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.
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."