Should Facebook fund new police unit in Menlo Park?

Facebook would pay $9 million over five years for five officers

A proposal by the Menlo Park Police Department to accept a Facebook offer of $9 million over five years to get a head start on training new officers to cover Menlo Park's "M-2" area east of U.S. 101 was met with mixed responses at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The proposal was on the agenda for discussion only, so the police department would have to return to the council for an official vote on the plan.

Council members voted 4-1, with Ray Mueller opposed, to have the police department continue looking into having Facebook fund the new police unit. Those funds are expected to cover the costs for salaries, benefits and equipment for about five officers.

"I'm not on board," said Councilman Ray Mueller. He said he thought it was "bad public policy" to accept gifts from companies in order to provide for basic city services. The police not giving Facebook preferential treatment, he said, is a "best case scenario."

Police Commander William Dixon pointed out that there has been growth in population and employment in the M-2 area, and more is coming. Adding many new residents and workers will increase demand for police services in that area, he said. According to a staff report, the Menlo Park Police Department aims to have on staff one police officer per 1,000 people in the city's "service population." The service population is calculated by taking the total city population and adding one-third of all employees within the city, Commander Dixon said.

In addition to major expansion projects by Facebook, leasing will begin on more than 500 new apartments at two complexes on Haven Avenue. Work is underway on the Menlo Gateway hotel and offices too.

Police Chief Bob Jonsen said the police department will have to hire new officers eventually, but without Facebook's immediate funding, there may be an 18- to 24-month lag between the time many new residents and employees move in and the time it takes new officers to get fully trained and prepared to patrol their beat.

Several council members asked if Facebook might get preferential treatment from the police in response to its contribution. Chief Jonsen said Facebook has already funded the police department's community services officer and neighborhood service center in Belle Haven, and the company has been professional and never asked for any favors as a result of its contributions.

Kirsten Keith said she sees the voluntary contribution as a type of in-lieu donation for the sales tax revenue that Menlo Park won't get from the company. Cities across California are struggling with the loss of sales tax revenue to fund city services, she said.

She said she'd prefer to see the Facebook contribution go to the police department as a whole, not just to pay for increased police coverage in the Facebook area. Chief Jonsen said that the police department will need to increase police capacity in that area in the near future whether or not Facebook pays for it.

Council members asked what would happen after five years, when the funding from Facebook ends. The idea, police executives said, is that by that time, some of the development allowed by the recent general plan update will be built, and that is expected to generate enough property tax revenue to support the added police officers.

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29 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I tend to agree with Councilman Mueller. I continue to have concerns about how much Facebook offers and the city (albeit MP, EPA or PA) or the FD accepts its offers. Often these come with "conditions" or "favors" that will be "collected" sometime in the future.

7 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

I encourage the City Council to further explore this PROMISING idea. Any conditions that are needed could easily be documented AND monitored. Facebook can and wants to be a good partner for Menlo Park and I am confident both parties can create ways to strengthen our relationship. Suspicion is not well-founded and unnecessary and often a sign of weakness. It's time to "man-up". :)

18 people like this
Posted by cowgirl in the city
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Mar 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Need to forever drop the line "man up"

12 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Set a firm city commitment to make the crime rate in M2 similar to other parts of the city. Find a way to tax Facebook a similar amount. It's a good goal for the city, it serves Facebook's and everyone else's interest, just make it clear that Facebook can't dictate terms.

9 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 1, 2017 at 8:52 pm

I agree with councilman Mueller, it is a slippery slope and there may come a time when it puts someone in a very awkward position. What if one of the officers pulls over a car for drunk driving and it turns out to be a senior person at Facebook. It puts them in a very uncomfortable position. I hope they would do the right thing but you just don't know.

Why doesn't Facebook pay for something other than police, maybe pay for some fire fighters to the amount that the city of Menlo Park could free up the money necessary to pay for additional police on their own. It is a little smoke and mirrors but it can remove the possible issues.

4 people like this
Posted by why not
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 1, 2017 at 9:55 pm

If they didn't people would probably ask why shouldn't FB pay for it.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 2, 2017 at 8:02 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


firefighting is not a city function. It is a function of our fire district which collects separate taxes. Agree that they should fund something else in the city that actually would free up funds to increase police services.

Like this comment
Posted by Right Position, Wrong Time
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Ray Mueller is correct that Menlo Park probably needs to start standing up to Facebook, but he's cutting off his nose to spite his face by opposing this initiative. It makes no sense to approve all of Facebook's expansions, but then oppose this positive step!

I used to think Ray was always angling for higher office, but it's actions like this that have made me reconsider. There's no "narrative" here that seems like it'll resonate regionally...

7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The fatal error by the City of Menlo Park was to approve an EIR that unbelievably claimed that the Facebook project would have NO impact on police and fire services and therefore there was no need to mitigate that impact.

The staff report on this proposal proves how wrong the EIR was - and now everyone is simply trying to play catch up ball.

3 people like this
Posted by Ivan Offalitch
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Wow can Facebook really afford 2 million dollars a year?

If we're gonna sell out, why consistently so cheap with Facebook?

