The Menlo Park City Council approved the addition of 40 rooms and a new parking arrangement to plans for a hotel on the Facebook campus on Tuesday (Feb. 11), but not before asking staff to assess the potential impact on traffic and water supply.
The developer of the five-story, 90,000-square-foot citizenM Hotel planned for the corner of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street will be allowed to increase the facility's size from 200 to 240 rooms and lower the number of parking spaces from 245 to 118. At the same time, the developer will contract with Facebook to use 127 spaces in the parking garage of the tech company's Building 22 to bring the number of parking spots available to guests back up to 245.
The vote was 4-0, with council member Drew Combs, a Facebook employee, recusing himself.
The expansion to 240 rooms is necessary for the hotel to make a profit, according to Ernest Lee, citizenM’s managing director and head of development.
Part of the reason for the request for additional rooms has to do with demand, Lee said in July 2019, when the Menlo Park Planning Commission reviewed the hotel developer's request to add rooms and reduce the number of parking spaces. Local employers generate demand for about 400 to 450 hotel rooms a night on a daily basis, he said at the time.
Earlier, the City Council had approved a 200-room hotel on Facebook property as part of the company's West Campus Expansion development agreement.
An increase in traffic that could be caused by the extra rooms was a big concern for Councilwoman Betsy Nash, who said a promise to reduce traffic was a major factor in her being elected.
“There will be more people in the area and more traffic congestion,” Nash said.
Mayor Cecilia Taylor agreed, saying that traffic impacts in the neighborhood are “horrible.”
“Approving another building adds more cars,” she said.
But Councilman Ray Mueller argued that it would be better to have the hotel space closer to Facebook so that drivers wouldn’t be clogging the roads approaching the campus.
The amount of traffic that will be generated applies to the entire Facebook campus and an existing cap regulates how many vehicles can be in the area.
Earlier in the meeting, Barrie Hathaway of JobTrain in Menlo Park talked about a partnership with the hotel to train workers for jobs, especially in the culinary arts. Hathaway said JobTrain has signed a memorandum of understanding with citizenM.
“They’ve made a commitment to us, helping to get access to a job,” Hathaway said. “It’s a good chance for them to get good employees.”
The council's motion also included a commitment from the hotel developer to hire local residents for 25% of its workforce.
Council members also weighed in on the modular design of the project, with Mueller suggesting that it would be a good idea to cover exterior spikes on the hotel facade to give it a less-stark look.
“I did not find the aesthetics of the hotel pleasing and was trying to entertain requiring vertical gardens on the hotel,” Mueller said in a phone interview.
Staff believes that the architectural style of the proposed building would complement the look of other buildings on the Facebook campus, according to a staff report on the project.
In the final motion, the council asked staff to determine how the addition of 40 rooms could impact traffic. It also directed staff to determine whether the city has updated its water allocation and analyze whether the hotel would be under its allocation cap.
“There are a number of other projects coming forward in the next year, and we want to make sure we are in compliance with the cap,” Mueller said.