News

Menlo Park City Council wants more concessions from Meta on Willow Village

Vote on approval of huge mixed-use development expected by year's end

The Menlo Park City Council met on Nov. 15 and asked Meta to make some concessions on its massive mixed-use Willow Village development in the Belle Haven neighborhood, with a final council decision expected before the end of the year.

The project will redevelop 59 acres with up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and 1,730 homes. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, also has plans to build a hotel, retail and commercial space and parks, among other things. The main development would be built along Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, according to the application.

Ahead of a final vote on the project, the council used the meeting as an opportunity to ask for more concessions from Meta and Signature, the project's developer, to make some changes to the plan.

Several residents spoke at the meeting, which included Spanish translation. One speaker read 10 comments in Spanish from residents of Menlo Park, which heavily focused on the need for affordable housing. One resident, Guillermo Nicolas, requested that at least 25% of units be made affordable, a sentiment that was echoed by two other speakers in public comment. Currently, 18% of units from the Willow Village project will be affordable.

One sticking point at the meeting was the gas station that Willow Village would remove to build their ambitious project. The station is located at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Willow Road, where Willow Village is being built.

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“We do not want the raise the gas station to be removed,” resident Lucia Soto said. “Find another way.”

After a long development process, which included a lengthy back-and-forth on amenities and concessions between Meta and the city, most residents who spoke were strongly in support of the project.

“A huge component of our efforts to address climate change is to make it more affordable to live, work and play all in the same area, mitigating those vehicle miles traveled,” said Alex Torres, director of state government relations for the Bay Area Council.

Rick Johnson, a resident representing the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, said he met with team members on the project who had provided him with the ability to talk about conservation issues. Johnson expressed concern about the effect of the experimental design of the project on local wildlife, specifically bird safety and light pollution onto nearby marshlands.

Meta and the city came to an agreement surrounding the highly anticipated grocery store. Meta agreed to add $1 million to the initial $2 million of rent subsidy that it's providing, and move the project timeline up so that the mixed-use residential building that includes the grocery store is built sooner.

The council initially asked for five years of free rent for a grocer, but Meta stood by its proposal to offer free rent for two years as planned, adding $1 million to either subsidize an additional year or partially subsidize several years.

"Our goal isn't to have ... corporate welfare for large national corporations, but to incent them to come and sign a lease and move forward," said Michael Ghielmetti, a representative of Signature.

Meta has also agreed to hold five job fairs for residents of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Previously, if Meta had a hiring freeze, the job fairs would be canceled, but now Meta will instead postpone and hold the events another time.

Meta declined requests to use entirely zero-emission landscaping maintenance without first looking into available equipment and the cost of such measures, however Signature agreed to use non-diesel generators on the project if the machinery is available by the time it's needed.

Meta agreed to the council's request that the city's access to the shared event spaces be put into writing.

The discussion of the plan was continued to the regularly scheduled Nov. 30 City Council meeting in anticipation of a final vote before the end of the year.

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Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. Read more >>

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Menlo Park City Council wants more concessions from Meta on Willow Village

Vote on approval of huge mixed-use development expected by year's end

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Nov 18, 2022, 11:48 am

The Menlo Park City Council met on Nov. 15 and asked Meta to make some concessions on its massive mixed-use Willow Village development in the Belle Haven neighborhood, with a final council decision expected before the end of the year.

The project will redevelop 59 acres with up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and 1,730 homes. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, also has plans to build a hotel, retail and commercial space and parks, among other things. The main development would be built along Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, according to the application.

Ahead of a final vote on the project, the council used the meeting as an opportunity to ask for more concessions from Meta and Signature, the project's developer, to make some changes to the plan.

Several residents spoke at the meeting, which included Spanish translation. One speaker read 10 comments in Spanish from residents of Menlo Park, which heavily focused on the need for affordable housing. One resident, Guillermo Nicolas, requested that at least 25% of units be made affordable, a sentiment that was echoed by two other speakers in public comment. Currently, 18% of units from the Willow Village project will be affordable.

