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Menlo Park: USGS site to hit the market

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The federal government has decided to put the U.S. Geological Survey's Menlo Park campus up for sale in the coming months.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved placing the 17-acre site at 345 Middlefield Road – which has served as the headquarters for USGS – on the market sometime in the next five months, according to a Jan. 24 OMB letter. Workers at the campus, which includes 17 buildings and 390,217 square feet of rentable space, began to relocate this past summer to NASA Ames Research Park at Moffett Field in Mountain View in an effort to save money on rent.

"The Menlo Park area is the epicenter of the technology sector and home to such companies as Google, Apple, Intel and E‐Trade and the real estate market is one of the strongest in the country with an office vacancy rate of 4% and rents in excess of $100/SF (square foot)," federal Public Buildings Reform Board officials wrote in a Dec. 27 letter to OMB. The board was established in 2016 to identify opportunities for the federal government to "significantly reduce its inventory of civilian real property and thereby reduce costs," the board's website states.

The USGS move to Moffett Field is scheduled to be completed in 2023, the letter states. Under the current timeline, USGS will finish moving people and equipment off of the Menlo Park campus to Moffett Field by January 2023, said USGS spokesperson Paul Laustsen in an email. The campus is owned by the General Services Administration, the government agency that serves as a property manager for federal office buildings. USGS will then decommission the campus and release it back to the General Services Administration (and the new owner). The decommissioning should be completed by September 2023, he said.

The USGS site is one of 12 federal properties the board identified last year to sell, and the sites have a total market value between $500 million and $750 million, according to the December letter. The properties must be sold within roughly a year following OMB's approval of the plan in January, unless OMB determines that a two‐year timeframe is in the "financial interest of the government," the letter states.

It's not yet known how much the Menlo Park property will be listed for.

"Currently, GSA is completing necessary due diligence to submit a Report of Excess within 60 days as required under the FASTA law," a General Services Administration spokesperson said in an email Feb. 21. "Upon completion of this report, GSA will determine the most efficient method to sell the property. The sale strategy will include gathering market information and communicating with the city to ensure that interested parties are made aware of the opportunity and updated information will be posted at"

Menlo Park resident Nancy Wagner, who has lived on Morgan Lane for 10 years, is sad to see USGS leave, "just as it was sad to see Sunset (Magazine) leave Menlo Park."

"Both (Sunset and USGS) were draws when we moved in to Menlo Park and they did a lot of community outreach," she added.

Wagner said the move could help address the city's housing needs. She still would not like to see a "mega (housing) complex" built on the USGS property since the area doesn't have the transportation or sewage infrastructure to support an influx of new residents, she said. She also hopes a developer would consider including an open space or a public park since there is a lot of space available on the site.

In the long term, Menlo Park City Council members have expressed interest in seeing affordable housing developed on the site. Although proposals for future use of the USGS property have not yet come before the council, the parcel is zoned for public use and "anything other than that would require rezoning," said Mayor Cecilia Taylor in an email.

In December, after preliminary conversations about creating a temporary safe parking facility at the USGS parking lot for people living in vehicles, then-mayor Ray Mueller announced that he and San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum had decided to drop the idea, determining that it is not feasible.

The idea, as Mueller previously explained, was to bring in a nonprofit homeless services provider – such as Menlo Park-based LifeMoves – to operate a safe parking site at USGS before the property is sold to private developers.

Former Menlo Park Planning Commission member Stu Soffer, who lives in the neighborhood, said that he sees the space as a "blank canvas."

"It's an odd spot," Soffer said of the USGS campus, which sits across the street from St. Patrick's Seminary & University, near housing and Menlo-Atherton High School. "Its traditional usage is as a research park. What people will want to put in is housing. I don't think a shopping center would go there because it would be a real traffic problem."

Background on the site

USGS takes up 330,607 square feet on the campus, while other tenants – the Transportation Security Administration, Veteran's Health Administration, Defense Contract Management Agency and Office of Personnel Management – occupy just 13,540 square feet.

The decision to move to Moffett Field was in large part financially based. USGS has reportedly paid $7.5 million a year to lease its Menlo Park offices, and that rent was expected to spike in the coming years.

The General Services Administration is obligated under federal law to charge market-rate rent for its properties, even in pricey locales such as the Bay Area, where office space goes for a premium cost.

The plan to move was first announced in 2016.


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9 people like this
Posted by jgftw
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:34 am

Great news. Happy to see government reducing expenses for once.

Hopefully Menlo Park doesn’t intervene and force the buyer’s hand into being some kind of impractical social justice project like an RV park.

