A consultant's study of whether Facebook's hiring expansion will push East Palo Alto residents from their homes came to the common sense conclusion that it simply depends on how many employees decide to live in East Palo Alto.
The city of East Palo Alto sent a letter to Menlo Park in May expressing concern that Facebook's hires, attracted by the relatively lower housing prices, would want to live in East Palo Alto, leaving low-income residents -- an estimated 79 percent of the city's population -- struggling to afford new homes elsewhere.
The environmental impact report for Facebook's campus development did not examine this scenario since it's a matter of socioeconomics, not physical environmental change.
So an additional analysis, conducted by Keyser Marston Associates, came out Dec. 21. The report stated: "Impacts will be minimal if a very limited number of workers seek housing in East Palo Alto; conversely, if East Palo Alto is viewed as an attractive option by a large share of Facebook's workforce, impacts would be greater."
Right now, despite East Palo Alto's relative affordability and proximity, the largest number of Facebook employees -- 26 percent -- live in San Francisco, compared with 0.2 percent in East Palo Alto, according to the report. Free bus and shuttle service helps ease the pain of the commute.
Nevertheless, Keyser Marston Associates assumed that 3 to 5 percent of future Facebook workers may choose to live in East Palo Alto. The expected net gain of 5,800 new hires by 2018 then leaves 100 to 160 homes needed in East Palo Alto, or 16 to 26 additional units a year -- a maximum of about 2 percent of the city's total housing.
"These percentages suggest a minimal to very minor impact," the report concluded.
With such a low percentage of employees expected to live there, Facebook hires aren't projected to influence rental costs or the overcrowding that the report stated already exists in East Palo Alto. Also factoring into the analysis is the construction of new housing, such as the planned 835-unit Ravenswood/Four Corners development in East Palo Alto, that could absorb some of the demand if the timing is right.