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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Facebook and College Terrace and Palo Alto

Uploaded: Feb 10, 2011

FACT: the office complex that Facebook has occupied of late was several years ago negotiated to change to housing for Stanford employees. Agilent/HP was the previous tenant, but it is not a commercial space much longer. Facebook had to move.

DISAPPOINTMENT: I am not clear how hard Palo Alto tried to keep Facebook in town. There is commercial space in the Stanford Industrial Park. There may be a policy issue for our City Council about attracting and retaining major employers.

CULTURE QUESTIONS: The former Sun campus in MP is a very fine facility, but it is hard to get to by means other than automobile. I wonder how this will affect the culture of the Facebook and how it attracts and retains the type of employee to the company
Great eating on that former Sun campus, nada if you want to get out. Since these folks seem to work at all hours, I hope the food services operation will be geared to such an environment. Palo Alto could have used this to our advantage, given all the great places we have for eating.

CRITICISM: I honestly do not understand what some vocal members of College Terrace want. There is a rich history for this part of Palo Alto, dating to Jane Stanford back in the day. It also is unclear if the sentiments of the neighborhood that get press coverage reflect the views of a few, or of many.
What defines a neighbor, anyway?
A few people can make a difference, as I have observed in my Community Center neighborhood when the idea of a public restroom at Eleanor Pardee Park was basically killed by some neighbors who feared it would change the character of the park. This despite positive outcomes in other neighborhood parks in town when a restroom facility was built.

REVENUE STRATEGY: I have been of the opinion for years that Palo Alto lacks a revenue strategy. I have told City Council members about this in formal and informal comments, and written about it in our local papers. And we let Facebook go away?

Lots of issues here, part of living in a very complicated community.
What is it worth to you?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PA resident, a resident of ,
on Feb 10, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Paul, I completely agree with you. I think it is a big loss for the City, not only to lose such a profitable business and employer such as Facebook, but to turn into a sleepy residential housing is even worse. Palo Alto is lively and hip, but it seems the City and some vocal residents of College Terrace want to turn it into boring Atherton.

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Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Feb 10, 2011 at 11:13 pm


You raise some good points and for once I think you are blogging about something that this community should be concerned about.

Facebook started as a Palo Alto business and moved to its present site knowing that it would be short term. It was bound to move somewhere and it is really a shame that it had to move outside our city. We will miss them in many ways.

What is wrong is that Palo Alto and College Terrace seem to have got a bad rap from this. Whether Facebook looked for somewhere in Palo Alto and failed to find a suitable location is a good question. But even more important is the attitude that Palo Alto appears to have to promoting business. Whether it is retail, high tech or anything else (Stanford included) we are getting the reputation for being unfriendly towards business.

Nimbys, Palo Alto process, traffic and infrastructure, always seem to stand in the way of anything remotely sounding like attracting business whenever the possibility occurs. We are getting to be nothing but housing for commuters who travel outside the city and the only attraction for the housing is the schools.

Our City is looking tired compared to our neighbors. We need to start attracting business and retail. We need to slow down on housing and put more thought into making this city a pleasant place to live, work and provide recreation facilities. We need to move into the 21st century with state of the art facilities and attract innovative business and useful retail.

Facebook moving out of Palo Alto should be a wake up call as we wonder who will be next to leave.

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Posted by Too much traffic, a resident of ,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 6:40 am

Our city and the council do not know what they want--the talk about walkable neighborhoods, yet allow two neighborhood shopping centers to be lost. They say they want people to bike and walk, yet they want revenue form car dealerships. They want people to come to town to spend money, yet they constantly whine about "too much traffic".
Our councilmembers (and it does not matter who they are) are constantly working on their pet projects (ie. climate change) or are bulking up their resumes. When things go wrong (i.e PACT, utilities scandal, budget shortfalls etc) the council members (including lawyers, executives etc) claim they were misled or did not know.
As for College Terrace they seem to have the council wound around their little fingers--they get a remodeled library, endless traffic calming, permit parking, an unwritten rule that grocery stores cannot be too big so that it will not compete with their neighborhood store etc. Is it all of CT or just a whiny few? Who knows and who cares--bottom line College Terrace says jump and the council asks "how high?". To bad the rest of the city doe snot get the consideration that CT does
Even if Facebook could have stayed, why would they--they do not have the time to deal with a neighborhood with insatiable demands--i.e. Facebook runs shuttles to cut down on traffic--College Terrace whines about the shuttles!!!
I hope that the city takes a major financial hit from Facebook leaving. Maybe that will be a wake up all call that the city as a whole needs to be considered not just the selfish needs of a neighborhood who believe that the universe revolves around their petty desires.

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Posted by Paul, a resident of ,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

Three errors, Paul L. First, Stanford controls the Industrial Park, not the city. Second, Sun operated a very busy CalTrain shuttle bus while it was located on that campus. Third, there is a whole slew of eateries within easy walking distance.

I think Facebook's operation just got too big for any available location in Palo Alto. The city built its vacant land out to residences in the fifties and sixties; there is no suitable facility or vacant tract of land left. Plus, a pan-flasher like Facebook has to act fast before its wings melt (recall former-giant flameouts like Netscape and, ironically, Sun Microsystems). Facebook cannot afford the time to build a large facility.

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Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 10:42 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Paul of DTN--

The industrial park is indeed Stanford owned property, and the City of Palo Alto gets numerous revenue streams from the businesses that operate there. As I said, I am not clear what effort was made by Palo Alto officials to find a place in Palo Alto, be it in the Stanford Industrial Park, or elsewhere in the city.

You correctly observe that Sun operated a shuttle system to bring employees to and from campus. My understanding of the Facebook culture is that a large proportion of them walked or biked to work. I do not perceive the former Sun campus to be a walkable or bikeable venue. What's the impact on the culture of Facebook? Well beyond my job description, but it presents a different environment for people who work there. I hope they follow the Sun shuttle system model as part of way they run that campus.

Please tell me what the eateries are within easy (and safe) walking distance of that campus, other than the usual fast food chains on Willow Road.

Time will tell what happens to Facebook as a company. Numerous companies in this part of the world have multiple locations. As nice as it may be to have one location for employees, it eventually is not feasible when a company enjoys continued success. Facebook has options on other land parcels in MP, so they clearly plan to have their footprint there, and it remains a sad development that the company will have no commercial presence in Palo Alto.

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Posted by Jim H., a resident of ,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

Palo Alto was here before Facebook, it will be here when they leave. Google moved from PA to MV in 1999. The world didn't implode.

True, Palo Alto, needs to stop scaring away business. But, the core of this city is not in any single business. Now, if Stanford decided to up and leave, that'd be a totally different story...

The city should also be looking at cutting costs more aggressively. Whenever I hear the city complain that they MIGHT have to lay someone off, I cringe. Companies have been laying people off for the past 2 years now.

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Posted by Joe, a resident of ,
on Feb 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Sorry, I know this may sound crazy, but I disagree that isn't any available room in Palo Alto for a new "research park" campus. The city has plenty of land that could be used and it's near a major highway. Palo Alto just happens to be wasting this this valuable resource on the golf course and airport.

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