Hearings set on Facebook impacts | May 2, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - May 2, 2012

Hearings set on Facebook impacts

by Sandy Brundage

Now that Facebook and Menlo Park have figured out how much the company needs to pay the city to do what the social networking giant wants to do — namely, hire up to 6,600 employees at its 1 Hacker Way "East" campus and make improvements to all its properties, including those on the Constitution Drive "West" campus — the city will take another look at the potential impact of the changes.

The Planning Commission goes up to bat first, with a review of the project's "final" environmental impact and financial impact reports scheduled for Monday, May 7.

The majority of changes made to the draft reports appear to be minor rephrasings of the text. Staff also helpfully added an 8-page list of acronyms used throughout the reports.

Some additional revisions include:

• Requiring Facebook to pay 30 percent of estimated construction costs to Atherton for traffic-mitigation measures at the intersection of Marsh Road and Middlefield Road.

• Installing a Cogenra solar heat and power system on the East campus to improve air quality.

• Implementing bird-friendly building design and lighting to discourage local birds from colliding with campus buildings.

• Retaining the at-grade crosswalk at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road.

Financial impact

The revised financial impact analysis addresses at least 29 questions raised during public review of the draft report and also adjusts projections based on the recent dissolution of Menlo Park's redevelopment agency (RDA).

The new draft anticipates that Sequoia Union High School District would see an additional $309,000 annually from property taxes previously diverted by the redevelopment agency. The Ravenswood Elementary School District, however, would see no change since it receives a set amount per student from the state.

The analysis also takes a closer look at potential demands on special services such as law enforcement.

For example, it turns out that hosting Facebook headquarters increases calls for police services, as Palo Alto's experience can attest to. Menlo Park estimates that it would need another full-time detective just to handle search-warrant requests generated by Facebook's presence.

Even though it limited its service of search warrants to cases involving homicides, kidnappings, and child abuse, in 2010 Palo Alto police still served more than 40 warrants to Facebook, out of 300 requests. The company plans to dedicate a security staff employee to coordinate with police in hopes of reducing the workload.

Finally, the new financial analysis presents two scenarios based on different assumptions for sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenues, regarding how much Facebook employee and visitor spending would occur in the Menlo Park, and how much of the hotel room demand created by Facebook visitors could be served by the city "given the current nature of Menlo Park's limited inventory of business-class hotels."

Overall the net impact to the city's general fund is positive, ranging from $59,000 to $168,000 once both campuses are fully built and staffed.


• The Menlo Park Planning Commission holds a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, May 7, in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.

• The Menlo Park City Council holds a hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St.

• Visit tinyurl.com/Facebook-429 to see Facebook reports.


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