News


Facebook unveils plans for giant new development in Menlo Park

Company plans to build 3.45 million square feet of housing, office and retail space

Facebook, which hit 2 billion users June 27, has announced plans for a major new office, residential and retail development near its headquarters at Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park.

The company submitted to the city Thursday plans to build 3.45 million square feet of office, residential and retail space at its 59-acre commercial property referred to as the Prologis site.

The proposal, which Facebook is calling "Willow Campus," includes nine office buildings, three parking garages, seven public access parks or plazas, 1,500 housing units, a visitors' center, a grocery store and other retail spaces.

The property, which Facebook owns, occupies the area southeast of Willow Road, running from Mid-Peninsula High School to the Dumbarton right-of-way along Willow Road, to the start of the UPS Center and Pacific Biosciences office on O'Brien Drive and Adams Court.

This project would be on top of the 1.8 million square feet of office space the company currently occupies in Menlo Park, and the almost 1 million square feet of office space it's building in the city, plus the 207,000 square feet of office space it plans to occupy in the "Menlo Gateway" area off of Marsh Road.

Facebook did not have an estimate of how many employees would work at the site, but said it would be roughly the same ratio of employees to office space as at its other operations. A total of 9,350 Facebook employees work in Menlo Park, a 54 percent increase over last year, according to the city's budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Willow Campus plan

Highlights of the Willow Campus master plan submitted to the city include:

• 1,500 rental apartments, totaling about 1.6 million square feet. As required by the city, 15 percent (or 225 apartments) would be designated to be rented at below-market rates to lower-income tenants. Tenancy of the other units would be open to the public, and not restricted to Facebook employees.

• 1.75 million square feet of office space, spread across nine office buildings.

• 225,000 square feet of retail space, about enough to have ground-floor shops on both sides of the street for three city blocks. Plans include a grocery store and pharmacy, according to John Tenanes, vice president of global facilities and real estate.

• 3,000 parking places in parking garages (the site currently has 2,300 spread out in parking lots).

• Seven parks or plazas that will be accessible to the public.

Early renderings indicate plans to reactivate the Dumbarton rail corridor from Redwood City to East Palo Alto. Pedestrian routes and bike paths connecting the site to neighboring areas of Menlo Park are also planned. Those plans could include a pedestrian and bike overcrossing of Willow Road to connect the new development to Belle Haven.

According to Ryan Patterson, real estate manager at Facebook, the project represents a 10-year plan for the site, and would be built in phases. The first phase would include a grocery store and some portion of the proposed retail, housing and office space.

The proposal also indicates potential for a hotel and a visitor or cultural center at the site.

Grocery store

One of the conditions of Menlo Park's recently approved general plan update is that developers may be required to provide amenities to the community in exchange for being allowed to build above a certain density.

Patterson said Facebook is "very committed" to including a grocery store in the proposed retail space.

"That was one of the asks from the community that came up very, very early – almost at the outset of the general plan process," he said. "We view it as a community benefit, but we aren't going to wait to have that asked of us by the city."

Dumbarton corridor

Reactivating the Dumbarton rail corridor in some way is a key part of the plans for the development, according to Facebook officials. While the corridor is controlled by SamTrans, Facebook has already put $1 million toward a study by the transportation agency to look at best short- and long-term courses of action to deal with congestion along the Dumbarton corridor.

In a previous development agreement, Facebook committed an additional $1 million toward implementing the findings of the study, which is expected to be completed in the late summer or early fall, Patterson said.

Facebook, he said, is "very committed" to reactivating the rail corridor. "It's in our backyard," he said. "And with 101 and other regional connectors being very congested, it just makes sense to find ways to utilize some of our existing resources that run right through the community."

The hope is that adding more density along the existing rail corridor will be a catalyst in increasing demand to justify reactivating the rail corridor, whether that's via light rail, bus rapid transit, a bike and pedestrian path, or something else SamTrans recommends, he said.

Gobbling general plan allocations?

Facebook's proposal represents the first large-scale development to be proposed in the M-2 area (Menlo Park's formerly light industrial area, bounded roughly by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road) since the city's general plan update was approved in November.

The purpose was to plan for development in the area up to the year 2040. Facebook's proposal would take up more than three-quarters of the allowed office development, leaving only 550,000 square feet of commercial space to be developed elsewhere in the M-2 area.

Facebook's Menlo Park expansion

Facebook has been expanding its land holdings, office space, and workforce in Menlo Park at a breakneck rate. The company currently owns 194 acres in eastern Menlo Park, counting 57 acres at the former Sun Microsystelocation, 22 acres between Willow Road and Constitution Drive along Bayfront Expressway (where its Building 20 is located), 59 acres at the nearby former TE Connectivity site and 56 acres at the Prologis Inc. site.

