Facebook to fund new library in Menlo Park’s Belle Haven neighborhood

 

The current Belle Haven library is only 3,500 square feet, about one-tenth the size of the larger, main Menlo Park Library. The library is attached to the Belle Haven Elementary School. (Seimi Chu/Peninsula Press)

Facebook has agreed to fully fund construction of a new library in the Belle Haven area of Menlo Park, the city where its headquartered.

Sheryl Bims, a member of the Belle Haven’s Neighborhood Association, announced the agreement at an Oct. 15 Menlo Park City Council meeting.

The company announced its intentions to fund a multigenerational library for the Menlo Park community. Fergus O’Shea, Facebook’s Director of Campus Facilities, told the Council the company wanted to be “good neighbors,” by contributing in a significant and meaningful way.

Bims professed her gratitude on behalf of the community. “The reality is that, as of this date during what I call the ‘Age of Menlo Park’s Extreme Development,” no direct community benefit of this magnitude has been done, has been offered, or has been put in the pipeline for the residents of District 1,” Bims said at the Council meeting. She commended Facebook for noticing this deficiency and helping build and strengthen the neighborhood.

The Belle Haven community has a population of about 5,000 peoples situated between the Bayfront Expressway, Highway US 101 and Willow Road.

The current Belle Haven library is only 3,500 square feet, about one-tenth the size of the larger, main Menlo Park Library. The library is attached to the Belle Haven Elementary School. This has made the community feel as if the Belle Haven Library was part of the school, instead of it being a public library, said Sean Reinhart, Menlo Park’s library director.

According to Reinhart, after the new library is constructed, the current Belle Haven Library building will be run by the Ravenswood City School District, which also owns the Belle Haven Elementary School.

The location for the new library hasn’t been determined, but Starla Jerome-Robinson, the city manager, said the neighborhood community preferred the Onetta Harris campus for the library’s location.

Before Facebook’s public announcement, the community was in the process of evaluating possible locations for its new facility. A city-wide survey was utilized in order to see what types of features the community wanted for the library.

“The study produced a pretty good detailed report on the types of rooms it should have, the types of functions people wanted it to have, and the types of functions people were less interested in. It came up with a recommendation of a 12,000 square feet facility with multiple rooms,” Reinhart said.

The City of Menlo Park hosts a community community workshop on Saturday, Oct. 2019. During the event, officials announced an agreement with Facebook to fully fund a new library in the Belle Haven neighborhood. (Seimi Chu/Peninsula Press)

Though community members were overjoyed by Facebook’s announcement, there were some concerns about the extent of the company’s involvement.

One community member wondered at a recent community workshop what Facebook’s role would be aside from the funding. Jerome-Robinson said she was unsure of how much Facebook would have of the building’s operation.

Facebook is currently in the process on working on an agreement of costs and plans in the pursuance of a multigenerational quality for the library with Jerome-Robinson and the community.

Sean Reinhart, the city’s library director, and City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson answers questions from community members about Belle Haven’s new library at a community workshop on Saturday, Oct. 5 2019. (Seimi Chu/Peninsula Press)

Facebook will soon have 35,000 employees at its Menlo Park headquarters where Menlo Park’s population is over 34,000 people. This has caused a great impact on the traffic congestion since the headquarters is nearby the Dumbarton Rail Bridge. In order to fix this problem, Facebook planned to invest $1 billion to rebuild the Dumbarton Rail Bridge, so that traffic would be less congested.

Facebook has a history in helping the Menlo Park community. The company provided tenant improvements for the current Neighborhood Services Center on Hamilton Avenue in Menlo Park. In addition, the company reconstructed Chilco Street with new bike paths and pedestrian crosswalks.

People gather at the current library location in Belle Haven to ask questions about Facebook’s involvement in the construction of a new library at a community workshop on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 (Seimi Chu/Peninsula Press)

Bims, who was also present at the workshop, saw the company’s involvement as a bigger picture. “Moving forward, I am looking forward to seeing this as a model for us to work together as a city. This could be an excellent example to see how we could bring something great together that would benefit Belle Haven but also the city of Menlo Park and the general public.”