Tonight: Menlo Park council considers Facebook's offer to fund police officer

When the new Belle Haven substation opens this spring, it may come with a larger police staff than expected for at least three years.

Facebook, with headquarters located not far from the where the substation will open within a strip mall at Hamilton Avenue and Willow Road, is offering to pay the city up to $200,000 a year for three years to fund a sworn officer position. It will also consider renewing the agreement for two years after that.

The officer's work would focus on schools and kids, with priorities that include responding to any school incidents; creating programs for first-time juvenile offenders as well as truancy enforcement; and collaborating with gang and traffic units, according to a city staff report.

City Attorney Bill McClure said that to his knowledge, this is the first time a company has offered to foot the bill for a police officer. He noted that Facebook is also helping to pay for the new substation itself.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement during its March 4 meeting.

What the council won't be voting on tonight is whether to allow the large-scale renovation of an apartment complex, Sharon Green at 350 Sharon Park Drive, has been postponed at the property owner's request.

City staff said the site's owner, BRE Properties, asked for more time to consider possible design changes based on public comments received.

The Planning Commission voted 5-1, with Vince Bressler opposed and Henry Riggs absent, to allow the project to proceed to council for final approval of the conditional use permit and heritage tree removals, although a revised site design didn't adhere to recommendations made by the Environmental Quality Commission.

The plan earmarks 42 heritage trees for destruction instead. Thanks to a plan to plant new trees, the property would end up with 206 more trees than it has, according to the staff report.

The renovations would add a new two-story recreation center and a 2,000-square-foot leasing office to the 16-acre site, in addition to making improvements throughout the complex, such as a new dog park, bocce ball court and barbecue courtyard.

The changes would increase building coverage on the site to 40 percent, which is 10 percent over the amount allowed under city code.

BRE has said the improvements are necessary, citing as an example the cramped quarters of the current leasing office, which shares space with the clubhouse, fitness center and maintenance department. The new leasing office would be more visible to prospective tenants.

Challenged by commissioners as well as neighbors as to whether the complex needs such a large makeover in light of an occupancy rate of about 96 percent, with monthly rents ranging from $2,700 to $5,200, BRE countered that tenant turnover is also high.

Click here to review the full agenda. Tonight's meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. with a closed session for labor negotiations, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. To watch it live online, go to the city's website.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just say NO
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Facebook getting to dictate a police officer's job responsibilities? Public servants taking orders from Facebook? Crazy business. If Facebook wants security, then they can hire more Private Security officers. Facebook wants the City of Menlo Park to provide a private Police Officer and pass the costs associated with the FaceBook police officer to taxpayers in the City of Menlo Park. If there is a greater Police presence needed in the Belle Haven area or on the Facebook Campus, then Facebook is welcome to donate $$ to the City to help make that a reality. But if they want special police patrols of their business, then they should hire private security. ONE police officer is hardly the solution to the gang problems plaguing East Menlo Park. A broader solution is necessary if crime prevention and community engagement in the area is the goal. Selling out to the highest bidder - Facebook - and privatizing our police force isn't the the solution.

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