Belle Haven residents give Facebook a thumbs-up | News | Almanac Online |


Belle Haven residents give Facebook a thumbs-up


Facebook officials say they have built a positive relationship with residents of the Belle Haven neighborhood adjoining their headquarters.

It is difficult to find Belle Haven residents who don't agree.

An Almanac reporter met with a number of Belle Haven residents in the past several months, many of them known to be outspoken advocates for their neighborhood, to ask them about the newcomer in their midst.

They range from Rose Bickerstaff, who has lived in Belle Haven for more than 40 years, to Juliana Parker, a 16-year-old who has been there for eight years.

Rachel Bickerstaff, the president of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Association, says she "married into the neighborhood" when she married Rose's son David, and brought up two daughters there who are now 17 and 21.

"It's been all pros for me as far as Facebook being in the neighborhood," Rachel Bickerstaff says. "They care about what we want."

Vicky Robledo says that her biggest concern about Facebook "is how their community is going to integrate into our community." While most Facebook employees are white, Asian or from India, "our community is black and Latino," she says. "Belle Haven is such a wonderful diverse community."

Sheryl Bims says that while traffic is bad in the area, if "Facebook just disappeared, I'd still be stuck not being able to get out of my driveway."

Whitney Hoermann says she agrees that "Facebook is doing a lot of really good things," and in fact "they get asked to do, and they agree to do, way too much."

"That bothers me," she says. "They are paying for things the city doesn't pay for."

Rose Bickerstaff says that "all the things that have been proposed and have been done by Facebook have been very attractive and an improvement to this community."

It would be surprising to find Juliana Parker saying anything bad about Facebook. The company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been a mentor for her and three other local students since they were in eighth grade.

"Every month we do a dinner," she says. "We have one-on-ones and he asks us about our grades. He makes sure we're doing OK academically, emotionally."

And if that's not enough, Juliana also did a six-week internship for Facebook this summer along with 20 other students from Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and San Francisco. As part of her internship, she traveled to London. "I got to learn a little bit about what it's like to work for Facebook," she says.

While Juliana says some of her friends' rent has gone up so much they are afraid they may have to move out of the area, she thinks the neighborhood has improved.

"I've noticed a change in the community," she says. "It's actually pretty quiet now." With the new police substation and other changes, "now I feel so much safer," she says.

Ramon Sanchez, whose backyard gate opens to the community garden that Facebook is helping the Rotary Club of Menlo Park support, says he is just happy to have a place where he can smell a tomato that "reminds me of my grandparents' village in Mexico for some reason."

Rachel Bickerstaff says her 21-year-old daughter Mercedes, who will graduate from the University of Arizona in December, also did a Facebook internship. Where is Mercedes hoping to work when she graduates?


"They love her, and she loves them," Rachel Bickerstaff says.

See related story here.

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6 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm

It would be interesting and useful to hear balanced criticism based on this large corporation's presence, not just the good stuff.

I'm glad that Facebook, rather than the city, is paying for various projects. It's the least that they can do when they dodge taxes, as is standard with so many other companies.

We've been force fed so much good news about these companies it's easy to be blinded to their negative impacts. Note the glossing over of skyrocketing rents, which actually has a number of residents in BH terrified. Will the upcoming residents' displacement be glossed over, too?

4 people like this
Posted by Well now...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

This all sounds rosy and cozy, but I too, am concerned about the displacement and huge rent increases for anyone in the low income category as this part of Menlo Park develops further. What part is facebook doing to preserve the affordable aspect of Belle Haven? When they speak of building huge complexes for their team, could they also built for low income as a tax write off and as a trade off for any displacement? Then I would be impressed.

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