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BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Menlo Park took a step on Monday (Dec. 16) toward requiring Facebook to build as many homes as the jobs it creates if it is allowed to build its giant Willow Village project.
Three of the five City Council members said they want an environmental impact report to consider the option of requiring Facebook to build as many homes as the estimated 9,500 new employees who would work in the Village on Willow Road.
That’s a departure from the norm in the mid-Peninsula. Usually cities allow developers to build office projects that bring in new employees, but don’t force the developers to provide an equal number of homes.
Housing advocates say that’s one of the causes of the acute housing shortage locally.
Last night, Councilwomen Betsy Nash, Cecilia Taylor and Catherine Carlton all asked a consultant preparing the environmental report to study a full mitigation alternative for housing on the Willows project.
Nash pointed out that the previous two Facebook campuses approved by Menlo Park City Council produced jobs that required 3,257 new homes.
“We had zero built,” Nash said.
Nash asked city attorneys Bill McClure and Leigh Prince if there is a way to assure council that the Facebook development would be balanced when it comes to housing supply and demand.
Prince pointed out that the council will be entering into a development agreement with Facebook, and a housing requirement could be addressed in that document. But she said that she would keep looking into it.
Councilwoman Carlton added that the council has been dealing with Facebook during her entire eight years on council, and that the council keeps being told the housing will come.
She said now is the time to balance job creation with housing.
No new car trips
Taylor asked that the report look at an alternative with no new car trips, similar to Stanford’s 2000 growth agreement with Santa Clara County. The city’s planning commission in October said it wanted the consultant to look at a similar alternative.
Facebook wants to build 1,735 homes as part of its Willow Village project, but would bring in some 9,500 employees in the 1.75 million square feet of office space it wants to build.
Using the metric that 1.5 people live together, some 6,333 homes would have to be built to accommodate the new employees.
This means to balance out all of its development in Menlo Park, Facebook would have to build some 9,590 homes, according to the Post’s calculations.
Environmental impact reports, or EIRs, are funded by developers but are done by consultants who are supposed to be independent. The report will identify the impacts of a project and offer solutions.
Council members last night discussed what they would like to see included in the report, which is due out in fall 2020. The final report should come out in 2021, which is likely when the council will vote on the project.