. Frank Gehry may have won a lot of prizes but he's a killer when it comes to trees. He should have spent more time learning from Frank Lloyd Wright about organic architecture. How creative is he if he can't manage to design in harmony with humans and nature? And why would Facebook, Menlo Park and the County go along with cutting down EVERY SINGLE TREE on the site???!!! Killing 770 trees for someone's "vision" -- ego at its most despicable. Go ahead and plant new trees on the roof but they can never replace oaks because those require a deep and wide root system. , Not to mention how it will take 100 years for any of the new trees to provide the beauty and benefits of the ones that are already standing, at least for the moment. When you design a project at the edge of a highway you have an ethical obligation to protect the trees that filter out particulates and make the atmosphere livable. Everyone associated with this is guilty of abusing our resources for greed. Shame.

14 people like this
Posted by irresponsible council
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Did the council even read any of the long letters for either the draft or final environmental impact reports? I will be not. Keep ears, eyes closed. Just rubberstamp

13 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 1:58 pm

All this gloom and doom from folks who never go to the other side of 101.

But not to worry, the sea will rise, Facebook will go bust, and we'll be left with the world's largest boat storage facility.

18 people like this
Posted by HC
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Facebook really got away with something here. They took advantage of a sleeping city council and a wimpy city manager and strong-armed a deal that will enable them to grow without having to pay for the impacts. When this gets built, I suspect people on the East side will be furious as they are swallowed up by the traffic. But there is nothing that they can do.

18 people like this
Posted by interested
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Typical politicized comments from the very people who brought you 20 years of almost no development, no housing element, no transit vision and no long-term vision. We have a specific plan finally in place after catering to these no birds and in short time more housing and ample office space near the train hub. Did anyone even care to listen or watch the council meeting? Did you hear how many people have seen a positive impact from even the earliest agreement? Affordable housing is coming on line. FB is paying to study the rail corridor and has offered to help pay for design of resulting solutions. That is directly dealing with the problem we face in the central peninsula, pass through traffic. There are new apartments coming online right next to Facebook. This is all in the documents that I read. And there is more coming. 1500 new homes according the the spokesperson, named Louis I think. 15% affordable. Which is almost 200 homes.

The letters referred to housing displacement concerns, rising costs chasing away local residents, traffic impacts and jobs/housing balance.

Tell me, are you a real concerned resident? Are you just a sock puppet for the no growth garbage rehashed from MPACT (the Palo Alto political machine that derailed projects in the late 1990s) now called verg, the name of many men from a past generation and an organization run by many men from a past generation. verg is the work of a former mayor and his sock puppets are disengaged few who they can still scare.

10 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Scott Lohmann is a registered user.

Thank you Facebook for coming to our town! Yes, there has been some change, but most of it good. Change can be good, particularly if it brings jobs, a bit of tax revenue, and rebuilding a somewhat forgotten area of our town.(some of the area) In addition, most of the residents in this area have been positive, and have welcomed the plans to go forward. Thank you FaceBook for getting involved in the community too. You ARE a nice corporate citizen, your donations have been noticed, and the schools and NPO's appreciate it!

11 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:32 pm

pogo is a registered user.

That "money talks" is hardly new.

I'm just always surprised at how little it takes.

14 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

Just you all wait. In 20 years from now the East end of MP is going to be a lively regional center that people identify as Menlo Park (if we'll let them) as the real hub of the area, while the west of Menlo Park is lost as a bunch of Atherton-wanna-be bungalows. The DSP will result in density along ECR than will just meld into the long forgettable collective strip experience from Morgan Hill to South San Francisco.

Our Center is moving East whether you like it or not.

4 people like this
Posted by puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm

I am puzzled by Scott L.'s comment, "somewhat forgotten area of our town." (referring to the Belle Haven Community) Yes, Belle Haven is part of Menlo Park and it has been underserved by the city for many many years. It's children have not been educated to the same standards as the west side, despite the efforts of heroic teachers. BUT...Belle Haven is not forgotten by its community members, people who have lived here for generations, enjoying a deep feeling of community and unity. I beg to disagree with your contributor who states that "Most of the residents have been positive about plans to go forward." After watching resident after resident forced from their homes due to GIGANTIC rent increases, traffic issues, substandard education for their children of course traffic, few residents are excited about future prospects. I think a lot of citizens will agree that there is a deep divide within our city. This new phase will not heal the wounds or serve our children well.

7 people like this
Posted by Clever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Mark Zuckerberg hired some great community relations people to get this done. Just like with his house near Liberty Hill in SF, which started out small and got huge brought endless change orders. Or his almost pulled off attempt to create a compound using fake single family homes.

Mark and his accomplices should be ashamed. And the council that goes along or gets fooled should be too.

3 people like this
Posted by 70s gal
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm

To Clever: take a look at his compound now in Kauai. Unbelievable.
We were there recently and the locals are just as upset with this takeover as we are here on the peninsula. Blah.

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

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