News - October 19, 2011

Facebook goes social with Menlo Park

by Sandy Brundage

When someone moves into a new home, usually at some point there's a housewarming party, and Facebook proved no exception by inviting city luminaries to see its new Menlo Park campus on Thursday, Oct. 13.

In the spirit of encouraging Facebook's ambitious goal to have at least half its employees use alternative means of transport to get to work, a group of 10 bicyclists rode from Cafe Zoe down Willow Road to the campus. Environmental Quality Commissioner Adina Levin said the road is a key route to Facebook that could be made safer, and that other rides are planned to explore other routes.

The closed event drew an eclectic crowd, including Rich Cline, Glen Rojas, Bill McClure, and other city officials past and present, but not Facebook's commander in chief, Mark Zuckerberg. According to guests, the company's chief financial officer, David Ebersman, told the crowd that Facebook wants to play a community role in the city and particularly in the Belle Haven neighborhood where it's located.

Once inside the party, bicyclist and former mayor Steve Schmidt said he'd reflected on how lucky Menlo Park was to have a space that attracted the social networking company, after losing other businesses that outgrew their facilities.

"What we are seeing today is a perfect example of how a questionable development idea can in the long run turn out to be a benefit to the city and even to the Bay Area," he said in an email. "While Menlo Park is in the midst of creating a downtown/El Camino Real plan that will work for the future, we should keep in mind the wisdom and optimism of long range planning."

He used Raychem, the original owner of the Facebook site, as an example, saying that 25 years ago the city was careful to include a bayside trail, Caltrain shuttles, and limited parking as part of the site's development.

The guests took a tour of Facebook headquarters, according to Brielle Johnck, guided by an employee who said that traces of former occupant Sun Microsystems were left intact as a reminder that nothing lasts forever. She noted that some of the exposed beams still bear measurements made by construction workers 25 years ago.

After dining on sushi made on the spot and other delicacies, the guests left bearing gifts of a navy blue reusable shopping bag containing a mug and a Facebook post-it pad with pen, Ms. Johnck said.


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