Questions fly over Facebook's 'Willow Village' campus | News | Palo Alto Online |


Questions fly over Facebook's 'Willow Village' campus

Company hopes to expand workforce to size of Menlo Park's total population within 10 years

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Facebook's proposal to create a new neighborhood in Menlo Park and add enough office space to cumulatively accommodate a workforce the size of Menlo Park's current total population – more than 33,000 – raised some questions from the Menlo Park Planning Commission during a Feb. 26 discussion.

The company has proposed to build a massive development project it's calling "Willow Village," which would include nine office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet; 1,500 housing units, 225 of which would be designated as "below market rate"; 126,500 square feet of retail space for a grocery store, pharmacy and food and beverage services; a 200-room hotel; a culture/visitor center; a total of 5,319 parking spaces; and about 18 acres of open space, eight of which would be publicly accessible.

The proposed residential buildings would range in height from 61 to 72 feet and the office building would range in height from 74 to 112.5 feet.

The site is now home to a collection of commercial office, warehouse, and research and development structures totaling about 1 million square feet.

The 59-acre property is located on the south side of Willow Road about a quarter-mile west of Bayfront Expressway, bounded roughly by Mid Peninsula High School to the west, Willow Road to the north, the Dumbarton rail corridor to the east, and the UPS Center and Pacific Biosciences office (on O'Brien Drive and Adams Court) to the south.

Facebook proposes to elevate the site in accordance with the city's requirements to be above the flood plain and protected from sea level rise.

A presentation by Facebook showed future scenes of pedestrians and cyclists out shopping at a proposed grocery store, pharmacy and other food or beverage establishments, or enjoying publicly accessible park space on a site now clustered with unremarkable light industrial office buildings.

According to Facebook Vice President of Global Facilities and Real Estate John Tenanes, the company plans to be able to, within 10 years, have about 35,000 employees at its Menlo Park properties east of U.S. 101, which include the proposed offices and new office building associated with the Bohannon Companies' Menlo Gateway development.

Facebook has also committed to lease the entirety of the newly completed office building and two more planned office buildings, according to a Facebook spokesperson. Combined, the three buildings are expected to offer about 700,000 square feet of office space when complete.

Currently, about 15,000 Facebook employees work in Menlo Park, Tenanes said. (Menlo Park's population was 33,319 in 2016, according to population estimates in the American Community Survey.)

The company proposes to build the project in four phases, with occupancy planned to begin in 2021; occupancy of the remaining phased-in development would occur in 2022, 2023 and 2025.

The first phase would include about 70 percent of the total proposed square footage for the neighborhood retail street, including a grocery store, plus the first 500 of the total 1,500 housing units proposed and one-third of the office development.

The second and third phases would add the remaining two-thirds of the office space and housing units proposed. The fourth phase would include the installation of a proposed 200-room hotel and a cultural or visitors' center.

Community response

Initial concerns expressed by the planning commissioners were standard for most new developments: How will the project affect the city's jobs-housing balance and how will traffic be impacted?

When Facebook moved to Menlo Park in 2010 and 2011, Tenanes said, the company had about 2,500 employees. Today, the company has 75 locations worldwide, he said.

In public comments, Menlo Park resident Adina Levin noted that with the addition of an expected minimum of 7,000 jobs, and only 1,500 housing units, the proposed development is "still pushing the (jobs-housing) balance in a difficult direction." She encouraged the commission to focus on bike and pedestrian amenities, which would get people out of their cars and thus reduce traffic.

Several locals said they appreciated the public outreach that Facebook officials had done already but still had some concerns.

Sheryl Bims added that she believed the city should develop a plan to underground utilities and improve public landscaping and streetscapes in the neighborhood. She also urged the commission to start talking about education.

"As a community, Belle Haven is at a place where we are ready to separate from Ravenswood to become a new district or part of Menlo Park," she said.

