Editorial: A big thumbs up for Facebook deal | April 25, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



Viewpoint - April 25, 2012

Editorial: A big thumbs up for Facebook deal

If Menlo Park didn't get everything it wanted in the recently completed negotiations with Facebook, it's hard to imagine what didn't make the final cut.

With more than 800 million users signed up for its ubiquitous social networking site and a massive public stock offering around the corner, Facebook apparently was not interested in haggling with Menlo Park over a few million dollars.

Instead, the company agreed to pay the city $8.5 million in graduated payments over the next 10 years to make up for the sales tax that another manufacturer would generate. In return, Facebook receives the right to add 3,000 employees to the 3,600 already permitted at the former Sun campus on what is now 1 Hacker Way. The company accepted a cap of 15,000 vehicle trips per day, with no more than 2,600 each in the morning and evening commute hours, from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

The deal was hailed by many speakers at last week's City Council meeting and passed 5-0. Mayor Kirsten Keith and other officials spoke highly of the company, with Councilman Rich Cline saying he was grateful for the company's willingness to collaborate.

Beyond the cash payouts to Menlo Park, the agreement shows how deeply the company is committed to being a good neighbor. For example, Facebook said it will create a local community fund with an initial $500,000 contribution in partnership with an existing nonprofit organization. Menlo Park and East Palo Alto will each place a member on the board of the nonprofit, with Facebook filling the remaining three seats.

The company will sponsor a wide range of job fairs and workshops, including a session on how to get a job at Facebook. Going even further, the company's vendors will let local residents know when they are hiring, and Facebook will promote local opportunities for its own employees to volunteer within the community.

The agreement also addresses housing, with Facebook investing in a housing project in Menlo Park by either committing to leasing units or allowing the developer to market the project to company employees. It's looking at other possibilities, including investments in low-income housing tax credits, according to Facebook.

Area merchants will be happy to hear that the Facebucks program — which provides a trackable $25 debit card for Facebook employees to spend at nearby businesses — will continue for three years. The company also agreed to try to use local vendors for on-campus goods and services, and to contribute to a Willow Road business improvement district with $50,000 in seed funding.

Facebook is prepared to tackle a wide range of projects, from improving bicycle and pedestrian trails in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto to assisting with running electrical transmission lines underground in its neighborhood. The company will also work with the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to adopt policies to protect local wildlife and the ecosystem.

To better protect its buildings and personnel, Facebook will pay up to $300,000 to improve fire safety, including the installation of a system for Menlo Park Fire Protection District trucks to gain the right-of-way through four traffic signals on Willow Road. Chief Harold Schapelhouman said the deal is only part of a broad relationship to address support of essential emergency services in the eastern community and on the Facebook campus.

East Palo Alto also stands to benefit, through sharing traffic cap violation fines and other agreements, although the final details weren't available at press time.

Through these agreements and their efforts to welcome the community to their new home, Facebook is already a significant player on the Midpeninsula. Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and the fire district are fortunate to have a company of this caliber to add its formidable presence here. We are pleased to join the crowd with a "thumbs up" for Facebook.


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