Anton Menlo – Facebook Floats Idea for More Housing in Menlo Park

San Jose Mercury News

March 15, 2015

MENLO PARK — Amid the rumble of bulldozers and buzz of traffic, a 394-unit apartment complex partly funded by Facebook is taking form here, with perks such as a bike repair shop, pet spa and sports pub designed to attract tech workers.

Called Anton Menlo, it may be only the start of a bold and innovative effort by Facebook to bolster the housing market surrounding its Menlo Park home.

As Facebook hires more employees, purchases more land and expands its college-inspired campus, the social network has floated the idea of creating thousands of new housing units for its workers and the public, city documents show.

“Housing not only would allow for our employees to live near the campus, but would also reduce traffic, increase the overall supply of housing in Menlo Park, and present an opportunity to deliver below-market-rate units,” wrote Fergus O’Shea, Facebook’s director of campus facilities, in an email to city officials in mid-February.

An estimated 4,600 employees work in Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, a number that’s expected to grow in the next year after the company opens a new Frank Gehry-designed building that can hold up to 2,800 workers. But housing nearby is scarce and breathtakingly expensive, and Facebook’s expansion raises questions about where its employees will live, and what will happen to other area residents when this explosive job growth drives the costs of homes and apartments even higher.

For Menlo Park, a city of about 33,000 people, the challenges echo what’s being experienced in Mountain View, Cupertino and San Francisco — all of which have their own fast-growing tech companies. Slowly, some of those companies are exploring how to help solve the problems their expansion is creating.
“I do think that tech companies that are located along suburban corridors or in traditional science parks now need to think very clearly about housing for their workers,” said Bruce Katz, founding director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “Not just building new subdivisions, but literally building urban enclaves that have what many tech workers and talented workers want.”

Other Silicon Valley tech firms are looking at the same approach.

Google partly funded the Franklin Street Family Apartments, creating 51 affordable housing units near its campus in 2013. The company also left land west of Shoreline — where housing isn’t currently allowed — undeveloped for that purpose, and plans to build at least 150 housing units at East Middlefield Road if the city grants it a certain amount of space in North Bayshore for its futuristic headquarters.

Facebook’s idea — far from a formal proposal — would require a lengthy and complicated rezoning process that hasn’t even begun. But it’s already getting a thumbs-up from some Menlo Park officials.

“We were pleasantly surprised and I think generally pretty enthused about it,” said Menlo Park City Councilman Peter Ohtaki, who co-chairs the General Plan Advisory Committee. Facebook broached the housing idea with that committee, which is trying to plan for more people, development and land use over the next two decades.

The social network expressed interest in possibly building 2,000 new housing units along with retail on a 56-acre site it purchased last month from Prologis, and 1,500 housing units for interns on its existing campus, according to the city’s summary of the committee’s Feb. 12 meeting.

Facebook, knowing that the city is looking at options for developing different parcels, including creating retail and office space, told the committee in an email “we very much want to preserve the option of studying housing on the (Prologis) site and on our campus.”

Facebook isn’t far enough along in the process to know what type of housing units would be offered on the Prologis site or its campus, nor has it announced any plans to partner with a specific developer, the meeting summary showed.

Facebook declined to comment.

While there’s a desperate need for more housing on the Peninsula, Ohtaki said, there aren’t many places to put it.

But some local residents, unconvinced that Facebook’s young employees will give up going to San Francisco’s vibrant night life, fear that creating more housing on or near the company’s headquarters could make evening traffic worse and that new housing would be too expensive for nontech workers to afford.

“Right now, the traffic settles down after 7 p.m. I foresee that there will be traffic consistently until 10 p.m.,” Victoria Robledo said after a community workshop Thursday.

It wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has stepped up to help create more housing in Menlo Park.

In 2013, Facebook partnered with St. Anton Partners to create the $120 million Anton Menlo apartment complex. The social network owed the city a $4.5 million fee for affordable housing after it created thousands of square feet of new office space. Instead of paying the city directly, it funded 15 below-market-rate units in the apartment complex, guaranteeing the construction of affordable housing.

“We approached (Facebook) and worked hand in hand for a couple of months on the design, amenities, features and walkability of the project,” said Peter Geremia, co-founder of St. Anton Partners.

Rental prices for Anton Menlo, which is scheduled to open in 2016, have not been set. But in 2014, the average rent in Menlo Park for a one-bedroom/one-bathroom unit was $2,594, data from Real Facts show. The median cost of a single-family home has shot up nearly 19 percent in the last year, to $1.7 million, according to CoreLogic DataQuick.

Finding cheaper housing has been a problem for Linda Amos, who used to commute from Menlo Park to her job in San Jose.

After seeing studios in Menlo Park listed for $1,500 a month, she and her husband decided to move to Modesto to search for cheaper rent and other jobs.

“I would love to be able to find a home here. This is where I grew up,” said Amos, 47, who was sweeping outside her mother’s home in Menlo Park last week.

If Facebook’s housing idea comes to fruition, she might get her wish.

Follow Queenie Wong at or call her at 408-920-2706.

Anton Menlo

Developer: St. Anton PartnersArchitect: KTGY Group
Cost: $120 million
Address: 3639 Haven Ave., Menlo Park
Scheduled opening: Spring 2016
Amenities: convenience store, cafe, sports pub, bike repair shop with on-site storage, pet spa, dry cleaning and mail services, gym, pool, clubhouse and rooftop entertainment deck.
Type of units: 35 studios; 208 one-bedrooms, 139 two-bedrooms and 12-three bedrooms.
Affordable housing: 37 units, with Facebook funding 15 below-market-rate apartments
Lot size: 9.69 acres