News

SurveyMonkey prepares to leave Palo Alto

Seeking a bigger campus, software company looks to move to San Mateo

Following in the tradition of Google and Facebook, SurveyMonkey is preparing to leave downtown Palo Alto to open a bigger headquarters elsewhere on the Peninsula.

The software company, which today is the anchor tenant of the recently constructed four-story development at 101 Lytton Ave., has its sights set on the Bay Meadows development in San Mateo.

Bennett Porter, spokeswoman for SurveyMonkey, told the Weekly that the move is scheduled for some time in 2017. Downtown Palo Alto, she said, just doesn't have enough space to accommodate the company's growth.

"We definitely need expanded space for our growing team and we wanted to make sure we're all together and not in disparate places," Porter said.

The move, which was first reported by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, comes at a time when office rates are at record highs and when Palo Alto's political climate and limited space making the prospect of new development increasingly difficult.

San Mateo, by contrast, is in the midst of building the transit-oriented Bay Meadows development, a planned community that includes housing, office campuses and parks located near the Hillsdale Caltrain station.

According to the Business Journal, SurveyMonkey would occupy Station Four of the development, which is currently under construction.

The 210,000-square-foot building would offer SurveyMonkey about four times the space it currently enjoys in downtown Palo Alto. The move would signify a second big expansion for the company in less than five years. Before moving into Lytton Gateway, SurveyMonkey was leasing a smaller space at 285 Hamilton Ave., across from City Hall.

For Palo Alto, the company's decision to move to a larger headquarters in another city follows a very familiar pattern. Google and Facebook each had offices in Palo Alto before moving to large corporate campuses in Mountain View and Menlo Park, respectively. City officials often talk about the city as one with a reputation for incubating companies before they expand elsewhere.

This reputation is particularly apt today, with much of the talk at City Hall surrounding the need to slow down office growth, rather than encourage it. The City Council is now preparing to adopt an annual cap on commercial development downtown and around California Avenue and El Camino Real. The law would limit new office development in these three areas to 50,000 square feet annually.

SurveyMonkey is one of many local tech companies that has come out against the proposed office cap. Earlier this year, the company was one of more than a dozen to co-sign a letter from the Chamber of Commerce arguing that the city's office development "has not been factually shown to be excessive." The letter called for the city to "engage in a more strategic examination of facts and surveys before imposing an annual office development cap that could threaten the City's prosperity."

The proposed office cap isn't the only ongoing initiative aimed at slowing down office development. The city recently halted its "planned-community" process, a zone change that enables developers to exceed density regulations in exchange for negotiated public benefits.

The Lytton Gateway building that currently houses SurveyMonkey was the last office project to win this zone change (the council will consider possible changes to the planned-community process on Aug. 24).

Porter said the city's political climate and ongoing conversation about limiting office growth wasn't the main reason why the company is leaving. For SurveyMonkey, which claims more than 20 million users, it was just a matter of needing more space, Porter said.

The company's employees love Palo Alto, she said, but the city's high real estate prices and SurveyMonkey's desire to keep the team together made the move necessary.

"Nothing was going to change that," Porter said. "Palo Alto is a great place to start a company. It's not a great place to grow a company."

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

They barely even finished unpacking, and now they are moving out? Are they in a manic phase?


5 people like this
Posted by @moi
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Sure sounds like it, doesn't it? Then again, if Survey Monkey collapses upon itself, what prime office space will be there for the offering...


29 people like this
Posted by Bad Start
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:38 pm

[Portion removed.]

If this space is already too small for them, then they made a bad move without a lot of thought put into it, which will be costly for them. Apparently, they have made a lot of silly decisions in the past two years of which this has been just one.

Loss of their leader, bad decisions = uh-oh!


31 people like this
Posted by 101 Lytton
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm

101 Lytton Avenue - isn't that the building where a public benefit was Below Market Rate office space?
And that perk was given to none other than (drum roll please) the Chamber of Commerce!


13 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

The new building in Edgewood that used to house Fresh Market might make a pretty nice office.


5 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Well, you can only hope that whoever takes their office over, and fills it with the same number of employees or more, is just as proactive when it comes to reducing auto traffic, not that they would have an obligation.


19 people like this
Posted by kibitzer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 17, 2015 at 8:06 pm

I notice they are moving to the Bay Meadows transit-oriented development. This is a good move. I also notice that Palo Alto is talking about limiting development in our transit corridors (University, California, and El Camino). Are we getting this backwards, and driving our development away from the trains? Whatever we have today is failing, and we can't stop it from failing by pushing development away from our corridors, and into car-required locations and neighboring cities. Please City Council, focus on improving our transit plan. Nothing else will work, and only you can do it!


