Facebook plans to build 3.45 million square feet of office, retail and residential space on a 59-acre site in Menlo Park bounded roughly by Mid Peninsula High School to the west, Willow Road to the north, the Dumbarton rail corridor to the east, and the UPS Center and Pacific Biosciences office (on O'Brien Drive and Adams Court) to the south.
"One of the things we're trying to do is get to the table so that we can understand more and have an accurate analysis of the impacts to the schools," she said in an interview with The Almanac.
Her primary concern is the expected rise in enrollment that could come with the addition of 1,500 new housing units, she said. According to a state formula, she said, the new housing could mean an estimated 300 new high school students in the district, all of whom would be zoned to attend Menlo-Atherton High School.
Ancillary impacts of new development, such as an anticipated increase in traffic and subsequent possible decrease in student safety as a result of more cars on the road, would be borne throughout the district, she added.
"This is an unprecedented time on the Peninsula," Ms. Streshly said. "There are thousands of new units of living space coming into the Peninsula."
Since sending the letter to Facebook, Ms. Streshly said, she has met with representatives from the company.
"They basically characterized our conversations as philanthropic," she said, noting that the representatives seemed dismissive that mitigating the new costs to schools should be part of the proposal.
She's heard, but said she doesn't buy, arguments that the number of households with teenagers would be low at the corporate campus, where employee demographics are known for skewing young.
"Unless they're planning on only hiring single adults with no children, the notion of not having high school kids is not a realistic concept to entertain," she said.
The Ravenswood City School District, which is the public school district for the area of Menlo Park where the "Willow Village" is proposed, is planning to work with Facebook, according to district superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff.
"Our district is currently in the process of studying how the proposed Willow Village development will impact our schools. Although certain the development will generate an increase in student population, in order to plan accordingly, we will be reaching out to Facebook to have a discussion that will provide us with more specific information," she said in a written statement.
Concerns at M-A
Over the last several days, a group of parents in the school district, mainly at Menlo-Atherton High School, have taken matters in their own hands, launching a petition requesting Facebook work with the high school district to mitigate the impacts of the anticipated new residents.
According to Ms. Streshly, Menlo-Atherton already has the largest student population in the county. It currently has about 2,400 students and enrollment is already projected to rise to as much as 2,600 by the 2018-19 school year.
In a newsletter to high school parents, Menlo-Atherton Principal Simone Kennel included information about how to sign the petition, noting that it was a parent-run effort, and offered to collect signatures. As of March 20, she said, she did not yet know how many copies of the petition had been signed.
"My sense is this: patience is running low," she said. "We want to be partners with Facebook and the city of Menlo Park."
Power to negotiate
One key question to any negotiations that might play out between the district and Facebook is just what a developer owes a school district when it comes to alleviating the stresses it might create by adding people to a community.
The high school district already charges developers impact fees, which are intended to cover the added capital costs that are generated by a development. As of 2016, the rates were $3.48 per square foot for residential construction and $0.56 per square foot for commercial and industrial construction. And it receives a certain percentage of property taxes for annual operating costs.
The preliminary master plan Facebook submitted to the city of Menlo Park indicates there would be roughly 1.59 million square feet of housing space, which, when calculated at the proposed $3.48 per square foot, would generate for the district about $5.52 million in impact fees.
Yet there's a gap between what those impact fees would cover and what the school district says it needs. Ms. Streshly told The Almanac that, according to early calculations, she is expecting that it may cost $60 million in capital costs alone to build the school facilities needed for 300 more students. It's not yet known how much property tax the new development will generate, nor what the annual operating costs will be for the new students, she said.
"The only leverage I see is to advocate for what the needs of education for all of the community's students are going to be, at some point," Ms. Kennel said. "If we don't have a long-term plan to account for that, we are going to be struggling in many ways."
In any case, both Ms. Streshly and Ms. Kennel said they plan to participate in the public process and seek to work with Facebook and the city of Menlo Park in future negotiations.
"I believe the city has to play a leadership role in bringing both sides together," Ms. Streshly said.
The company plans to invite interested parties to participate in a series of community discussion groups later this spring to talk about "the features and amenities of Willow Village."
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