Facebook passes Planning Commission review | May 16, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - May 16, 2012

Facebook passes Planning Commission review

by Sandy Brundage

The impact reports for the proposed Facebook campus expansion, along with the associated developer agreement, got the thumbs up from the Menlo Park Planning Commission on May 7.

The commission voted 6-0 to certify and forward the environmental impact report and associated documents to the council for approval. Commissioner Peipei Yu was absent.

The reports examine the potential community effects of Facebook's plan to 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.

One of the main concerns has been traffic generated by the influx of employees. The company has agreed to maintain a vehicle trip cap of 15,000 per day, with no more than 2,600 during each commute period, with stiff financial penalties for exceeding the limit. The commute periods are from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Counting cars for the cap would start within 180 days of the agreement going into effect, staff said.

Wondering whether Facebook employees might tend to work later hours, Commissioners Ben Eiref and John Kadvany raised the question of whether the hours for the evening commute trip cap should shift to 5 to 7 p.m. Chair Katie Ferrick said she felt comfortable with the current time span since it was based on research data, but colleagues suggested that the data in the report didn't demonstrate whether the 4 to 6 p.m. period was the true traffic peak or the most beneficial time to apply the trip cap.

Not everyone was there to sing the project's praises. A letter sent on April 26 to Menlo Park stated, "Regretfully, the Town of Atherton finds itself in the difficult position of finding that serious flaws and deficiencies exist in the proposed Facebook Project Final EIR."

Atherton Interim Public Works Director Michael Kashiwagi spoke before the Planning Commission on May 7 to outline what those flaws were. In particular, the town has problems with the traffic analysis, both with the methodology and suggested mitigations. Atherton staff believe the snarls will extend past the intersection of Marsh Road with Middlefield Road on to residential streets, for example, an impact not addressed by the EIR, and that Facebook should help pay for any needed fixes.

As far as the Marsh and Middlefield intersection is concerned, however, Facebook has agreed to pay about 30 percent of the total costs of traffic mitigations at that spot, which should minimize the impact as long as Atherton and Caltrans approve the changes, according to Menlo Park planning staff. Atherton's letter to the city suggests getting that approval won't be easy since it considers the traffic analysis "flawed and inadequate."

East Palo Alto has raised its own concerns about traffic and housing with Facebook. The social networking company is negotiating separately with that city for an agreement that could bring East Palo Alto more than $1 million to address those impacts.

The City Council is scheduled to review and vote on the final reports for the Facebook campus expansion on Tuesday, May 29, at 7 p.m.


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