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Posted by Richard Hertz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Facebook always leaves me feeling like a cheap prostitute. They run circles around Menlo Park in terms of negotiating, leave a cheap tip, then spin PR that makes them sound oh so generous. We need to take a harder line with Facebook. It's not like they can move.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It's not like they can move."

Want to bet?

4 people like this
Posted by Richard Hertz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Facebook imposes certain costs on Menlo Park. If they're not paying their fair share, then good riddance. I'm not saying we should try to extort them, but they have professional negotiating and PR skills that the city lacks. Menlo needs to take a harder line.

So yes I'll take that bet. Moving their campus would cost them billions in lost productivity. I don't see many other examples of Fortune 500 companies bailing out of the bay area, but let me know if Oracle, Apple, Google, or Stanford are going anywhere. Before they'd do that they'd try to start inserting their own city council members.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"but let me know if Oracle, Apple, Google, or Stanford are going anywhere"

Easy - Stanford is building in Redwood City.

Oracle has moved to Redwood City.

7 people like this
Posted by pr?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 2, 2017 at 8:53 pm

@right position/wrong time...

mueller also voted against the general plan even when facebook asked the council to pass it.
i think he is the only councilmember to ever vote against the wishes of fb.

his position now is consistent.

I agree menlo park should require facebook to pay for the increase in police services and other associated costs for infrastructure that came with the general plans approval. these things shouldn't be characterized as a gifts for pr reasons.

I appreciate ray isn't making decision based on political ambition.

it's refreshing.

3 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 2, 2017 at 9:55 pm

Finally, a politician not bowing down to the wishes of a big corporation at the first sight of a dollar sign $. Mueller is right. This one's a no brainer.

4 people like this
Posted by Richard Hertz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2017 at 6:50 am

Gotcha. The microwave tower near Ampex - that's actually the new Hoover Tower. And those buildings in Redwood Shores that say Oracle on them are now senior housing - Oracle moved to Redwood Junction on Middlefield behind Costco.

Seriously though, we need to look at how Cupertino handles Apple, how Mountain View handles Google, etc.

2 people like this
Posted by Dancing
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Dancing is a registered user.

If not present at the Council Meeting you may always watch the video. First hand information may give you a more complete picture.

2 people like this
Posted by Joe Smith
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2017 at 9:05 am

Yes, for the impacts Facebook is having on the community from traffic, skyrocketing house/rents, infrastructure (sewer, water, roads, utilities, etc), schools, and police/fire/emergency the Company should definitely foot the bill for the the new police unit. In my opinion, they should foot the bill for the additional firefighters/equipment/upgrades necessary for fire in the City too! They should if they want to be good partners of community for long-term. Or, it will burden the local residents with more taxes! Personally, I see the effects DAILY when commuting on Willow Road/Marsh Road/Hwy 101 area. Thanks Facebook!

6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2017 at 11:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It should be noted that Facebook has been very supportive of the Fire District's needs related to Facebook developments - much more so than was the City of Menlo Park.

5 people like this
Posted by a concerned neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2017 at 12:01 pm

I'm surprised that no one has raised the issue of Facebook wanting more policing in Belle Haven specifically. Yes, that is where Facebook is located--but this is also where the majority of the population consists of lower-income residents of African American, Latino, and Polynesian descent. Really? More policing in that neighborhood specifically?

For those of us who are critical of increased police presence in communities of color, this is very concerning, even disturbing. The understanding of the problems of mass incarceration--thanks to The New Jim Crow, Just Mercy, and 13TH--seems to be gaining traction in many circles that were otherwise unaware of these inequalities at all levels in the system, starting with policing, but then when a proposal like this is offered, I see those ideas completely absent from the discussion. (In other words, people of privilege, like my friends and me, are definitely TALKING ABOUT the problem of mass incarceration and coming to understand it more, but then might be likely to support an effort like this without turning a critical eye on it.)

Unless an increase of the number of officers assigned to Belle Haven is done strategically with the help of community members and leaders to ensure that the police force is actually ensuring safety and not criminalizing or doing "random stops" of "suspicious looking" individuals, we should be very concerned about the proposal--and any efforts the MPPD may make to increase patrolling of Belle Haven.

It would be great for Facebook to lead community meetings asking the residents of Belle Haven what their concerns are as Facebook expands. I'm guessing their priority would NOT be more police, but perhaps mitigation of traffic (and doing something to prevent commuters from taking side streets through the neighborhoods), air pollution, job opportunities, and so on.

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Belle Haven Elementary
on Mar 29, 2017 at 8:27 pm

While Facebook is willing to pay 9 billions over 5 offices in Menlo Park....Amazon will pay just I billion over 10 years for one office in East Palo Alto !! Somebody is not making good math.....!!

Like this comment
Posted by Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 3, 2017 at 11:59 am

Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter is a registered user.

A concerned neighbor: You raise many great points. To clarify, I probably wasn't clear enough in the story, but the boundaries of the new Menlo Park Police Department unit area would not include Belle Haven. I've added a map above that should help show where the proposed unit boundaries would be.

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

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