The owners of the office building currently under construction at 1020 Alma St. in Menlo Park may be asked to subsidize a publicly-accessible coffee kiosk indefinitely, following a discussion by the city's Planning Commission on April 9.
The three-story, 25,000-square-foot building is intended to be the future headquarters of the Schmidt family operations, including the Schmidt family's investment management company, Hillspire LLC; the Schmidt Family Foundation; and the Schmidt Ocean Institute, a nonprofit that supports oceanographic research and technology development.
Eric Schmidt is the former CEO of Google and former executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc. He and his wife, Wendy, live in Atherton and their foundation gives charitable contributions focused on the environment and sustainable development.
The developer had initially proposed an outdoor coffee kiosk as a "public benefit" when the project was approved in November 2015. Since then, the old oak tree that was supposed to be the centerpiece of the plaza for the coffee kiosk fell over. Without the tree, said Principal Planner Thomas Rogers, the kiosk "may not be the same benefit as if the tree had lived."
The owners are also experiencing some difficulty in finding a tenant because of a lack of foot traffic in the area, a spokesperson for the developer said.
Commissioner Andrew Barnes asked what would happen if the business turns out not to be viable.
The spokesperson responded, "I'm not sure, 18 months from now, if they were to close down what would be the next plan."
Commissioner Drew Combs insisted that, per the terms of previous negotiations, the owners have an obligation to subsidize the kiosk to operate during the agreed-upon hours, to whatever extent is necessary.
"I don't think there's a lack of money," he said, adding that the Schmidt Family Foundation is run by "one of the wealthiest families in the country."