49 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Is there room in San Mateo for Palantir?


Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:11 pm

@musical:

Probably.

San Mateo is already the home of Franklin Templeton and GoPro. Plus, a large number of Palantir employees work in offices away from Palo Alto (a bunch near DC). The number of Palantir employees working in Palo Alto is not huge.

With the construction of the Bay Meadows development, it is likely that there is space for other significant corporate campuses. Whether or not these developments gybe with Palantir's growth plans is a separate matter.


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:35 pm

So at Lytton Gateway the pro-growth proponents got their high density transit oriented, high visibility dream project, the paradigm for future development in Palo Alto, suitable for a high profile corporate headquarters.This was the direction we needed to go. This was the future of Palo Alto. But maybe a different concept would have worked better here, and maybe elsewhere in Downtown too for that matter from what we are doing.
Is that possible?





24 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 9:55 am

As someone who has worked for fast-growing tech companies, this is pretty normal. They moved in a year ago, and they are moving out sometime in 2017. If the company is growing 50% year-over-year, they will have tripled in size over three years. So it makes a lot of sense to move if you've tripled in size and expect to continue growing.

That said, it was likely a painful decision for them because there are few areas with open office space near Caltrain on the Peninsula, and they've made the train a centerpiece of their commute strategy. They are the reason Lytton Gateway uses fewer parking permits than the developer paid for.

As Robert says, not every company has as low a driving rate as SurveyMonkey, Palantir, or RelateIQ. If we want to avoid more congestion, it's time for the city to put limits on how many car trips each company can generate. SurveyMonkey was really focused on helping its employees take the train. Other companies might need a rule from the city to do so.


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Downtown Worker - do you know what percentage of Survey Money/Palantir/RelateIQ employees drive vs take the train? Is low 70%, 50%?


16 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 18, 2015 at 11:10 am

Serves Palo Alto right. Downtown landlords keep driving away unique businesses and screwing tenants by charging exorbitant rents. San Mateo is reaping the benefits of tax money from these companies.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Putting limits on the number of car trips is not enforceable, nor is it equitable in the long run. And certainly telling retail outlets how many car trips that they are allowed is beyond crazy.

The issue is far more complicated than this ill-considered suggestion would have us believe!


11 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm

@Slow Down - I'm getting the data from their joint letter to Council with Palantir and RelateIQ. The letter has 28% taking the train vs. 38% driving, with 16% walking, 11% biking, and 5% carpooling.

So "low" is 38% driving. It's possible Palantir or RelateIQ were lower and SurveyMonkey brought the average up, but they are all tech companies with similar recruiting pools, so they probably aren't that different.

If every office downtown had to offer as much support for transit, walking, and biking as those companies do, the garages would probably get a lot less crowded pretty quickly.


7 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Survey Monkey's move is a good thing, coming at an appropriate time in its growth cycle. Spokesperson Bennett Porter said it well: "Palo Alto is a great place to start a company. It's not a great place to grow a company."

This is a good thing, the kind of business we want. Start ups who grow their companies, move out and have their old space filled by another innovative idea and company.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:27 pm

"But maybe a different concept would have worked better here, and maybe elsewhere in Downtown too for that matter from what we are doing."

A gas station would be a great addition: sales tax for the city coffers and avoid the carbon footprint of driving to Menlo Park for gas.

"Is that possible?"

Possible, but very unlikely.


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Downtown Worker - The downside is that given the most transit friendly company, in a new building directly across the street from the train station > 40% of the people still drive. So yes, existing employers in existing buildings can help by being as good as Survey Monkey, but it also exposes the lie that new transit oriented developments can reduce traffic - they bring in a substantial number of cars.


21 people like this
Posted by doh
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

@Slow Down - that assumes that if you don't build the office by the train station that it doesn't get built at all. No, it will be built because other areas of the city are zoned for commercial use. So if I have a company that can't move into the downtown, then I'll move into the SRP or somewhere along El Camino and nearly all of my employees will drive, instead of 38%, I'm not just going to dissolve my company!

And guess what? Instead of my employees walking down the street to lunch, hundreds of them will get in their cars and drive to the downtown and Cal Ave to get their lunch and many of them will spend 20 minutes circling for parking and will obviously take up parking that could have been available for residents or shoppers. All of which, will no doubt annoy you greatly.


11 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Slow Down,

The improvement in traffic will be to get existing companies to reduce the number of employees that drive alone.

Take a look at Stanford. It can be done. It's just that Palo Alto has never been serious about it in the past.