George Yang said he hoped to see improved public transit options along the Dumbarton Bridge, including a transit loop connecting the South Bay.

Commissioner John Onken asked staff if a development ever reaches a point where the impacts are so severe that a project is actually halted. "As a community, we see EIRs (environmental impact reports) endlessly. ... We say, 'Oh no, well that's going to be lousy. There's not much we can do.'"

Ultimately, city planner Kyle Perata said, that decision is up to the City Council. If a study finds environmental impacts that are determined to be significant and unavoidable, those must be cleared by the council through what's called a "statement of overriding considerations."

According to Perata, city staff have begun preliminary steps on the environmental impact review process, but no timeline has been established yet. The city is likely to release a "notice of preparation" document that asks the public to weigh in on what potential environmental impacts should be evaluated in the city's study in the coming months, he said.

In addition, Facebook officials also plan to host their own public meetings in the coming weeks to provide information about the proposed development.

Scheduled meetings are:

● Saturday, March 3, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Menlo Park Senior Center, 110 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park.

● Saturday, March 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Senior Center at 560 Bell St. in East Palo Alto.

● Thursday, March 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St. in Menlo Park. is the sister publication of and covers Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside and Atherton.

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49 people like this
Posted by Let's Say "No"
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Menlo Park is already besieged with problems. Facebook should not be allowed to make any roads, freeways, trains, or schools more crowded than they are already. Otherwise, the rest of us are paying a high price for Facebook's unwillingness to be a good neighbor.

23 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm

If I understand the overall outline correctly, the project will make the jobs/housing imbalance - as defined by ABAG / State of California - WORSE. That sounds like a no-no. The project needs to be re-structured so that it improves the jobs/housing balance.

4 people like this
Posted by Amazing
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2018 at 1:55 pm

What if it works and turns into something nice.... Maybe we all should butt out and let Menlo Park decide what they want.

33 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 28, 2018 at 2:08 pm

"Facebook proposes to elevate the site in accordance with the city's requirements to be above the flood plain and protected from sea level rise."

so we are creating a future Facebook island that will displace floods level waters onto nearby roads and homes! WOW

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Will there be bus routes, shuttles between Facebookville and downtown Menlo and downtown Palo Alto? If so will they be for employees only?

What is Palo Alto going to do about providing extra parking at offramps for commuters?

This will affect Palo Alto in so many ways! Now is the time to prepare not when the work has been completed!

54 people like this
Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Sheri Furman is a registered user.

Still pushing the false assumption that people will work next to where they live. 20,000 more jobs but only 1500 housing units? How gullible are we?

22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 28, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

This raised "SOME" questions? What an understatement.

30 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 28, 2018 at 8:20 pm

"How gullible are we?"

Depends ... how much money's involved?

28 people like this
Posted by 1:1
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2018 at 9:28 pm

If they can only build 1777 units, they should only add office space to support 1777 jobs. It actually should be fewer cubicles per unit given the existing jobs/housing imbalance. In reality, I'd prefer zero additional office space and zero population growth at the local, state, and national levels. Let the jobs distribute elsewhere rather than moronically trying to cram them all into the SF Bay Area.

38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2018 at 10:06 pm

So the question has to be if only FB employees can live in the village?

What happens if they have spouses who work elsewhere?

What happens if they get a job elsewhere, do they have to move?

What are the rules about only allowing employees live in a certain development?

How will this affect East Menlo and EPA rents and house prices? (I know the answer to this one).

20 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2018 at 10:55 am

Still no public high school in EPA :(

8 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2018 at 11:43 am

"Otherwise, the rest of us are paying a high price for Facebook's unwillingness to be a good neighbor."

As you sip your coffee in a house that has appreciated dramatically over the last 30 years. In Crescent Park, no less. That appreciation doesn't magically appear without people who want to buy houses.

11 people like this
Posted by FB neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2018 at 12:40 pm

I live right off Willow and all I ask is to build another way/bridge for people to get to the eastbay! It is a nightmare!!! To many people for such a small bridge!

