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"Live, Work, Play" or "Commute, Work, Commute"?

From: domainremoved <Jennifer>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2018 16:17:53 -0800

Dear City Council and Planning Commission Members,

I attended with great interest Monday night's Planning Commission meeting
to better understand Facebook's Willow Village plan. While I left impressed
with the phasing plans, design team and some of the concepts presented, I
also walked away with many questions and concerns:

Traffic Mitigation

Given the scope of the new Facebook project, I am underwhelmed by the
traffic mitigations mentioned at the meeting, by both Facebook reps and
City Staff.

Here is what Facebook mentioned:
- A $100,000 investment in setting up a Transportation Management
Association for downtown businesses. Compare that investment to Facebook's
2017 revenue of over $40 billion.
- Facebook's Transportation Demand Management Program. This is mostly made
up by the Facebook buses. About 50% of Facebook employees arrive in modes
other than single occupancy vehicles. Great.
- Hints of the reactivation of the Dumbarton Corridor...assuming that it is
"time and cost efficient." Promises of more studies on that.
- Underparking. They mentioned 1.7 parking spaces per 1,000.
- The future of autonomous vehicles.

Here is what City Staff mentioned:
- The same Transportation Management Association mitigation ($100,000 from
Facebook) already mentioned above.
- The Transportation Master Plan. Note: This is a a plan that helps to
identify and prioritize transportation efforts. While the plan is a "Top 6"
priority for the City, it is still a year away from being adopted
(projected for Spring of 2019)...and then there's project identification,
funding and implementation. We are years away from any relief associated
with the Transportation Master Plan.

While many claim that Facebook is a good neighbor and partner, they need to
prove it. In exchange for their mass amounts of office development (35,000
workers projected to be coming to MP in the next 10 years) there must be
extensive community benefits. Teases of Dumbarton bridge help and $100,000
program investments aren't enough. We need concrete and immediate
transportation action. While Facebook pointed out that most of the Willow
Road traffic in MP is not theirs, they admitted on Monday that 15% of it is
Facebook. That's a lot of Facebook cars. They must do more other than fund
studies and small programs to address our traffic crisis. The City must
hold them accountable to real action and tangible benefits. The City and
Facebook must apply the same intensity and can-do attitude to real
transportation solutions as they are doing to push through the Facebook
Willow Village.

On that note, what is the real plan for the giant Culture/Visitor Center
that is planned for the corner of Willow Road and the Dumbarton Corridor?
There is talk that this could be converted into a transportation hub if the
Dumbarton Corridor is activated. Can we get further explanations and
commitments from Facebook about this? It appears highly unlikely that this
will indeed be a Culture/Visitor Center (there is only so much Facebook
swag people can buy). Please be upfront with us.

Housing

Two things jumped out at me with regards to housing...other than there will
be 9,500 new jobs with only 1,500 new residential units:
- It appears that Facebook can build 1,777 residential units, not just
1,500. They must do that. Every unit counts.
- There was a discussion at the meeting about who the non-BMR residential
units will be serving. It appears that to date, Facebook is allowed to give
preferential treatment to Facebook employees for the rentals (assuming no
discrimination laws are broken). Is that a good thing or not? I'm not sure.
This definitely needs to be discussed and not left entirely to Facebook to
decide.

Retail Shopping Area

Many times at Monday's meeting the planned grocery store was touted as a
major community benefit (and one of the ones most highly desired by Belle
Haven residents). A grocery store was a top need that came out of the
ConnectMenlo process and that's great. However, for whom is the grocery
store and associated retail area actually being designed for? I asked this
question on Monday and was told that it was for both the community and
Facebook...that leaves me to these further observations/questions with
regards to different intended users of this retail (Belle Haven Residents,
Facebook Employees, Other Menlo Park Residents, Commuters):

- Belle Haven Residents.
It is unclear what type of grocery store and what types of restaurants and
retail services will be at this location. Since Belle Haven residents
shoulder much of the burden of all this development, they should be the
primary recipients of the associated benefits. Many Belle Haven residents
are living paycheck to paycheck. I'm assuming that Belle Haven residents
need affordable prices on grocery staples, including fresh food. This may
not be what Facebook employees have in mind (think Whole Foods). Picking
the right grocery store may be a challenge (unless a Whole Foods-type
market is significantly subsidized). The same goes for the other
restaurants and services.