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

OOK, OOK


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@doh - Sure, go put your office next to the Glass Slipper Inn on El Camino and try luring employees from Google and Facebook. El Camino is a dump for a reason. Kill all new offices downtown, and those offices will go to other cities, like Survey Monkey did, not El Camino.


6 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Limiting car trips is plan but people must live near reasonable good transit to get from home to work and then back again. The Bay Area has what I will call a very piss poor transit policy. BART is in the East, Caltrain is on the West, connecting at SFO as I was told was a large headache. Signage is piss poor and one will get lost trying to find the platform.

Very little cross bay transitt unless you want to sit in the same traffic as the solo commutes sit also. Build more mass transit only bridges, buses and later LRT or BART.

Build all offices near transit stops with bus supporting infrastructure. You where is a good places to build offices central area or main shopping area with entertinment. Our transit system could use a nightime and weekend boost in ridership.

24 hour transit with quick links to shuttles, Uber, Taxis and public buses.


5 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm

One more thing to add I support growth restriction until the transit and housing infrastructure along with schools, better open space planning can catch up.

We have self driving cars coming soon so maybe along the line we can build high density underground parking lots and use the land for housing, offices and open space.


16 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:18 pm

"The improvement in traffic will be to get existing companies to reduce the number of employees that drive alone. Take a look at Stanford. It can be done."

Psst. Hey, buddy. Wanna hear a dirty li'l secret?

Stanford kicked its employee parking off campus to Palo Alto residential streets, then set up those buses for the last mile. Puts the parking problem in Palo Alto, and gets Stanford lotsa awards from the suckers that give the awards.


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I agree with Garrett.

SurveyMonkey might have made a bad decision by coming to PA in the first place knowing they would be growing beyond the ability or willingness of PA to accommodate it, but now they're making a very wise business decision. And no need to go 'boo hoo boo hoo' about losing sales tax income like the threat they made previously. That office space wil get filled up immediately and new people will be spending money downtown.


19 people like this
Posted by Office Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Wish the hideous, oversized Survey Monkey building could leave town, too


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2015 at 7:26 pm

@Office Park
At least the ugly SurveyMonkey sign on top of the building will come
down and should not be replaced with another one- give us a break.


18 people like this
Posted by Helene
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 9:16 pm

I am not sorry to see SurveyMonkey leave. Going downtown is a disaster, I often try to visit a friend living on High and I can never find a parking spot. Our city has turned into an overpopulated, "all about me", excessive traffic,
and too much density environment. Let all the high tech companies and start ups leave. We survived very nicely without them and will do so again. I am very glad the City is planning to put a limit on the remodeling of office buildings. Have you tried to negotiate Hamilton with all the construction? I could care less what the Chamber of
Commerce thinks. They only have business on their mind and don't care about the residents.


2 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:07 am

@Helene, @resident, et al

I hope you and all the other people complaining about all the congestion, too many people, etc realize that the only reason your homes are worth as much as they are now is because of all the startups, congestion, people, etc.

If businesses start to leave and new businesses don't move in because they feel that they will not be able to stay in Palo Alto then you will eventually see a drop on the property values. Then people will start complaining that they have lost value in their homes.

Palo Alto is NOT what it was in the 1950's, 1960's or 1970's. It is NOT a suburb. It is NOT farmland. Get over it and stop complaining about what is was.

/marc


21 people like this
Posted by Get Outta Dodge!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:20 am

I wish Palantir would pack up all their buildings and move the whole kitten kaboodle to San Mateo, too.

They have the rudest, most disrespectful employees ever, and too many of them to boot. Certainly too many for any downtown retail space--especially in a small town.

What is this--an office park without residents? Or is that what they're trying to turn it into??


13 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:38 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Palonaltir is definitely turning our downtown into a corporate research park, complete with private dining rooms that used to be public retail. I wouldn't be surprised if they pick up the lease on the Survey Monkey building. With their housing stipends, they are also taking over the downtown housing rental properties - not just commercial. It's not healthy for our city.


11 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:46 am

I beg to differ. Downtown is not an office park.

It is a software factory.

Is it zoned for industrial? If not, it is time the city evicted most of the building occupants.


Like this comment
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:55 am

Let's get a few facts straight--Palantir is renting from a private landlord--not the city. So nobody's business if they stay or not and certainly the city should not try to intervene in a private business transaction. Too much attempted micromanaging of the free market by the city

Helene--people alwyas talk on this forum that city garages are uner used, so not sure why you cannot find parking

Get Outta Dodge!--really? How and when do you interact with these employees? Sounds like the usual sour grapes about a successful company

Guy_Fawkes--where are these private dining rooms that used to be retail? Don't the owners have a right to determine to whom to rent???

