E. Palo Alto council considers suing Facebook

January 4, 2012 6:31:46 PM PST
Concerned East Palo Alto city council members will meet Thursday to consider possibly suing Facebook over its expansion plans.

The social media company took over the old Sun Microsystems buildings in Menlo Park and has plans to accommodate nearly 10,000 people on two campuses. As as the company lays the grounds for phenomenal growth, traffic is an issue that comes up again and again, but it is not the only issue. And, neighboring East Palo Alto wants to make sure that its interests are not ignored.

Facebook's new headquarters in is already a photo op for fans and nearby businesses seem ready to "like" the company's expansion plans.

"I think it means more potential for businesses for my business and all these businesses around here," says Nina's Nail Salon owner Nina Pham.

The social media giant's rapid growth, though, also has E. Palo Alto concerned. They are worried about traffic, housing impacts and air quality. City Attorney Kathleen Kane says a lawsuit is one option.

"My main concern is that I wanted it to be clear that when it's listed as potential litigation, it is potential. That's something that we're talking about. It's not pending, which means that there's nothing that's been filed yet," Kane explained. "So, it's something that's still open for discussion at the council level."

Facebook says it is working with all of its neighbors. A spokesperson told ABC7 News, "We are in close communication with officials in E. Palo Alto and we're confident that we're building a strong collaborative relationship."

Menlo Park says an exhaustive environmental impact report is part of the process and traffic mitigation is a huge factor.

"They have certain trip caps that they're trying to meet and they would be required to meet under this EIR," explained Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith.

The company wants as many as 6,600 employees on the main campus by 2015, but says it would limit the number of vehicles to 2,600 during peak commute hours. Some E. Palo Alto residents say the city should not stand in the way of economic growth.

"I also think about when people said Ikea would not be a great thing and it was because of all the traffic, and it hasn't affected me, and I live on that side," Henrietta Tillery said.

E. Palo Alto officials say they want their concerns addressed but say any mention of a lawsuit is premature.

"No one, categorically, I can state today, no one has said the city, at least our city, is planning on suing anyone. This should be handled in a collaborative and amicable fashion," said E. Palo Alto council member Carlos Romero.

The E. Palo Alto is scheduled to meet in a closed session Thursday to talk about all of its options including the extreme possibility of a lawsuit.