One sticking point at the meeting was the gas station that Willow Village would remove to build their ambitious project. The station is located at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Willow Road, where Willow Village is being built.

“We do not want the raise the gas station to be removed,” resident Lucia Soto said. “Find another way.”

After a long development process, which included a lengthy back-and-forth on amenities and concessions between Meta and the city, most residents who spoke were strongly in support of the project.

“A huge component of our efforts to address climate change is to make it more affordable to live, work and play all in the same area, mitigating those vehicle miles traveled,” said Alex Torres, director of state government relations for the Bay Area Council.

Rick Johnson, a resident representing the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, said he met with team members on the project who had provided him with the ability to talk about conservation issues. Johnson expressed concern about the effect of the experimental design of the project on local wildlife, specifically bird safety and light pollution onto nearby marshlands.

Meta and the city came to an agreement surrounding the highly anticipated grocery store. Meta agreed to add $1 million to the initial $2 million of rent subsidy that it's providing, and move the project timeline up so that the mixed-use residential building that includes the grocery store is built sooner.

The council initially asked for five years of free rent for a grocer, but Meta stood by its proposal to offer free rent for two years as planned, adding $1 million to either subsidize an additional year or partially subsidize several years.

"Our goal isn't to have ... corporate welfare for large national corporations, but to incent them to come and sign a lease and move forward," said Michael Ghielmetti, a representative of Signature.

Meta has also agreed to hold five job fairs for residents of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Previously, if Meta had a hiring freeze, the job fairs would be canceled, but now Meta will instead postpone and hold the events another time.

Meta declined requests to use entirely zero-emission landscaping maintenance without first looking into available equipment and the cost of such measures, however Signature agreed to use non-diesel generators on the project if the machinery is available by the time it's needed.

Meta agreed to the council's request that the city's access to the shared event spaces be put into writing.

The discussion of the plan was continued to the regularly scheduled Nov. 30 City Council meeting in anticipation of a final vote before the end of the year.

Comments

Happy Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 18, 2022 at 12:30 pm
Happy Resident, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2022 at 12:30 pm

This project will be spectacular for the health and vitality of Menlo Park.
Any other city would say it is almost too good to be true.
Let's get it done!


Another Parent
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 am
Another Parent, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 am

It is interesting that this is the first we are hearing about the removal of the gas station. We need the gas station! The closest one is on the other side of Willow Rd (aka you have to go through traffic in the morning). I hope council listens to the people and re-negotiates this point.


Alan
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 21, 2022 at 10:38 am
Alan, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 10:38 am

I listened to the conversation a little bit late in the evening ... they seemed to say that, if the hotel doesn't get built, and the supermarket isn't successful, the city would spend more money on this than they would get in revenues. The idea that the city would try to make up revenue shortfall in another way if (and only if) these promised features don't come through is reasonable. A company as big as Meta should not be subsidized by the city. I am for being pro-development; I'm not for long-term subsidization of very wealthy companies.


Iris
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:06 am
Iris, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:06 am

The elephant in the room is that this project worsens the housing deficit, and it appears the Council isn't even trying to remedy this problem. Instead they are playing with a list of amenities.

It will be their legacy to worsen the quality of life in all of Menlo Park.

And for what? A project that is entirely dependent on a successful hotel? A project that creates a housing shortage that will come back to haunt Menlo Park, causing future projects to be crammed into every nook and cranny -- yes, even east of the freeway. Or is it all for a grocery store? Really?

Meta should both add more housing to the project and reduce the amount of office space. The Council must require this. Stand firm.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2022 at 2:21 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 2:21 pm

I agree with Iris. They need to cut the amount of office space at a minimum. The over building of office space in this city is part of what has caused a housing shortage. There needs to be a moratorium on new office space. Especially office space that doesn't produce any sales tax.


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