News

Menlo Park council supports Facebook-funded police unit

 

Though they haven't yet taken a vote, members of the Menlo Park City Council spoke favorably Tuesday about a proposal by Facebook to provide $11.2 million to fund the creation of a police unit to cover a large area of Menlo Park east of U.S. 101, including all of the Facebook campus. (The area does not include the Belle Haven neighborhood and the industrial area west of the abandoned Dumbarton rail line.)

Facebook proposes to fund the new unit of five officers and a sergeant over five years, with the possibility of a two-year extension should the expected increase in city revenues from development in the area fall short. A previous cost estimate of the five-year funding plan was $9.1 million, but with a recent increase in pension costs and a closer analysis of new equipment costs, the cost estimate is now $11.2 million for the five year plan, said Police Commander Dave Bertini.

Councilman Ray Mueller, who at previous council meetings said he opposed the idea, said he could support it if the city's development agreement with Facebook were changed, so that the funding accepted from Facebook would be considered a voluntary "in-lieu sales tax" instead of a gift or donation to the city. Doing so, he said, would not set the precedent that a company can pay for preferential treatment from the city or its police.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki said that he supported Mr. Mueller's idea "so it doesn't have the perception of 'pay for play.'" (All developers in the city, Councilman Rich Cline later noted, "pay to play," via development agreements and the provision of community benefits.)

In public comments, Kyra Brown, who works at Youth United for Community Action, an East Palo Alto youth advocacy nonprofit, and JT Faraji, an East Palo Alto activist, asked the council members to reconsider their support for the Facebook-funded police unit.

"I would ask that you consider the political implications of this decision, given the high number of racial profiling of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven residents by the Menlo Park Police Department," Ms. Brown said. "This decision, if acted upon, sends the message that the Menlo Park City Council supports and is a corporate sponsor of racial profiling."

Mr. Faraji expressed similar concerns. "When you have that many more police patrolling the area and no increase in crime, there is a tendency for over-policing and that can sometimes result in racial profiling," he said. He said he was also "concerned about a private corporation that is going to be funding public officials. … Instead of being beholden to the public, public servants will be beholden to a private company."

Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen said in a past council discussion, and at a public meeting held in Belle Haven on April 11, that Facebook already funds the Belle Haven neighborhood service center and a full-time community services officer who works with youth, and the company has not asked for preferential treatment yet.

In the police department's proposal, Commander William Dixon wrote that the department needs to increase its staffing in that area because that is where most growth is occurring.

The department seeks to maintain a ratio of one police officer for every 1,000 people in the "service population" (calculated as all residents and one-third of workers). Given the rapid growth occurring and anticipated in that area, the department doesn't want to wait for increased tax revenues before training new officers, he said. It typically takes about two years to prepare a fledgling officer to patrol his or her beat, according to Cmdr. Dixon's report.

Population growth

Population growth in Menlo Park is already happening, and quickly, according to a May 1 report by the California Department of Finance.

From 2016 to 2017, the report says, Menlo Park had the highest percentage of population growth among all cities of 30,000 or more in the Bay Area, due to multi-family housing development. The city's population grew to 35,670 from 33,807, an increase of 5.5 percent.

By comparison, other cities in San Mateo County had a population increase of less than 1 percent, or a decrease, as in Belmont and Pacifica, from 2016 to 2017, according to the report.

The Facebook-funded police unit item is expected to be brought to the council for a vote at a future meeting.

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Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2017 at 11:43 am

Of course they do, because they're sellouts continuing their history of selling out.


2 people like this
Posted by Smart&Fearless
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Take the money with no strings and fund more police.


3 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 3, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Personally I think a good compromise woule be for Facebook to give money to the city for other services and let Menlo Park hire new officers out of their own budget.


1 person likes this
Posted by DC McGlynn
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2017 at 8:59 am

I agree with Brian, this sets a dangerous precedent and I am surprised that this could even be legal in the USA never mind ethical. It will put the Officer who stops a Facebook executive leaving the Campus with a few extra drinks on board in a precarious position. How do we know what other influence Facebook will place on this police unit they fund?

Better donate the funds to Menlo Park to use wisely (and no not on any more Yoga sessions for MPPD in Bend, OR ! - still scratching my head on that one - total waste of money).


4 people like this
Posted by donate?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2017 at 9:50 am

@Brian and @DcMcglynn - if the money is flows into the City's general fund as a sales tax in lieu payment as part of the development agreement amendment, it will be co-mingled with all city revenues. Then the City Council would then have to take a second action to approve police officer funding in a normal budgetary if the Chief made a showing it was required.

The nuance here is that the payment from Facebook is no longer a "gift" but rather, becomes an in lieu sales tax payment created from an obligatory contractual requirement associated with the development agreement.


3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 4, 2017 at 10:47 am

Now combine fire and police together. Move fire station to where Facebook wants to put the police facility. City, don't sell the parcel to the fire district, force them to move! Finally, help our Bell Haven Community. Show that you care!


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 4, 2017 at 10:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is all really strange.

The City's own ConnectMenlo Fiscal Impact Analysis October 15, 2016 study claims that the revenues from the M2 development will provide sufficient funding for public services such as police, libraries and fire.

That Fiscal Impact analysis shows that the City will get $3,715,100 more annually from these developments.

Why does the City now not have enough revenue?


1 person likes this
Posted by Why not enough revenue
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2017 at 1:25 pm

@Peter

My guess is the pensions. The state just increased employer pension contribution rate for the next few years. I wouldn't be surprised if that ate up any expected Menlo Park excess funds.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 4, 2017 at 9:39 pm

If you believe that CalPERS rates won't keep going up... I have some lovely bayfront swampland for sale. The investment performance (which, incidentally, tends to lag a basic indexing type approach) is still below the new 7% actuarial rates they're using.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"The investment performance (which, incidentally, tends to lag a basic indexing type approach) is still below the new 7% actuarial rates they're using."

The index should be more like 3%. When reality finally catches up with these idiots, the time bomb goes off. What then?


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 4, 2017 at 10:04 pm

See also: Puerto Rico?

If Silicon Valley stops subsidizing the rest of the state, the whole house of cards comes down... the current insanity only works because of tech.


2 people like this
Posted by Rate of Return
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 5, 2017 at 10:18 am

Historically, stock market return as measured through a common index, such as S&P 500, is around 7%. A stock mutual fund could then generate an average yearly 7% return.

However, that assumes close to 100% investment in equities. And CalPERS cannot maintain 100% equity investment. It has to balance the dual goal of maximizing long term return and maintaining an income stream for current retirees that is less risky short term than stocks. A significant percentage of its investment must be in bonds to do so. And bonds will never get close to a consistent 7% yearly return.

That's basically why CalPERS can't average 7%.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"That's basically why CalPERS can't average 7%."

And yet they continue to lie and claim they can. Why?


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

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