BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Within 10 years, the number of Facebook employees in Menlo Park will reach 35,000, more than the city’s current population.
That prediction came Monday from Facebook Vice President of Global Facilities and Real Estate John Tenanes during a Planning Commission study session on the social media company’s plan to build what it calls the Willow Village on the former Prologis site, some 54 acres on the southeast corner of Willow Road and the Dumbarton rail spur.
On that site, Facebook wants to build 1.75 million square feet of office space, 1,500 apartments, 125,000-square feet of retail, a 200-room hotel, a visitor center and 5,319 parking spaces. The retail aspect of the plan calls for a grocery store and pharmacy.
Facebook currently has 15,000 employees in Menlo Park. The Village would accommodate another 9,500. The company also expects to have 10,500 employees at offices it is building on Constitution Drive and in the Bohannon office complex near the Marsh Road-Highway 101 interchange. Together, that would bring Facebook’s headcount to 35,000.
“That’s a big number,” Planning Commission member Katherine Strehl said to Tenanes.
Menlo Park’s population is 33,888.
Former Planning Commissioner Patti Fry, in a memo to the commission, said that the Village development will create a demand for 12,000 homes, worsening the city’s housing-jobs imbalance.
“As welcome as a grocery and pharmacy would be, they appear to come at a very high price, with greatly worsened unmet housing demand and gridlock,” Fry wrote.
The 1,500 apartments in the Village plan were required by the city in exchange for Facebook’s 1.3-million-square-foot expansion on Constitution Drive, which was approved by council on Nov. 1, 2016.
Fry pointed out that the zoning for the Village site would allow for 1,777 homes.
Commissioner Strehl said that while she finds the proposal exciting, she’s concerned about the traffic it would add — especially on Willow Road.
City Senior Planner Kyle Perata said an environmental impact report, which is the next step in the Village approval process, will examine how traffic created by the development can be mitigated.
Others who spoke at Monday’s study session, including other commissioners and residents, expressed similar concerns about traffic.
Commissioner Henry Riggs pointed out that the city currently doesn’t have any plans in the pipeline to improve streets or reduce traffic in the area.
While commissioners and residents were worried about traffic, they were pleased about Facebook’s four-phase plan to populate the village.
All of the office space, the first 500 apartments and most of the retail will be built in the first phase, which would be completed by 2021, according to Perata. However, only a third of the office space will be occupied, Tenanes said Monday.
The next two thirds of the housing and office space will be built and occupied in 2022 and 2023. The hotel and cultural center would be the last buildings constructed, with occupation set by 2025.
No vote was taken Monday because the meeting was a study session where commissioners and the public commented on the plan. Perata said preparing an environmental impact report is the next step. It will review problems caused by the development and assist the city in negotiating a development agreement with Facebook. The agreement will include requirements Facebook must meet to overcome the problems discovered in the environmental report.