"Please don't put the squeeze on (Facebook)," one woman told the Menlo Park City Council. She echoed prevailing public sentiment as the council set the broad parameters for negotiations over Facebook's development of its west campus on Constitution Drive.
David Ebersman, the social networking company's chief financial officer, shared some thoughts on how negotiations should go. The new project differs from the east campus in important ways, he told the council. While "generous public benefits" were reasonable for the east campus, the west campus presents a lasting benefit to Menlo Park with only a modest impact on infrastructure, he said.
The east campus development agreement netted the city millions of dollars as well as infrastructure improvements and other benefits that include a recently launched foundation with a $500,000 seed fund for local nonprofit grants.
Public speakers at the Oct. 30 council meeting agreed that there may be such a thing as asking too much.
"Menlo Park is now branded as Facebook's home, and that brand is priceless," said Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn.
Speakers from JobTrain shared how the company's efforts have already helped clients find work. One resident said that they wanted to click "a superlike" button to convey their appreciation for what Facebook has brought to Menlo Park.
This new round of negotiations centers on Facebook's proposal to build a sprawling office in a forest designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.
The 433,555-square-foot, single-room building would perch on top of approximately 1,540 parking spaces, and blend into the landscape with gardens that wind their way up from the ground to a rooftop terrace. Garden pavilions would mark the entrances at ground level off Constitution Drive. Facebook plans to have about 2,800 engineers work at the site.
The council agreed with the general negotiating goals laid out by staff: an ongoing source of direct revenue, a way to keep benefits associated with the headquarters even if Facebook leaves that campus, and penalties for violating negotiated traffic caps. The east campus agreement carries stiff daily penalties of $500 to $100,000, depending on the number of violations.
Councilman Rich Cline encouraged the city to evaluate the development's impact over time. Local school district representatives have raised concerns that an influx of Facebook employees will eventually lead to more students in already-crowded schools.
Negotiating on behalf of Menlo park are City Attorney Bill McClure, Public Works Director Chip Taylor, Development Services Manager Justin Murphy, and City Manager Alex McIntyre. Mayor Kirsten Keith and Mr. Cline serve as liaisons between the team and council. A draft of the new development agreement should be presented for public review sometime in February, according to staff.