Who Will Live In Facebook’s New Company Apartments?

From the looks of it, not many parents who can afford to prioritize high-performing schools.

At first glance, Facebook’s plan to partner on an apartment building within walking distance of its Menlo Park headquarters sounds like an extension of its utopian work environment. The company already feeds its employees three meals each day, does their dry cleaning, fixes their bikes and offers them unlimited free lattes. Housing units to match their already company-catered lives fit the mold.

But conversations with several local real estate agents paint a slightly different picture. Facebook employees have limited affordable housing options near campus, and many housing developers consider the other side of Menlo Park a better investment.

The most apparent issue with attracting new housing near Facebook is schools.

In west Menlo Park, where the city’s downtown is located, two elementary schools perform among the top 10% of all schools in California. A third is in the top 20%. But the elementary school that serves the area immediately surrounding Facebook’s campus, in the east side of the city, ranks in the lowest 10% of schools in the state. This makes the area immediately near Facebook less appealing to families.

UPDATE: The developer of the apartment complex says that it will be built 1.5 miles away in the Redwood City School district rather than immediately next to Facebook's campus. The elementary school in the Redwood City School District nearest to Facebook's campus ranked four out of ten in California's state rankings.

Keri Nicholas, a real estate agent who has sold homes in Menlo Park for 22 years, says one of her clients recently asked her if he should invest in property on the city’s east side. She advised him against it. “You might be on the ground floor, but at the same time,” she says. “The whole area would have to turn over.”

Meanwhile, other areas of Menlo Park are often simply unaffordable. Menlo Park’s residents have a median household income of $148,878, more than twice that for residents of California in general. The city’s median home price is nearly S1 million. “There are more people moving here every day coming to jobs and nowhere to live," says Penelope Huang, a broker and owner at RE/MAX Distinctive Properties in Menlo Park. "Rental prices are going through the roof.” Getting an apartment is competitive. One 600–square-foot apartment Nicholas helped rent recently for $2,200 per month had 22 applications, about half of them from Facebook employees.

A rendering of Anton Menlo. | Image courtesy of Facebook

Facebook’s new apartment complex, the first major housing development project in the area in 20 years, could help Menlo Park’s tight real estate situation, but its relevance is likely narrow. It includes:

Facebook employees

Though Facebook says that all but 15 units of its planned complex will be open to people who don’t work at Facebook, it’s unclear who else would be interested in living there.

The building is planned within walking distance of Facebook, and it will therefore offer proximity to pretty much nothing else. The ambiance and amenities of downtown Menlo Park are located in the west side of the city. Meanwhile, amenities like a yoga studio with personal trainers and pet spa could cut into the discount obtained by living on the east side.

In particular, young Facebook employees

Unless the building is somehow zoned in a different school district than Facebook's campus would fall into if it were a residential address (UPDATE: it is), employees who have children are likely to spend their expensive rent at a residence located in a district with better schools.

A handful of low income housing occupants

As part of its agreement with the city, Facebook and its partner will offer 15 below-market-rate units in the complex. Market average rent in San Mateo, where Menlo Park is located, was $2,053 for a one-bedroom apartment as of June.

Total Facebook nuts

We’re not sure who loves Facebook enough to move into the company's apartment building, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he or she showed up. Is it you? Tell us in the comments. Or email ideas@fastcompany.com. We have some questions for you.

[Image: Flickr user Jenni Douglas]

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11 Comments

  • Cassidy

    Hey if it was a good apartment why not? Although it may not be a good idea to mix your work and private life either. However, if a good apartment was hard to find in the area and the pricing/options were right I would consider it.

  • justinTimeAgain

    What ever... Last thing I want is my boss walking down the hallway while I got friends over smoking weed, and drinking, playing naked twister.Yeah, creative department FTW, but I'm not feeling the "all up in my business" if my business happens to be across the street. Maybe it's just me. Had a party? It's your boss calling the building manager, or the cops. Coworker has a date over? Some heavy petting going on? Forget that noise...

  • Dantosca

    Here's a radical idea... why doesn't Facebook actually invest in the neighborhood in which its HQ resides (I used to work at that campus when it was Sun) and sponsor the schools in beleaguered  East Palo Alto and make them best in class!  They have the money, they have the resources, they have the space even - that campus is enormous!

  • Rick Marro

    I would Love a chance to Express my thoughts about the school situation to the Founders of Facebook, Google, and Twitter over dinner one night..... I think that one dinner with these visionaries, combined with my very simple plan, could chance the face of education in America OVERNIGHT. Unfortunately none of them Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +.

  • Stephanie Katcher

    Rick, Those visionaries you speak of are busy DOING not following. If you want to work WITH them, start by breaking ground and making changes on your own to demonstrate your visionary abilities. If your plan is as "simple" and effective as you claim then don't wait, implement the changes with your chutzpah rather than whine about how "if only...". 

  • Rick Marro

    Hey Stephanie, I don't recall "whining" but let's be realistic, there are 2 ways to approach the issue. First there is the way I described, presenting visionary people with a visionary concept and hoping THEY back it up. Make no mistake THEY HAVE THE MONEY and THE FOLLOWING to make sweeping changes in society.. Then there is your suggestion an i say to you........"if only" you had something more than chutzpah to offer, maybe something would get done ? ? ? ? I see you are interested in writing and I can't imagine you having worse grammar than me, would you like to collaborate on some pressing issues and possibly build a following of our own online???? Who knows, maybe we could effect some change out of it ! ! ! thanks for your comment, I look forward to your response. 

  • Chris Kelly

    The idea of having so many eggs in one basket feels bad to me. I can't think of anything worse than imagining my previous bosses also having control over where I live. Its Disney Celebration 2.0. Even if I worked for Facebook, I couldn't imagine living in Facebook town.

  • Peter Hendry

    Surely if school is an issue then Facebook could help improve the local schools so that their workers could walk to work and still get a good education for their kids.
    It would help the community to grow and their staff to live more affordably.
    An influx of more aware and computer savvy kids and parents is guaranteed to raise the quality of the local education and the chances of Maker Clubs etc. being created.

  • Chris Kelly

    I think this is a move to lock out completely the community you speak of. I dont think Facebook 'cares' in any capacity about anything other than making share holders money. Having housing like this is to keep control over their workforce more tightly. Its about having more to hold over people, not to keep them safe but to keep them afraid