News

Facebook reportedly expanding in Mountain View

City officials approached about loosening restrictions on corporate meal perks

Facebook is apparently planning to significantly expand its presence in Mountain View by taking over a large new office complex at the San Antonio Shopping Center, according to city officials.

The social media giant is reportedly planning to sublease all of a new 312,000-square-foot office building that's part of the development firm Merlone Geier's Phase II expansion at the San Antonio Shopping Center. About 2,000 employees could work in the office building, according to past development plans.

The space, which is still being completed, was originally planned for LinkedIn, but the company backed out after it gained various buildings near the Sunnyvale border in a property swap with Google. In November, the workspace company WeWork announced it would take over the lease through its enterprise division, which provides turnkey offices for corporate clients. The Silicon Valley Business Journal first reported last week that Facebook was looking to sublease the building.

The deal between Facebook and WeWork reportedly remains tentative. Neither company would comment about it to the Voice.

Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel said he learned about the Facebook deal upon meeting with consultants involved in the project. The consultants included former City Councilman Mike Kasperzak and South Bay lobbyist Ed McGovern.

"My impression is that the entirety of the office space would go to Facebook," Siegel said, describing the discussion.

Much of the initial talks on Facebook's expansion focused on one big issue -- food. Specifically, Siegel said the representatives wanted to test the waters on loosening the city's restrictions on free meals for tech workers.

This restriction originates in late 2014, when the Mountain View City Council was laying out special conditions on Merlone Geier's Phase II development as the plans were up for approval. As a last-minute condition on the project, the council stipulated that any future office tenant be prohibited from providing free daily meals to employees, or subsidizing more than half the price at any in-house cafeteria.

This rule was meant to protect local restaurants, and it came on the heels of growing concern that small businesses couldn't compete with the free perks being offered to tech workers at high-profile companies, especially Google.

"We saw what happened in North Bayshore and what it did to the small businesses, and we didn't want that to happen here," recalled Councilman John McAlister. "If you're taking up a major part of the property but giving people no reason to come to the businesses, that's not good for the sustainability of the area."

McAlister said he also spoke with a representative involved in the Facebook deal about loosening the meal rules. He said he does not support the idea.

Those involved in the Facebook-WeWork deal said they would propose some kind of modified condition on the food restrictions, Siegel said. The consultants indicated that the office would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the nearby restaurants wouldn't be able to handle the food needs of the workforce. No proposed modifications have been submitted yet to the city, according to planning staff.

One could argue there is an abundance of restaurants, grocery stores and other retail in the vicinity of the San Antonio Shopping Center, and more are slated come. Some ground floor retail space from Merlone Geier's Phase I development remains vacant, and the Phase II expansion, when complete, will bring 107,000 more square feet of new ground-floor commercial space.

Siegel said he would be amenable to modifying the rules, but any change would need to be sensitive to the surrounding businesses. Perhaps the office tenant should help subsidize rents for nearby restaurants, he said. The council may also use the opportunity to push for better transportation programs for the area, he said.

"I don't know how it's all expected to work, but I think the intent is good and I'm willing to look at suggestions," Siegel said.

It remains to be seen what Facebook's expansion would mean for local shops, said Steve Rasmussen, owner of Milk Pail Market, which abuts the new office building. A fan of Facebook, Rasmussen credits the social media network for helping boost his business during the challenging years after the recession.

In anticipation of the new development, Rasmussen was planning to begin stocking premade sandwiches and lunches for the office workers. Are those plans now being stymied? He couldn't say.

"Nobody know what this area will be like when that office becomes activated ... There's a lot of unknown issues," he said. "We'll do our best to respond to the opportunities that we find."

Comments

48 people like this
Posted by Blech Free Food
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2018 at 9:59 am

Blech Free Food is a registered user.

It's sad seeing all the Facebook employees walking along Castro St, past a bunch of empty restaurants at lunchtime, while holding their little trays of free food. Instead of building retail spaces, the city council decided to allow new developments in downtown be entire office buildings, for which they get much more tax money. The city's coffers are filling up at the expense of local retail and restaurants.

Don't get me wrong; free food and private cafeterias make a LOT of sense if your office is in an industrial park, far away from viable lunch options. But if your office building is LITERALLY in a vibrant downtown area? Then the free food is just rewarding already-entitled tech workers at the expense of the community.


34 people like this
Posted by @Blech Free Food
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2018 at 10:24 am

How do you feel about people working downtown who bring their own lunch? Are you upset some businesses offer free doughnuts some days? What about office vending machines when there is a local 7-11 next door?

Also, I hear some downtown offices even provide free coffee in their fancy breakrooms when they are literally surrounded by independent coffee shops!!!!
It's free coffee for their precious entitled employees at the expense of local businesses.
Man...it's really something when you really think about it isn't it?


35 people like this
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 2, 2018 at 10:27 am

Bikes2work is a registered user.

Why don't they just cut a few deals with existing or new restaurant operators in the San Antonio Shopping Center? Facebook employees could have a card that gets them anything they want, and the general public could also buy food there.

We could use a couple of 24-hour restaurants or diners in that area. I often work late and then go exercise. It's hard to find a decent restaurant near there that is open past 10pm (e.g. Veggie Grill, La Salsa or Saag).


15 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

SRB is a registered user.