12 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Wow...people seem to lose sight of the fact that FB has contributed GREATLY to the local economy and community development. Sure there has been and will be more painful dislocation and growth issues, but that is an unfortunate side effect of developing a vibrant, growing community. Most regions would bend over backwards to attract a FB-like growth engine (witness the recent effort to attract Amazon HQ2). I have no connection to FB, but as a longtime home owner in East Palo Alto, I appreciate the contributions that they have made to the community and fully support their responsible expansion locally. I sincerely hope that our elected officials will allow the region to continue to develop in a sensible manner.

16 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Where is all of the water going to come from for flushing these 1777 toilets four or five times a day?

11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Posted by Rick, a resident of East Palo Alto

>> Wow...people seem to lose sight of the fact that FB has contributed GREATLY to the local economy and community development.

How does that contribution create the additional housing necessary to meet the demand created by the new employees?

The project, as described, makes the local housing imbalance worse. MP will inevitably be "blamed" for that by ABAG et al.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Anyone recall this:
Web Link
I'm sure the billions were well spent!?

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:28 pm

facebook and Google are desirable “anchors” in the local region, but it would be great if they would engage at a more helpful/greater level with our major regional challenges of: a *variety* of housing, roads, bridges, schools, parks and transit. They have the money, and it would be very appreciated.

27 people like this
Posted by Roca Thompson Welch
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Grew up in Menlo Park. I think we could just change the name of East Menlo Part to Facebook. Working nearby now, I do not understand why Facebook keeps expanding. Why not spread the joy - to maybe Wisconsin or Pennsylvania?

Quality of life here diminishes every day. Traffic us up 70% in just 5 years. City Councils seem to believe that they are here to "help the local economy". Well, the economy is just fine. The people are not.

Whatever happened to the previous Facebook commitments to provide a grocery store and other infrastructure in exchange for their getting more and more space?

11 people like this
Posted by Train
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 1, 2018 at 9:07 pm

Only if they refurbish the old dumbarton train tracks and connect to bart

21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2018 at 11:17 am

mauricio is a registered user.

This is perfectly in tune with ABAG/PAF and all the hyper growth philosophy that all tech jobs absolutely must be located in the SF Bay area, as close to Stanford as possible. According to Steve Levy, it's entirely impossible and impractical for tech companies to branch out, move some operations to other states or entirely reloicate elsewhere, and of course, tech workers absolutely must live within biking distance from their workplace, especially since the tech industry is so static, very few of them would ever change jobs. Since this will worsen the job/housing imbalance, the usual suspects will cry that much more housing must be created to solve the job/housing imbalance(that they keep creating)

Looking at fit this way, it makes sense for tech companies to create villages inside cities. Palo Alto should be named Palantir City, Menlo Park is soon to be known as Facebook City, and Mountain View has been Google City for quite awhile.

1 person likes this
Posted by Housing and Transit
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm

I am astonished how ill prepared for progress the Silicon Valley has been...We usher in the tech age but ailed to plan adequate housing and efficient commutes...The salaries are well above average, yet many cant find a place to live and find a way to work other than car, with a horrible commutes. Developers turn commercial buildings from blueprint to fully occupied, with parking, seemingly overnight, but pay little attention to where a person lives or what direction he came to occupy that new building. And that same developer bemoans the family family living in a Recreational Vehicle who just so happens to have the job cleaning up their new buildings after all the occupants drive their shiny new cars to their shiny new homes. And the workers in that newly developed building deliver their cars, like day care, where they sit in studio sized "stalls" all day...Our cars are treated better than people, and just wait until the singularity when cars decide how they should be treated. The Bay Area is ranked as the least diverse work place on the Technological planet. White and Asian people rule the tech domain, while the rest are just plain. So, among the hustle and haste we live in a Tech advanced Place that has squandered its Space. We can do better than this.

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