Environmental review of Meta's huge Willow Village project heads to Menlo Park council | November 11, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |
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News - November 11, 2022

Environmental review of Meta's huge Willow Village project heads to Menlo Park council

by Cameron Rebosio

A major mixed-use project proposed by Meta could advance this month, as Menlo Park City Council members consider the environmental review of the massive, mixed-use Willow Village project.

The Menlo Park Planning Commission reviewed the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) last month, recommending eight conditions in order for it to win approval.

Despite dumping real estate leases in other cities and laying off a reported 13% of its employees this week, Meta still has plans to redevelop 59 acres near its Menlo Park headquarters with up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and 1,730 units of housing.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, plans to build the ambitious mixed-use development with office and residential uses plus a hotel, retail and commercial space, a dog park and a publicly accessible park in the Belle Haven neighborhood. The main development would be built along Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, according to the application.

Meta addressed the fears caused by its termination of several leases, saying company officials "remain very committed to well-located, high-quality, highly amenetized space," and that the Willow Village project was a prime example of that.

One condition laid out by the Planning Commission was a guarantee of the operation of community amenities, like the grocery store, which will serve the neighborhood. Commissioner Cynthia Harris also proposed the recommendation that Meta must guarantee 60 months of rent subsidy instead of the 24 months proposed in the staff report, which said that's the minimum amount of time needed for a grocery store to become self-sustainable.

The language of the EIR currently states that Signature, one of two developers for the project, will build up to 1,730 units of housing in the Willow Village development, as well as up to a certain number of hotel rooms. The Planning Commission recommended that these numbers be considered minimums instead. Signature is also asked to commit to providing 100% of "gap" funding for affordable senior housing, which is a component of the housing proposal.

The commission also requested that the developer provide a Transportation Demand Management plan that reduces the expected number of trips into Menlo Park by 1,000 vehicle trips.

The commission expressed concern that the campus would not bring the promised vibrancy to the neighborhood, and that it could become an isolated area that was mostly for employees of Meta.

"The real concern for me is that this is going to be not a hub for a vibrant community across all of Menlo Park, but it's actually going to be an island oasis, " said commission Chair Chris DeCardy.

The commission discussed Meta taking ownership of the section of Willow Road in order to be able to make improvements surrounding the connection of Meta to the rest of the community, but it was determined that it was not within the commission's power to request this.

The City Council is set to discuss the EIR at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and take public comment.

Email Staff Writer Cameron Rebosio at [email protected]

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