I'm confused. Didn't the former mayor turned consultant champion these very food restrictions when approving San Antonio Phase 2? On the ground that the main reason to have office there (vs. housing) was to sustain local retail environment and restaurants?


12 people like this
Posted by I can get free food
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2018 at 11:10 am

I eat in restaurants 2-3 times a week. I eat at the office when I have too much work. I'm also not atypical in my office and I usually eat w/ 3 others. Just a data point to bust any stereotypes.

Something else to think about: If I had to drive to the San Antonio area at lunch, I think I'd be OK without all the throngs of employees spilling out onto the roads every day and adding to the already crowded lunch spots in the area.

I think we'll all survive this, really.


22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Why all the complaints here about Castro Street? This building is miles away. We should applaud the city for keeping a big office building outside of the downtown retail district, at least this time.


13 people like this
Posted by @ Blech Free Food
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

@ Blech Free Food is a registered user.

You think those who work at the FB office are employees but they are contractors and get paid much less. So don't think every one who works at an office is entitled and making so much... The Bay Area is already so expensive.... Btw, I'm a local, I was born in MTV and barely making 40K a year at these tech companies.

Many who work in the office rely on the free food when their rent takes up almost half of their paycheck. People will splurge and get drinks and food in downtown.




8 people like this
Posted by patiobear
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm

patiobear is a registered user.

If they put all these restrictions on buildings they will end up empty. That would not benefit anyone. I guess we could open them as a winter shelter for the homeless.


3 people like this
Posted by got my bag and lounge
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2018 at 4:48 pm

@patiobear, can I come over with my chair and sleeping bag and we can just hangout on your patio? Do you provide free food of I can do little work for you?

"Residents First" Councilman John - keep the course please on some of the more logical ideas you have had in the past. (workers/corporations are also very welcome - but, you just come second)


7 people like this
Posted by Sophie
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2018 at 5:06 pm

2000 Facebook employees at San Antonio center new building? How are they going to deal with the traffic. This area is already packed with cars, pedestrian, bicycles during commute hours. The living quality of neighborhood will be compromised by corporate expansion. Is city council going to collect neighbors to comments in this case?


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm

@Sophie - Facebook is not building a new building. The office building is already finished and the article does not say Facebook is asking for any zoning changes. The time to complain about traffic is before the building is built and while zoning and occupancy issues are still being negotiated with the city.


11 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Let's just keep building more and more office spaces, add more and more traffic, and increase density more and more. What could go wrong?

Quality of life among all the states: California #50

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Middle-aged Dad
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 3, 2018 at 8:03 am

I eat free lunch from Google cafes daily. If I had to eat lunch from restaurants instead, I'd probably be overweight, at risk for a heart attack, and have to work longer hours to get my work done, thus have less time with my family.

These company cafes offer healthy options, let you take as little or as much as you want, and let you get your food quickly. At a restaurant, typically food comes in one (giant) size, is packed with excess calories (see what it congeals to if you take home leftovers!), and there's no way to get a little bit of salad or a little bit of dessert. I avoid eating out and avoid taking my family out frequently for these reasons.

Until the restaurant industry offers healthy food and reasonable, flexible portions, companies will have huge incentives to feed their workers. But profits and tradition dictate the current restaurant approach.


6 people like this
Posted by Rob
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2018 at 7:17 pm

If you want to wipe out the reason to live in a town or a culture of a local town, this is how you do it. Good job guys.. no sales tax on free meals and no reason to help the dwindling local establishments. Yeah.. MV is just another campus for these corporate entities.. It used to be cool and fun, now just traffic and no place to eat. When your kids are unemployed and still living in your house, don't ask why.


9 people like this
Posted by Booming Economy
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2018 at 8:30 am

"When your kids are unemployed and still living in your house, don't ask why."

With the near sub 4% unemployment rate in this area, even if my kids are living with me, if they won't/can't get a job in this area, I have lots of questions for them, LOL.



6 people like this
Posted by lan
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 11, 2018 at 10:17 pm

I don't see how the city can interfere with a company's benefits. If Facebook wants to offer free food to its employees, great. Another cheaper option is for employees to bring their own lunch from home. Is Mountain View going to regulate this too? If Mountain View sold the idea of more office space based on the idea that employees will boost the local economy, MV might have made a promise it can't keep.

The only thing that is certain is the traffic on San Antonio is gong to be a nightmare, which will reduce the quality of life for those who need to use San Antonio to get in and around Mountain View.


3 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I was under the impression that WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, was already in Mountain View.

As all these social media and apps become more popular it is understandable that there will be more workers employed by these companies. If you think WhatsApp is not very important then ask someone who travels overseas or has family overseas. It is the main method of communication outside north America.


3 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Regarding the comments about restaurants serving sizes being too large...

A friend of mine owns a sit down full service restaurant in the south bay - he told me a few years ago he has to get a minimum of $15 per lunch and $20-25 per dinner per customer or he can't cover his rent/utility/employee expenses. He then said to get that amount, the portion size can't be too small or his customer will feel like they're not getting good value. He solves this by serving a larger portion vegetable and/or starch to the main entree (usually meat which is most of his cost of the dinner). The additional portion costs him about $0.50.

That is probably why the portions are larger in restaurants in this area....


3 people like this
Posted by Whassup
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Yes, WhatsApp is already in Mountain View, so this may just be yet another expansion for them. They have 900 Villa Street and 250 Bryant Street, about 100,000 sq ft.
See Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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