On those properties, the company currently occupies at least 1.8 million square feet of office space, not counting its Buildings 21 and 22, which are under construction and nearing the final approval steps, respectively. Those two buildings will add almost a million square feet of office space, when completed. The company also plans to build a 200-room hotel.

In addition, Facebook officials have confirmed the company plans to lease the first office building to be built by Bohannon Companies as part of the "Menlo Gateway" project, adding 207,000 square feet to its office space. No plans have been finalized for Facebook to lease future "Menlo Gateway" buildings, Facebook spokesperson Jamil Walker confirmed.

This proposal represents the company's first foray into housing development. The apartments are planned to be open for rental by the public, though Patterson noted that for the purposes of reducing traffic, "I think our hope would be that folks who work locally, not just at Facebook, but at other companies locally, would live in the housing."

The design

The project's lead designer, Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York, said in an interview with The Almanac that the biggest challenge of the project has been to "create a sense of place."

"I think that's why we had to create, basically, part of a new city – not just a typical office park venture," he said. The most important part, he said, was developing the public spaces.

Compared to Amazon and Google, he noted, companies that have also used international architecture firms for their buildings, he said, "I think the framework of the Willow Campus is very different," he said. "It's not about the architectural icon but about creating iconic space ... that's a beautiful thing about this project."

Shigematsu said that the guidelines for development in Menlo Park's updated general plan provided a "great framework" for the project. "We were creative enough to interpret the general plan into a slightly more specific response," he said.

"The density is quite high compared to the rest of Menlo Park," he admitted, noting that studies were done to analyze traffic patterns and movements. "We are quite confident it will work out, even with this density," he said.

Consolidating the parking into garages toward the interior of the site, he noted, will allow most of the campus to be car-free.

Though the refined architectural plans haven't been completed, he said, the plan is to integrate the new buildings with the existing architectural character: playful, casual and not pretentious. "That's the kind of essence we got from Menlo Park and the Facebook culture," he said.

Community responses

Facebook invited some residents of the community to preview the plans before they were submitted to the city.

Diane Bailey, executive director of Menlo Spark, a local environmental nonprofit, said the project, from an environmental perspective, is "great news for the community."

The proposal indicates the development would work toward a net zero energy goal and would plan to recycle water. Letting people live near where they work or go to school, she said, is the "single largest environmental mitigation you can design."

Rachel Bickerstaff, a Belle Haven resident, declined a request for comment.

Patterson said he expects it to take about two years for the project to be approved – it will have to go through an environmental impact analysis, he said – and another two for the completion of the first phase of the project. That would put the projected completion of the first phase around early 2021, according to Tenanes.

Watch a video produced by Facebook to see the company's proposal in further detail.

Email Kate Bradshaw at kbradshaw@almanacnews.com with your thoughts on the proposal.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

47 people like this
Posted by No, No, NO!!!5
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Jul 7, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Why would Mark Zuckerberg DO such an awful thing to an area he claims to LOVE?

If he wants and needs to expand, why not do it in the East Bay, where so many of his employees already come from!

Tens of thousands of new employees traveling across the Dumbarton, or on CalTrain, or 101 is going to make living here even harder. With all the required staggered shifts at FB and Google, even midday traffic is in a jam. Rush hour is all day long as it is?? What will it be like with more FB employees?

Zuckerberg brags that he has no commute because he works at home-- does he let any of his employees do that? Highly unlikely.

What is Zuckerberg thinking? Does he live SUCH a cloistered life that he is unaware of how much Menlo Park, Palo Alto and EPA living has deteriorated between Facebook and Google?

Why doesn't he save his company a whole lot of money and build elsewhere...plenty of qualified employees in Minnesota (Rochester, St Paul, Minneapolis), Oregon ( Portland, Eugene, Bend), or North Carolina ( Research Triangle, Charlotte, Chapel Hill).

San Jose is BEGGING for big companies to move there; so is New York State-- and NO business tax for a year!

Zuck, put your thinking cap on and expand where there is ROOM and infrastructure to support it. Those two things do not exist on the Peninsula!


42 people like this
Posted by No, Zuck, No!
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Jul 7, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Don't do it, Zuckerberg-- there is no infrastructure to support this!

Come out of your shell and look around: the quality of life in Southern San Mateo and Northern Santa Claracounties have deteriorated thank to Facebook, Google, VMWare and Tesla.

Please expand somewhere with more and better roads, more room and a lower cost of living.


15 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Where is the elementary school? Will Zuck's private school give priority to kids from his housing development?


