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Menlo Park set to approve Facebook campus expansion plan

May 29, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Facebook currently has about 2,200 employees at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Above, John Tenanes, Facebook's director of global real estate.
Facebook currently has about 2,200 employees at its headquarters in Menlo… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The city council in Menlo Park, Calif., is set to approve a deal that will let Facebook employ thousands more people at its headquarters there.

Mayor Kirsten Keith says officials are expected to green light the environmental impact report and the development agreement at a meeting Tuesday night. City staff has recommended the city approve the deal.

That means Facebook employees, currently numbering about 2,200 in Menlo Park, will soon be able to stretch out. If the deal is approved, Facebook will be able to employ about 6,600 workers in Menlo Park, up from its current limit of 3,600. That was the constraint on Sun Microsystems, which previously occupied the campus.

Facebook will pay Menlo Park an average of $850,000 a year over 10 years to compensate for the additional load on the city. It will also make a one-time payment of more than $1 million for capital improvements and set up community services such as high school internship and job training programs. Facebook is also creating a $500,000 local community fund that will dole out grants and charitable contributions to communities surrounding Facebook's campus.

Facebook is making the payments because Menlo Park can’t collect sales taxes from Facebook.

"Facebook has consistently shown a commitment to being a good neighbor to the local community," Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said. "The relationships that we've built along the way are incredibly important to us as we begin making Menlo Park our permanent home."

Next, Menlo Park will begin negotiations with Facebook over its proposed expansion to another campus on the other side of the Bayfront Expressway. The social network has proposed constructing five new buildings and adding about 440,000 square feet to its footprint to the west of its current campus.

Facebook bought a 22-acre site for the companion campus it plans to build on the other side of the divided highway. Facebook plans to connect the two campuses through an underground crossing wide enough for cars. Facebook will install a people mover in the crossing to ferry its staffers back and forth to the new west campus that it hopes to have ready by 2014. The two campuses will give Facebook room for as many as 9,400 employees.

Keith said the environmental impact report the City Council is expected to vote on also includes the other campus.

“The bottom line is that we have a development agreement with Facebook that we’re excited about,” Keith said. “We’re excited to have Facebook as our neighbors. I am pleased with what we have come up with.”

Not everyone has signed off on Facebook's expansion, however. The neighboring city of Atherton said the environmental impact report does not address traffic that will affect its residents, particularly at one busy intersection.

Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer said his city continues to discuss the matter with Menlo Park officials but they have not come to an agreement.

“They have proposed some alternative changes to the intersection that we believe don’t provide the smooth traffic flow nor do they provide safe traffic flow,” Widmer said. “We have asked for some additional dialogue and some willingness on the part of Menlo Park to listen to us and to try to work with us.”

Keith said the two cities would continue to try to reach a compromise about traffic concerns. Facebook has said it will encourage employees to take company shuttles, public transit or to carpool, or to bike to work.

“We are having ongoing discussions to come up with a solution that everyone can feel good about,” Keith said.

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