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."
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.
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.
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