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Menlo Park's office space growth exceeds that of similar small cities in state

Menlo Park ranks fifth among small California cities for the amount of office space constructed over the last five years, according to a new report by the commercial real estate website, which used data from Yardi Matrix, a commercial real estate research and data platform.

But juxtapose that growth with the city's actual population and a stark picture emerges as to just how much developed space in the city is devoted to housing offices per capita.

According to the analysis, between 2014 and 2019, developers in Menlo Park constructed 2.45 million new square feet of office space at 13 projects of 25,000 square feet or larger citywide. This expanded the amount of rentable office space citywide by 38%, to 8.93 million square feet total.

Most of the top 10 small cities (defined as those with populations under 300,000 people) that have undergone dramatic growth in office space statewide over the last five years are in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. They include Sunnyvale (ranked number 1), Santa Clara (2), Cupertino (4), South San Francisco (6), Mountain View (7), San Mateo (8), and Foster City (9). Only two are in Southern California: Irvine, ranked third; and El Segundo, ranked 10th.

The eight cities on the list in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have added a total of 25.7 million square feet of large office-space developments in the last five years.

The report's authors explained that they did not include square footage of other uses like retail or hotel spaces.

Diving into these numbers further, The Almanac compared the new and total office square footage of these cities with their populations.

Menlo Park stood out as the city with the largest increase in office space per capita compared with the other Bay Area communities on the list.

For each of the city's roughly 34,500 residents, as reported in the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the city has added about 71 square feet of office space within the last five years, and now has a total of about 259 square feet of office space per resident. This ratio significantly surpasses the ratios in the other local job-heavy communities that made the list such as Santa Clara, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, which all had ratios of 200 square feet or less of total office space per resident.

Given the fact that a worker in Silicon Valley is estimated to take up between 75 square feet of space at a startup, and about 150 in a more typical work environment, that means there could be anywhere between 1.7 and 3.5 workers per resident housed in Menlo Park.

The explosion of office-space growth in small cities in the region spells traffic for an area already struggling with a skewed jobs-housing balance, a term to describe the ratio of the jobs located in a city compared with the number of homes, which has also come to be an indicator of sorts for commute-related traffic.

Some cities have somewhat mitigated the traffic impacts of expanded office space by imposing "trip caps" on some large companies, which limit how many vehicles can enter and exit an office park daily.

For instance, the city of Menlo Park maintains a trip cap with Facebook, allowing 15,673 trips per day to and from its east and west campuses in Menlo Park, with stricter limits on the maximum number of trips permitted during peak hours. Fines are imposed if the company surpasses those limits, up to $100 per trip per day.

However, as such companies expand their employee head counts in formerly suburban communities, they have to work increasingly hard to abide by trip caps. Facebook last year took steps to curb where Uber and Lyft can drop off and pick up employees to avoid triggering the trip cap, and last year got approval to build a permanent bus stop to better accommodate its bus and tram system to shuttle employees around its campuses.

But with another roughly half-million square feet of office currently under development in the city, more creativity by area employers to mitigate traffic may yet be called for.

Neither Mayor Ray Mueller nor Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor could be reached for comment by press time.

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