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Neighbours not Liking Facebook's new campus

Rapidly expanding workforce could cause traffic and parking issues

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Facebook has only just moved into its new digs at Menlo Park, but already there are rumours of problems with the neighbours over traffic disruptions and parking spaces.

The social network's new campus, part of which used to be a Sun Microsystems house, only has permission for 3,600 employees, but Facebook wants closer to 9,000 stuffed into the site.

At the moment, the site has an employee cap that will stop the firm going over the agreed 3,600, but Facebook wants to replace that with a 'trip cap' - meaning there'll be more employees, but the company will ensure there aren't more cars coming in and out.

This magic will be achieved by Facebook's "transportation programme", which includes van pools, bicycles and free shuttles to get people to work.

"Over 47 per cent of our employees use one of these programmes," Facebook insisted in a Note on the new campus.

"In fact, even as we grow, we don't plan to add a single new parking space to the existing campus."

But local dignitaries aren't entirely convinced.

"Clearly, we're going to feel the traffic impacts," Carlos Romero, a city council member in neighbouring East Palo Alto told The Financial Times(paywall).

"They will affect pedestrian and bicycle routes and the ability of residents to move around our city.

"I find it very difficult to believe that Facebook can move from an urban, transit-rich site in Palo Alto, near trains and buses, into what is a peripheral site in Menlo Park, and be able to achieve the numbers they're proposing," he added.

Facebook has been going to meetings to discuss the city of Menlo Park's Environmental Impact Report (massive 4MB PDF/748 pages), on the effects of the firm's employees on local resources.

But Romero doesn't think the report is fully capturing the impact Facebook's traffic will have on East Palo Alto, rather than Menlo Park.

He's also none too chuffed with the idea that the fines Facebook pays if it exceeds the trip cap will all go to Menlo Park city, not to East Palo Alto.

“As a bordering city, we would be affected, but none of the penalty money would go to East Palo Alto,” he said. “That doesn’t sound like an equitable arrangement.”

The public has until 23 January to submit any comments, complaints or recommendations on the report before the project plans are finalised. ®

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