20 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 22, 2020 at 9:57 am

The RV Park idea was only to last until the property was sold. As the article states, the idea was determined to be infeasible probably because how fast the property is being sold. I for one appreciated someone proposing at least an idea how to try to help the homeless and people living in cars.

14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:13 am

The rezoning of this site represents a great opportunity for a broad public discussion on how best to use this site.

15 people like this
Posted by MP Native
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:17 am

The best preschool in Menlo Park is also located on the USGS property. I hope that whoever buys the property makes provisions to keep the school there.

12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:35 am

One option would be for the City to buy, at market value, PART of the site for publicly valued but economically less valued uses.

10 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 6:18 pm

MP Native
If I'm not mistaken the preschool has always been populated primarily by USGS employee children, who can easily drop off and pick up their kids and stopped by to visit them during the day. A little tough to do with the USGS now in Mtn View.

However it would be great if the MP School District could get a piece of the property to build a second middle school to take the pressure off of Hillview and give the children and families east of ECR an easier and safer commute.
And if the district ever decides to include Bell Haven and the far east end of the Willows there would be better placed option for them.

15 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 6:24 pm

What the heck another option. One similar to the JCC Campus at San Antonio and 101.
Below market housing, senior housing including assisted living, preschool and fitness center.

8 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 6:26 pm

But knowing our planning commission, city council etc they'll probably push for a third MP Facebook campus.

7 people like this
Posted by preschool parent
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:13 pm

If I'm not mistaken the preschool has always been populated primarily by USGS employee children"

That used to be true, but hasn't been the case for a while.

When my daughter was at geokids (2015-2018), a few of the kids were from USGS parents, with the majority/plurality coming from Google, Facebook and similar tech parents.

Geokids has a lease separate from USGS so the move of USGS isn't relevant per se...but I agree this excellent preschool does appear to be at risk of losing there building once their lease expires.

Hopefully geokids can stay, or at least move nearby.

8 people like this
Posted by preschool parent dos
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2020 at 8:57 pm

"If I'm not mistaken the preschool has always been populated primarily by USGS employee children"

Only in the beginning about 20 years ago was it dominated by USGS employee children. Ten years ago, when my kids went to geokids, the pre-school was overwhelmingly non-USGS general public children. The reason mostly reflected the aging employee population of the USGS: employees with young children were rare. The pre-school is now a private entity that happens to rent a space on the GSA property. The are a model successful business and provide excellent loving care.

8 people like this
Posted by katie murdock
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Bad idea. Why are so many rushing to embrace the selling off of places that a working, attractive and even historic. Sunset leaving diminished my interest in going/shopping/visiting in the area. Saving money here only opens to the horrors of developers that, like corporations, have no conscience.

2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Keep the Menlo Park City School District out of this! Quit competing with private providers. MPCSD has declining enrollment, and that's a good thing. Maybe they can sell one of their "platinum" campuses and use the money to service their bond debt. Property owners deserve some relief.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:27 pm

"Why are so many rushing to embrace the selling off of places that a working, attractive and even historic. "

Because by law the GSA MUST sell this entire site and do so within 12 months.

13 people like this
Posted by Park space!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:40 pm

The city should keep part of the site zoned as public facilities and use for new playing fields and park space to support the growth they've already approved

We do not need any new offices. A reduction would be welcome!

11 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:03 pm

One can only imagine how many additional housing units will end up on this property, but surely in the hundreds? Presumably the developer who purchased the much smaller Sunset campus for north of $70M will wish for the same--nice as the Thomas Church gardens are on the site--assuming they still exist--their presence and that of the original Sunset buildings cannot be long for this world. Our planning commission and council will need to show some restraint when both parties come forward with plans to add yet more "vibrancy" to Linfield Oaks and Menlo Park.

14 people like this
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:10 pm

What should bubble to the top of the pile of ideas, in my view, is housing. There is a regional crisis in housing, and Menlo Park and surrounding entities must all pitch in to help solve it. No new businesses until we have the housing to shortage addressed.

The mix of housing can be debated by the planning commission. The property represents a grate opportunity to try new approaches to housing that allow for a mixture of economic circumstances, but I would lean towards affordability, multi-generational, and amenities such as day care. It is within walking distance to Caltrain and downtown. MP needs to consider the best thinkers to include all of its citizens, not just the monied interests that will try to maximize short term profits over the long-term outlook of how the City will continue to evolve and innovate. Proper planning can encourage the new tenants of the area to use cars less, and walking, biking, and public transit more.

Seeing a new office or medical building put up there would be just sad.

Another thought is that the MPPD is very cramped at the present, so this may be an opportunity for them. But I like housing the best.

steve taffee

7 people like this
Posted by Bobby
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2020 at 12:40 am

High density housing near public transit. Aka Menlo Park Caltrain. No more Facebook expansion.

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