Facebook helps fund Menlo Park police site 

click to enlarge Belle Haven substation
  • Menlo Park police's new Belle Haven substation is located in an area formerly known for gang violence.

Facebook is helping Menlo Park pay to house the Belle Haven district's new police substation.

The new substation will contribute to an ongoing effort to stabilize a previously troubled neighborhood, city officials said. With public and private cash all but in hand, the Menlo Park Police Department expects to take possession of the property next week and have the location fully operational within 90 days, Cmdr. Dave Bertini.

"It's something we've been waiting for," said Bertini, citing a long history of the proposed substation. "We intend to make this accessible to the community. And to have people be able to walk in and talk about something face to face."

The police plan to keep a part-time officer present Monday through Friday to service the community.

The approved location for the new substation lies in a neighborhood that used to be infamous for its violent, narcotics-laden streets.

"At the height of the crack craze, the neighborhood used to be wracked with gang-related violent behavior," Bertini said.

Details about how the collaboration began between the city and social-media giant are scarce. Facebook declined to comment on the details of the plan.

What's clear is that Facebook is active within the community, and participates in many aspects of its development — likely learning about the substation plans from involvement with city affairs, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said.

After learning about the city's interest in relocating the station from Newbridge Street and Willow Road, Facebook approached the city with a proposal.

"Facebook came forward with this completely on their own," Keith said. "It was a surprise to me. Their contribution just keeps growing."

In a unanimous vote last week, the council approved the substation lease terms that amount to an annual cost of $11,400 to the city and $33,000 to Facebook.

Bertini said Facebook's charitable gesture also includes an up-to-$100,000 contribution to retrofit the new substation, which will ease the department's move-in expenses.

Decades of cooperation between various government agencies — including a local drug enforcement initiative — contributed by leaps and bounds to Belle Haven's reduced crime rate, officials said.

Nowadays the Belle Haven neighborhood is considerably safer than it used to be, Bertini said.

Residents of the Belle Haven district desire more face-to-face accessibility in the community, Bertini said, and so the city responded.

"We heard what the community wants, and we're listening," he said.

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