Above is an illustration of the proposed garage that Facebook submitted to the city.
BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Menlo Park Planning Commission last night (Oct. 16) reluctantly recommended approval of Facebook’s eight-level parking garage on the east side of town.
The commission wasn’t happy with the project even though Facebook had acceded to its wishes to shrink the project from 84 feet to 75 and remove the mesh screen surrounding the structure, which would face the Bayfront Expressway just east of Chilco Street.
Facebook’s Campus Development Director Fergus O’Shea said the company has looked at 70 different iterations of the parking garage before settling on the design that went to the commission last night.
“I appreciate that you’ve done 70 iterations, but maybe we need that 71st iteration,” said Commissioner Larry Kahle.
This was the second time the commission has reviewed the project. In May, the commission had told Facebook to redesign the eight-level, 84-foot-tall parking garage. The commission wanted a garage that looked shorter and was less bulky.
75-foot height limit
But because of space constraints and ground water concerns — the structure would be across the street from the marsh — only one level of underground parking was possible, Facebook said. That meant the company would only be able to lower the building from 84 feet to 75 feet.
The city can’t force Facebook to shorten the project any more than 75 feet because that was the previously agreed upon height limit for the company’s 1.3-million-square-foot office expansion along Constitution Drive.
The commission ultimately voted 4-1, with commissioner Andrew Barnes dissenting, to have Facebook work with Senior City Planner Kyle Perata to find a way to make the garage appear smaller.
Facebook will redesign the garage and once plans are made, Perata may circulate the plans to the commission, which can then determine if the redesigned garage is OK.
The Planning Commission’s recommendation last night will go Nov. 7 to City Council, which will have the final say.
Money for police
While the commission had difficulty recommending the revised garage plans, it happily recommended a change to the Facebook development agreement with the city to require the social network to pay $9 million over five years in order for the city to hire six additional officers.
Initially, Facebook was going to voluntarily fork over the $9 million, but Councilman Ray Mueller said he was concerned that it looked too much like a bribe. So the city decided to require the company to pay the $9 million instead. He said that putting the $9 million in the development agreement would eliminate any precedent created of a developer bribing the city to have a project approved.
What happens when the $9 million runs out? In five years, the city will be making enough money in property taxes from Facebook’s expansion and other expected projects to fund the officers on its own, according to an earlier report by city Administrative Services Director Nick Pegueros.
This would not be the first time Facebook gave the city money for police services.
In 2013, Facebook began funding a police substation in the strip shopping center at Willow Road and Hamilton Avenue where Jack in the Box is located.
The substation is about 400 feet from Facebook’s entrance on the Bayfront Expressway. In 2014, the social media company also began paying for a truancy officer in the schools.