34 people like this
Posted by Fully support
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm

I love it. I plan to sell or rent my house in Palo Alto in about 5 years after my kids get out of high school. I will leave this overcrowded mess of a community. This development will keep housing prices elevated. $$$$$. Yes!!


17 people like this
Posted by love it
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I like this development. I plan to sell or rent my house in about 5 years when my kids are all of to college. This can only provide more $$$$$


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2017 at 8:05 am

There is a lot to digest in this for us here in Palo Alto.

Two things strike me on the initial reading and tv coverage.

Firstly, if they do anything about re-opening the rail bridge, which I think is a good idea, it must be done as part of all other modes of public transportation and not as a new agency. It must coordinate with all other means of public transit with particular emphasis on transfers and first/last mile options. If it ends in Facebook Village, it will be a big shame.

Secondly, I hope that Menlo coordinates well with Palo Alto, Redwood City and even Mountain View and that these cities will coordinate with each other to ensure that the project is a smooth fit for the area not just MP.


21 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 8, 2017 at 9:34 am

I am for more balanced planning than the travesty that is overdeveloped PA, Mtn Vw today, but I think this looks good on first blush, I like that they are planning for usable space. I even think this is one instance in which perhaps even more housing is appropriate. I would like to see the below market rate units have a requirement of giving priority to low incomw local workers, with costs tied to their income. Otherwise it just ends up being a giveaway to tech workers because low-income people can't afford the BMR units. I think this could really help improve that whole area. And look at it this way, if they use a lot of the allotment for that area, the development won't go somewhere less appropriate and less well-planned.

I am not seeing enough discussion of sidewalks and walkability. A good sidewalk is not an obstacle course, and allows two people to walk side by side and talk, even if one is in awheelchair. It doesn't require interruptions every second or so to avoid an unnecessary obstacle. It should allow for a pleasant walking experience, not just getting from a to b. It shoukd be integrated in a beautiful way so it's not just a strip of concrete. How does this plan fare from that perspective?

I would love to see them factor in rising water levels, though.


17 people like this
Posted by The Greatest Commuters
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

Thankfully the Willow Road road diet and the Middlefield Road "redo" were finished just in time for this project. Thankfully multi-year 101 and University "upgrades" will be happening while this is under construction.

Thankfully, we the residents will get to pay for all these comuters who's be competing for housing so they'll push the prices up for when we sell or rent! $$$$$$$$$

Isn't planning great!


19 people like this
Posted by Housing type?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2017 at 11:16 am

PA Daily Post says "1500 homes" and then "1500 apartments" is stated on p. 38 in the remainder of the article. I am worried sbout extreme traffic gridlock on/near 101 myself, but IF these will be "homes" as in single famiky homes for families, then wgere will all the chikdren in these families attend school? If it's only apartments one would be less concerned. Overall, the developments is jyst an excuse for the 1.75 million square feet of new office space.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

It seems that the rail bridge instead of being rail would become a pedestrian biking bridge, but it would be interesting to put pod cars on this bridge alongside the bikes and pedestrians. The pods could be programmable with several destinations at each end to either go to Facebook, Google, Caltrain, etc.

Some innovation could be worked along this idea and perhaps Silicon Valley can be ahead on infrastructure this time instead of lagging behind.


22 people like this
Posted by seems responsible
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2017 at 11:21 am

IMO Facebook and Google are being responsible by building thousands of apt units to house at least a portion of their employees. It would be helpful if Palantir similarly provided housing for their many employees.


37 people like this
Posted by Larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2017 at 12:50 pm

So lets parse the numbers to see if we understand the plan. Feel free to chime in if I get anything wrong. The article states:

"This project would be on top of the 1.8 million square feet of office space the company currently occupies in Menlo Park"

and

"A total of 9,350 Facebook employees work in Menlo Park"

So currently, each Facebook employee occupies about (1,800,000 / 9350) = 192.5 square feet of office space.

Again from the article, the new plan has

"1.75 million square feet of office space, spread across nine office buildings"

So assuming the new campus will have similar density to Facebook's existing facilities, the new plan will provide space for (1,750,000 / 192.5) = 9090 new employees.

For reference, this is approximately 27% of Menlo Park's 2016 estimated population of 33,888 (per Wikipedia).

The plan also has

"1,500 rental apartments"

This represents an office-to-housing ratio of (9090 / 1500) = 6.06 new employees per housing unit. Even if we assume the employees double up as roommates in every one of these new apartments, the project will still generate (9090 - (2 * 1500)) = 6090 new commuters who will have to find housing elsewhere.