Another issue related to the Belle Haven residents and the retail area is
the challenge these residents will face trying to cross Willow Road. At
Monday's meeting this was brought up and both an overcrossing and
improved/really good crosswalks were suggested. This issue must be better
thought out. I know some older Belle Haven residents who would have a hard
time walking over Willow Road in either of those fashions...and having
Belle Haven residents drive to the new retail center will only add more
cars. There are also families with young kids who may want to take
advantage of the open space being provided. One suggestion would be for a
reliable Facebook-funded/operated shuttle to serve the Belle Haven
community every 15 or 30 minutes. Just as the Facebook campus has many
shuttles moving its employees from building to building, so too could it
use these shuttles to move around its neighbors. This seems like a very
small price for Facebook to pay.

- Facebook Employees
Someone pointed out on Monday night that if Facebook employees are given
all the free food and convenient retail services they so desire on campus,
why would they need to come to the Retail area to shop/dine? This is a huge
issue that needs to be addressed by Facebook. Also as mentioned, with
regards to the grocery store, will the same grocery store that is
affordable and desirable to Belle Haven residents meet the needs of
Facebook employees?

- Other Menlo Park Residents
This development is made possible by "ConnectMenlo" the General Plan
Update. I'm a little confused about how this development "connects" Menlo
Park. Why would a Menlo Park resident (who doesn't live in Belle Haven or
work at Facebook) brave Willow/101 traffic to come to this new Willow
Village? There are easier grocery stores to get to. There are many
restaurants on the other side of town. What's the draw or are the rest of
us not intended to go there?

- Commuters
I suppose that the 80% of traffic on Willow that neither starts nor ends in
Menlo Park could decide to pull over to the Willow Village and go to the
market and/or grab a bite to eat. How likely is that? How much analysis has
been done on this?

The traffic flow and transportation planning associated with different user
bases needs to be considered now. How will Belle Haven residents get there,
how will other Menlo Park residents get there, how will Facebook employees
from other campuses get there, and what about commuters coming off of
Willow Road? The distribution of shoppers/dinners who are expected to use
this area of the Willow Village must be thought through.

Judging by the presentation given, I am cautiously hopeful that Facebook
has hired the right retail consultants to think through these issues. If
the retail corridor is the biggest community benefit that Menlo Park gets
out of this development, it should be done right and not set up to fail. We
deserve an explanation of how this is supposed to work.

ConnectMenlo set a vision of "live, work, play." It's clear who will work
at Facebook's Willow Village. It is less clear who will live and who will
play. Please clarify and do something so we don't end up with more
"commute, work, commute."

Facebook has the right to develop, but we have the right to community
benefits. Facebook is looking out for their interests, please look out for
ours.

Sincerely,
Jen Wolosin
Menlo Park Resident

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Safe Routes in this email. In
the Staff Report for Monday night's meeting there was discussion about
changing the roads from the original ConnectMenlo design to a design more
compatible with Facebook's proposed Willow Village. While I am not against
this in principle, I'm concerned about the additional Transportation
Department staff time and resources an effort like this will require.

There is a dangerous backlog of Safe Routes-related safety issues that need
to be addressed around Menlo Park. In the most recent issue of The Almanac
I wrote an editorial which lists 10 (of many!) intersections around town
that pose immediate dangers to pedestrians and cyclists. We can not
continue to punt safety improvements in order to push through development
projects. Perhaps Facebook, being the good neighbors that they claim, could
help us move these projects along, by both funding and offering engineering
support. The speed in which they are able to implement infrastructure
improvements when it suits them is remarkable. In exchange for their
ability to modify the original ConnectMenlo road design, it would make
sense to ask them to help us in our city-wide engineering needs. This would
really help to "connect Menlo".
Received on Wed Feb 28 2018 - 16:20:29 PST

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