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Monday, May 02, 2011

Facebook planning big for its Menlo Park campus

San Francisco Chronicle
by Benny Evangelista
April 29, 2011

Facebook Inc. could expand to as many as 9,400 workers in the next six years, an employment boom that might require construction of as many as five more buildings at its new Menlo Park headquarters.

The company's plans would need approval by the city and eight other agencies before Facebook can go forward with its planned move from Palo Alto to the old Sun Microsystems headquarters.

Facebook planning big for its Menlo Park campus

The plans are detailed in a notice of a pending environmental impact report that was posted last week on Menlo Park's city website.

Facebook spokesman Larry Yu cautioned that the report has projections that may or may not pan out, "so it's anyone's guess on what the actual numbers will be."

The social-networking giant announced in February that it will move into Sun Microsystems' old 57-acre campus along Bayfront Expressway.

Facebook has also acquired a vacant 22-acre parcel formerly occupied by General Motors Tyco Electronics on the west side of Bayfront across from the Sun Microsystems campus.

Facebook now has more than 2,000 employees, but has outgrown the two Palo Alto buildings that serve as its headquarters.

The company's plans to increase its workforce are part of a Silicon Valley employment boom. Mountain View's Google Inc., for example, had 24,400 employees by the end of last year, and the search engine giant plans to hire at least 6,000 more this year.

San Francisco's Twitter Inc., meanwhile, is also moving to new headquarters on Market Street to accommodate as many as 3,000 employees by 2013, up from the current 400.

According to the environmental notice, Facebook plans to move in two phases, starting with the existing nine Sun Microsystems buildings with about 1 million square feet of space located on what will be called the East Campus.

The report says Facebook plans to "repurpose" those buildings, including tearing down office walls that were part of the old "hardware-intensive laboratory" and create "open, shared work space" that is more in tune with the collaborative environment found at Facebook and other newer tech companies.

The city now zones the East Campus to accommodate maximum peak traffic for 3,600 employees traveling to and from the facilities. But Facebook is seeking permission to bump that cap up to accommodate 3,000 more workers, for a total of 6,600 by 2015 or 2016. The company projects it would hit the 3,600-worker cap by mid-2013.

The West Campus now has two 58,000-square-foot buildings, plus a guard house and parking areas that Facebook plans to demolish. In their place would be up to five two- to four-story buildings, creating about 433,700 square feet of floor space, and a five-story parking garage for 1,500 cars. The buildings would surround a central courtyard with open spaces, meeting rooms and walkways.

Facebook is seeking to rezone the West Campus to raise the maximum height of buildings from 35 feet to 70 feet.

Facebook said the West Campus would house up to 2,800 employees, starting in late 2014, and it could reach capacity by 2016 or 2017.

The city has scheduled a hearing at the Planning Commission's May 16 meeting to receive public comments on what the impact report should study and set a May 26 deadline for written comments.