So it seems that even if it includes apartments in an attempt to mitigate the housing shortage and mollify the critics, the project in fact makes the shortage *worse* by adding many, many more jobs than houses.

It seems clear that this project and others like it elsewhere (Google's San Jose project, for instance), are actually the *main cause* of our housing affordability problem. Until we get serious about the only truly sustainable development ratio of one new housing unit for each new employee, we can expect the housing shortage and consequent sky high housing costs to worsen.





5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

"the project will still generate (9090 - (2 * 1500)) = 6090 new commuters who will have to find housing elsewhere."


Fortunately there are also 7,000 homes in East Palo Alto.


21 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm

"Why would Mark Zuckerberg DO such an awful thing to an area he claims to LOVE?"

@NoNoNo I think unfortunately what Mark Zuckerberg loves about Palo Alto is that it enabled him to become a multibillionaire. Ironically, perhaps, if those jobs went to local people, then his village could actually be a nice addition to the community and the region. But instead, he'll be bringing in many times more newcomers than he is adding housing units.


26 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2017 at 8:27 pm

A few stats that were omitted from the original article:

x 1,500 species of birds, fish, mammal and amphibians displaced or forced into extinction

x 1.75 million cubic feet of new pollution

x 225,000 additional monthly hours sitting in rush hour traffic

x 3,000 new H1-B visa allotments

x Seven development and tech titans that make a killing


2 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Zach
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2017 at 9:02 pm

"Willows Campus", how quaint. "Zuckerberg's perpetual traffic jam" will unfortunately, probably be more accurate.


25 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 11, 2017 at 12:33 am

I'm glad to see that so many people here really get the reality of what is happening in the Bay Area. All of this mega-development is bad. Bad because more development drives up housing prices and drives out local people. This development, as pointed out above, doesn't begin to house all of the people that it will employ. Say good by to the low wage workers in EPA and the Willows area of Menlo Park. Gentrification is the name of the game. It is also bad for others who live here. Increasing our traffic, adding to air pollution and with the overcrowding destroying more quality of life factors since as open space, parks, schools and other infrastructure. Plus there is the destruction of the rest of the environment - lose of open space for what few birds and mammals we still have in this area. Use of scare water. And what about putting all of this development where rising sea levels will have businesses asking tax payers to build them walls in a few decades.

The people to blame however are elected government officials. They feed at the trough of development and don't know how to say NO!- go build it elsewhere and take your workers and crowds and traffic with you. We need to elect leaders who believe that California is full and that we need to draw boundaries around the human population. Smart dedicated no growth environmentalists need to run for office and smart voters need to elect them if we want to save this area.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

Oakland is having problems with almost finished residential tower blocks being destroyed by arsonists. There have been 3 or 4 according to news reports. There was apparently some graffiti a year or so ago threatening, if you build them, we will burn them.

It is sad that there are people who look on these developments as a threat to their homes and livelihood rather than an opportunity to better themselves and their lives. However saying that, repaving nature with concrete is something that has been done in this area since the days of the Ohlone.

I have nothing against nature preservation but nature always changes and adapts.

I do think the vast number of jobs have to be balanced with better infrastructure. I am not a fan of the idea of living in a tower block or having views of them, but this development is a lot better than some of the ideas being put forward by developers of late.


13 people like this
Posted by Nancy Lowe
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 11, 2017 at 10:52 am

Larry has it right:

"Until we get serious about the only truly sustainable development ratio of one new housing unit for each new employee, we can expect the housing shortage and consequent sky high housing costs to worsen."

There are already horrific traffic jams impacting the lives of commuters because there is not enough housing for the people who do work here, resulting in the little housing that is available being wildly unaffordable.

Yes, some of us will prosper as the houses we own will be worth much more at increased misery of the many.
But the quality of life in this area will drop even more precipitously.

To further increase the jobs/housing imbalance is absolutely unthinkable.....I can't believe it is even being considered!


4 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm

The price of housing would not be so high if people thought this was an undesirable place to live.

Posters are as logical as Yogi Berra: Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.

Remember, Facebook is growing now but think of all of jobs and companies that have disappeared in recent year. You can't just add new Facebook jobs to the total of existing jobs. Other companies are failing and moving out all the time.


4 people like this
Posted by So Annoyed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Stupid. Just plain stupid.

Disregards other FB employees, residents of Menlo Park Palo Alto and probably RWC.

Zuck doesn't care if he, Apple, Google et al downgrade the quality of life from Cupertino to San Francisco.

Zuckerberg is living in his Ivory Tower which he seldom leaves; he hasn't a clue.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Addison School

on Sep 26, 2017 at 3:23 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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

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