Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 20, 2012

Menlo Park signs off on Facebook terms

City to gain annual payments, community improvements

by Sandy Brundage and Barbara Wood

One by one, the public speakers at Menlo Park City Council's Tuesday night meeting said in no uncertain terms what they thought about the proposed development agreement with social-networking giant Facebook. And what they thought was all good.

The council apparently shared those sentiments, as it voted 5-0 to approve the terms.

The agreement lets Facebook go ahead with plans to employ as many as 6,600 people at its new headquarters at 1 Hacker Way, along Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park.

Ten weeks of negotiations led to an agreement that Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith said she was "very pleased" with upon its release April 12.

The terms include:

* $8.5 million total in graduated payments during the next 10 years, followed by $5 million during the subsequent four years as long as Facebook chooses to still exceed the former employee cap of 3,600 at the campus.

* Funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, including at the intersection of Willow Road and U.S. Highway 101.

* A one-time-payment to the city of $1.1 million that the city can use for any capital-improvement projects. Facebook will make an additional payment to the city if the city secures other funding for measures that are required by the Environmental Impact Report, such as roadway improvements.

* Creation of a local community fund with an initial $500,000 contribution. The fund will partner with an existing nonprofit organization and will have at least three board members appointed by Facebook, one appointed by Menlo Park and one appointed by East Palo Alto.

* Creation of a high school internship program for students who live in the Ravenswood City School District boundaries with at least 10 internships each summer.

* Sponsorship of job-training programs and events.

* Housing assistance through potential investments in low-income housing tax credits and will support a housing project in Menlo Park, by either investing in the project, committing to leasing units or allowing the developer to market the project to Facebook employees.

* Cooperation to underground electrical transmission lines.

* Help in closing the Bay Trail Gap and possibly paying some of the costs of the project.

* Participation in the Caltrans Adopt-a-Highway program for five years.

* Continuation of the Facebucks program with local businesses for at least three years. It will try to use local vendors for on-campus goods and services and will use the Menlo Gateway hotel if that project is developed.

* Promotion of local volunteer opportunities for Facebook employees.

* Exploration of the creation of a Willow Road business-improvement district and contribution of seed funding of up to $50,000.

*When performing work that might affect the baylands, Facebook will hire an environmental consultant.

* Cooperation with the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and adoption of various policies to protect the local wildlife and ecosystem.

* Maintenance and improvement of nearby levees.

* Commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification for the energy efficiency of every building on the campus.

* A vehicle trip cap of 15,000 per day, with no more than 2,600 during each commute period. The periods are from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Exceeding the trip cap carries stiff daily penalties of $500 to $100,000 depending on the number of violations, according to a table provided in the staff report.

"That table was kinda scary to me," admitted David Ebersman, Facebook's chief financial officer, during the meeting. "I hadn't seen it presented that way before."

Since East Palo Alto would also be impacted by traffic, the agreement includes a clause that splits the trip cap fines between Menlo Park and the neighboring city, at a percentage to be determined in the future.

Councilman Rich Cline, who along with Keith sat on the negotiations subcommittee, said he was grateful for Facebook's willingness to collaborate.

"You back up the brand with what you do," he observed at the meeting.

He described going home during the last round of negotiations and wondering "if there's a mushroom cloud on the horizon. There was frustration on their part when they heard our final ask. They didn't express it but came back and collaborated again" and said the agreement would lead to a better community.

The final environmental impact report for Facebook's planned campus expansion is expected to be released on April 23.

In addition to the changes the company wants to make at its current site near the intersection of Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway, it is also seeking permission to eventually expand even further by building new offices and a parking garage on the nearby Constitution Drive site that could house another 2,800 employees. That development will be the subject of future negotiations and is not part of this development agreement.

In February, Facebook announced plans to sell its stock to the public, with the terms of the initial public offering putting the value of the company at $5 billion.

Almanac Staff Writer Sandy Brundage can be emailed at sbrundage@almanacnews.com.

Comments

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I think I read pretty closely, but who is counting the "car trips"? And how?

And does the job come with health insurance benefits? Because I could really use health insurance.

As far as "Counting Blue Cars," I'd be happy to make them a subset of my tally. No extra charge.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Were there really people who didn't think this was a good thing for Menlo Park?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Steve - no one thought it was a bad idea for Menlo. But Menlo has shown lousy leadership in FB dealings with regard to neighboring cities impacted by FB's presence & growth. Additionally, given the desire for the employees to cycle & reduce car trips, planning has certainly been needed to deal w/these issues, which are fairly complicated given FB's new location east of 101 & the lack of safe cycling routes.


Posted by Laura Caplan, a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I find it interesting that no one asks the residents of North Fair Oaks (unincorporated Menlo Park) what we think. You don't even have it on your list of neighborhoods. But as we are just off Marsh Road at Middlefield, and area that already has huge traffic problems, we are likely to see more with FaceBook swelling the local work and commute population. Yet no one has come to us offering mitigation or traffic easement money.

Laura


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