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Facebook Negotiates Land Use With City

Some say bikers are asking Facebook to do too much.

Local bicycle enthusiasts advocated for improvements to along the bay front to be included as part of the Facebook campus development project, before a packed house in the  Monday night. 

To their chagrin though, Menlo Park Planning Commissioners ruled that those requests fell outside of the purview of the projects draft , which was on the docket for discussion that night. Staff reports say the purpose of the meeting was to collect public comment about the EIR. 

A majority of the nearly 30 members of the public who addressed the commission spoke positively about the social media titan relocating its headquarters from Palo Alto to its new home on the Bayfront Expressway near Willow Road in Menlo Park.

"Facebook is a . It is not an insular organization," said Fran Dehn, Menlo Park resident and Chamber of Commerce CEO. 

"It has and continues to listen to the community." 

But not everyone agrees that their position has been heard. 

Some locals want more attention given to alternative forms of transportation that reduce the amount of pollution generated by the cars Facebook employees will use to get to work.

Bicyclists pled with Planning Commissioners to negotiate a way to connect an of the Bay Trail, which is a path near University Avenue and the border of East Palo Alto, with Facebook. They said it would allow the company's employees to commute safely up and down the Peninsula .

"Having safe year-round bike access is critical," said Richard Ellson, chair of the Moffett Park Business Group in Sunnyvale.

The ways that people will be able to access the new headquarters are being negotiated. last night that would swap the employee limit on the property for a vehicle trip limit. Entitlement restrictions on the east half of the campus allow a company to house a maximum of 3,600 employees.

Facebook has 2,000 there right now, according to a report prepared by city staff for the Planning Commission. The company has publicly stated that wants to have at least 9,400 employees by the time both halves of the property are completed, putting them thousands of employees over the limit.  In exchange for removing the employee limit, the company proposed restricting the amount of cars that ride to and from the campus to 15,000 per day. 

In the draft Environmental Impact Report process, the city's public works staff identified ways of accommodating that kind of influx of car traffic through improvements to intersections and other alterations such as adding lanes and turn lanes where feasible. 

But Public Works Director Chip Taylor said there is no way to quantify how making improvements to surrounding bike trails would impact people's transportation habits, or take cars off the road.

As a result, commissioners decided that negotiations with Facebook regarding potential improvements to the bike trail along the bay front would need to take place as part of the development agreement with the city.

"The EIR is not the place to get that done," said Planning Commissioner John O'Malley.

The city has scheduled upcoming study sessions to further receive public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report before the period closes on Jan. 23.

Facebook is expected to respond to many of the questions and concerns raised in the final report, which is due in April.

commuter January 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Facebook has promised to reduce car commuting traffic to their campus. Completing safe bike paths is a great way to do that. They should not be playing procedural games about this being outside the scope of the EIR.

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