Michael--where is this manufacturing going on that makes downtown an industrial zone??? Good luck on the city evicting them
Everyone realizes that Palo Alto already has a bad reputation for businesses. More of this kind of nonsense will ensure that these building remain empty. Bye bye tax revenue. Hello decreasing property values. Then we will hear residents whining about that. Also hello lawsuits against the city


10 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Six of One - on the questions you directed to me. "Don't owners have a right to determine to whom to rent?" Answer - only within the contraints set up by the local jurisdiction.

Jungle Copy was a retail location that has been closed and is now a private cafeteria. In response to that and other "conversions" of ground floor retail in downtown, the City has put in place retail protection ordinances to prevent more of that from occurring. It's not healthy for a downtown to have its main streets fronted by offices.

On your other point, tax revnue, a company that is not selling goods is not generating tax revenue for the city. If there were a tax on services, then Paloaltir would be paying its fair share. At the very least, the city should insist on no more private dining rooms in our retail core, and insist they support our local restaurants. Mountain View did this with LinkedIn and I believe its a great idea.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm

@six of one

I think your sour grapes comment is spot on. All things being equal, if you look at the that transportation survey, tech workers have the lowest drive alone rate, meaning they take the least amount of parking, and contribute the least to downtown congestion, something we would want to encourage. However, if you're a miserable person it makes sense that you would resent successful younger people who are genuinely enjoying themselves...


15 people like this
Posted by Funny Thing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm

The word on Wall Street regarding Survey Monkey is that they have several very large debts, not the least of which are to venture capitalists.

Could this be the REAL reason they are moving to supposedly larger, though cheaper, digs?


12 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Robert - It isn't that tech employees are better or worse than other employees, it is that the demand for office space by tech companies is driving the over development of Palo Alto. Awesome that only 40% of Survey Monkey employees arrive by car, but if they have ~400 employees, that is still 160 cars that are driving into downtown every day.

Back when it was Shell station, even if it had 0 % drive alone, that would probably be 3 cars a day. So SurveyMonkey is responsible for adding 157 cars.


2 people like this
Posted by PAltan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:49 am

As a long time resident and lover of our wonderful city here- I would like to think that companies that make it to the Google, Facebook, Pinterest, SurveryMonkey, etc. status would want to stay in Palo Alto for long as possible. These companies are literally "one in a million" and create highly sought after jobs, bring in talent professionals and visitors (who spend money on retail, who buy homes, etc.), spawn other new start ups down the road...it makes the ecosystem stronger.

What a "badge of honor" for our city to create these companies in their early days...but strikes me we need to work hard to keep them, as long as possible, and all of us will benefit as they continue to grow and "throw off" additional benefits to the city as they scale up.


12 people like this
Posted by Au Revoir
a resident of University South
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:59 am

Take Palantir with you!


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Race track turns monkey house, in San Mateo, or
Lost in the Fog by a country mile.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Mark my words, Bennett Porter and her ilk will take the money and run ($1.3 Billlion valuation) long before they ever move to Bay Meadows. And they play us (or our so-called leadership: elected council, appointed boards paid staff) for chumps at every step.

The building and it's copious signage only exist long enough to signal the money people that the exit will happen as envisioned.

Our town is just a staging area for someone else's drama. It's not even an office park, it's a lab for the VCs.


9 people like this
Posted by Farewell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Hasta la Vista, Adios, y Good Riddance!


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

If you look at the Bay Meadows plan it features the use of Caltrain. It has both commercial and residential properties. Now go look at Redwood City - it is in a building cycle now with both residential and business properties over 4 stories in the vicinity of the Caltrain corridor. Sunnyvale is also building now in the corridor, as well as Mountain View. It looks like everyone else has a plan and is moving out on the plan.

We keep talking about a 50 foot limit on buildings but we are possibly shooting ourselves in the foot.


4 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

"the only reason your homes are worth as much as they are now is because of all the startups, congestion, people, etc."

Your forgot the Palo Alto schools. Also Stanford. The reputation of the school district and also being a university town, quiet leafy neighborhoods, parks, etc. has always been a huge driver of house prices. The competition to live here and have your children attend Palo Alto schools has become extremely intense, with families making huge sacrifices to buy here.


6 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Meanwhile in a related story Stanford now says that part of its rationale for 145,000 square feet of office space at 500 El Camino, not far from 101 Lytton, is to retain or extend 3000 Sand Hill the famous cluster of elite finance workers.

If you are not part of the elite, or working directly for them, you go the way of the Ohlone, basically.


4 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2015 at 4:20 pm

The Survey Monkey's leaving??! What's gonna do our surveys now, a duck?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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