11 April, 2012

Facebook, Menlo Park to release draft development deal

Facebook and the city of Menlo Park will release this week the terms of a draft development agreement that, when approved, would allow the social networking giant to continue adding employees at its new Menlo Park headquarters. 

The development agreement terms, which were still being negotiated late last week, will be made public late Thursday, April 12, when they are posted on the city of Menlo Park's website as part of the City Council's April 17 meeting agenda. This is a draft document that does not take effect until approved by the City Council and Facebook.

A link to the document will be posted on theAlmanac's website as soon as it is available.

However, the Almanac has learned from sources familiar with the negotiations that the following terms are likely to be included in the draft agreement:

• A multi-million dollar payment package, which will include payments to the city in lieu of taxes, as well as an additional one-time payment to the city.

• Public benefits for the neighboring communities of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto that will include a local community fund as well as job training and internship programs.

• Environmental investments and safeguards for the nearby San Francisco Bay wildlife and habitat.

• Economic incentives for Facebook employees to shop in Menlo Park, which will build on the "Facebucks" pilot program.

• A hard cap on the number of car trips permitted on and off Facebook's campus, which will carry a financial penalty for excess trips.

• Investments in traffic mitigations and infrastructure improvements as outlined in the Environmental Impact Report.

Facebook, which completed moving into the Menlo Park headquarters in December 2011, has a two-phased plan for expansion in Menlo Park.

Phase one, which this development agreement addresses, asks Menlo Park to swap the current 3,600 employee limit on Facebook's Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway location, at what is now called 1 Hacker Way, for a cap on the number of vehicle trips allowed to and from the campus.

In phase two Facebook would build additional offices and a parking garage on a site across the street on Constitution Drive, with an eventual total of as many as 9,400 employees on both sites.

Right now Facebook still has a number of empty buildings on the former Sun campus and as of late last week had about 2,000 employees.

The City Council plans to discuss and make recommendations on the terms of the phase one development agreement at its Tuesday, April 17, meeting.

A vote on the actual agreement is tentatively scheduled to take place at its first meeting in June.

According to City Attorney Bill McClure, who is acting as lead negotiator for the city, the agreement and the final environmental impact report will first go to the Planning Commission for a hearing, discussion and recommendations at a meeting now scheduled for May 7. 

On Menlo Park's negotiating team, in addition to McClure, are Public Works Director Chip Taylor, Development Services Manager Justin Murphy, and former city and former county manager David Boesch.

On Facebook's team are John Tenanes, Facebook's director of global real estate, and Justin Gurvitz, Facebook's real estate attorney.

In the meantime, Facebook has been cultivating relationships with its neighbors, including recently hiring Susan Gonzales as head of community engagement for the company. Gonzales, who started as a contractor for Facebook in 2011, has been attending meetings with community organizations.

According to company spokesman Tucker Bounds, Facebook has already engaged with a number of organizations in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

"Facebook has repeatedly shown a commitment to help build a stronger community and be a good neighbor," Bounds said. "More important than the robust development agreement we've invested in with the city, are the relationships we've started building with local nonprofits and school groups," he said.

According to Bounds, Facebook has worked with at least 20 organizations in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto including the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, the Ravenswood Education Foundation, the Belle Haven Community School, and Mt. Olive Church.

By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac

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