Facebookopolis: Legal Issues With Facebook's New Village

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 18, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have Zuckerberg money -- $62 billion and counting?

That's not going to happen for many reasons, but it's a segue to this idea: Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be Facebook's general counsel? Alright, that's a stretch, too, but we're getting to the point.

There are a lot of challenges that come with all that money and responsibility, and you may not want them. Just imagine the legal issues with Facebook's new village.

Willow Park

Menlo Park, headquarters for Facebook, will soon become a company town. Facebook is already the city's biggest company and employer, but it will also build a major community for its people. The company announced that it is building 1,500 homes, 125,00 square feet of retail space and infrastructure called Willow Campus, which will be open to the public.

"Working with the community, our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much needed services, housing and transit solutions as well as office space," the company said on its website. "Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services."

Critics say Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants have caused the "long-needed community services" by drawing thousands of workers who have impacted housing, traffic and public services. Facebook committed last year to create low-income housing and said it would create "a future transit center."

John Tenanes, vice president of global facilities for Facebook, said in the post that the company will work closely with local leaders and community members to ensure Facebook's presence is a benefit to the community."

Company Towns

Company towns have long been part of an evolving American economy, from coal towns to service industries. They crop up around major employers, changing both the landscape and the relationships between companies and residents.

In Marsh v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed a free speech issue in a company town. Gulf Shipbuilding Corp. owned virtually everything and tried to prevent a missionary from circulating literature on sidewalks. The Court said the company violated the U.S. Constitution.

When a company runs a city like a business, some things slip by more than in traditional towns. For example, the City of Industry reportedly channeled more than $326 million to the former mayor and his family's businesses.

That's not quite Zuckerberg money, but it certainly would be a big headache for the company town's general counsel.

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