Council OKs Facebook expansion | June 6, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - June 6, 2012

Council OKs Facebook expansion

• Project still faces challenge from Atherton.

by Sandy Brundage

Pundits may be tracking the downward trajectory of its stock second by second, and Atherton may continue to protest the project's environmental impact report, but Facebook continues to have friends in Menlo Park. The City Council voted unanimously on May 29 to approve the social networking company's planned campus expansion.

The public had more to say than the council did during the meeting. While several Belle Haven residents said they felt left out of the entire process, with one man saying he wished he were a rare species of frog because then his community might be respected, other speakers sang Facebook's praises.

Belle Haven Neighborhood Association president Matt Henry said that rather than attacking Facebook, he preferred to circulate his wish list for the community and wait to see what happens. "I don't think Facebook is going to solve all the problems of the world," he commented. "I say let's see what they're going to do."

Atherton's interim city manager, Theresa DellaSanta, spoke to remind the council that the town challenges the proposed Marsh/Middlefield intersection traffic mitigations. Atherton has threatened to sue Menlo Park unless other measures are proposed.

Tim Tosta, a lawyer representing Facebook, commented that Atherton had already accepted the same mitigation when it was proposed for two other projects — Menlo Gateway and the North Fair Oaks Community Center. He also warned that the court tends to take a dim view of objections filed late in the review process, saying that's "not the way CEQA law should be handled and it should not penalize Facebook in any way."

Atherton Interim Public Works Director Mike Kashiwagi later told the Almanac that while the town had signed off on the mitigation twice before, staff reconsidered after evaluating the traffic that Facebook potentially would add.

"This review included field reviewing and measuring the proposed changes to the Marsh/Middlefield intersection in terms of feasibility and constructability. As a result of this review, Town staff determined that reduced road lane widths required by the proposed Facebook mitigation negatively impacts the ability of legal sized vehicles (trucks) to safely make turns. Accordingly, we are unable to support the mitigation as proposed," he said in an email.

The EIR suggests that Facebook pay about 30 percent of the cost for adding another turning lane westbound on Middlefield and a merging lane northbound on Marsh, in addition to other roadway changes.

Chip Taylor, Menlo Park's public works director, said the information city staff and the EIR consultants were working with indicates the area needed to widen lanes is in the public right-of-way; Atherton officials say the road-widening would involve private property that would need to be acquired. All three parties — Facebook, Atherton and Menlo Park — are continuing to hold discussions to decide the best way to resolve the impasse.

Meanwhile, the council took a few minutes to detail the numerous public hearings and outreach tools used to make everyone know exactly what was going on with Facebook's expansion. Councilman Rich Cline pointed out that part of participating in the hearings included "checking our mailboxes for the meeting notices ... and showing up."

Facebook plans to hire up to 6,600 employees at its 1 Hacker Way "East" campus — the former Sun Microsystems campus at Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway — and make improvements to all its properties, including those on the Constitution Drive "West" campus.

The council's action last week approved the associated environmental impact reports, allowing the company to begin planning to implement the changes.


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