John Horgan

That didn’t take long. The massive, new Facebook complex located on the southeast corner of Burlingame Bayfront is already showing some discouraging indications of minor vandalism, even as employees begin to filter in.

A small dose of unsightly graffiti is present on a set of permanent binoculars used by visitors on a Bay overlook. A water fountain now features scratched initials embedded on its surface. Annoying stickers have been pasted onto fencing. There is tagging on several wooden benches and fencing.

None of these small bits of evidence is blatant. But they are rude reminders that the unthinking taggers have made their targeted imprint on this striking venue.

This is occurring at the same time signs have been strategically placed to note that, although skateboarding is permitted in the parklike setting, property damage (especially to wooden benches, platforms, fencing and recently planted foliage) is not.

It’s unfortunate. Apparently, we can’t stop ourselves from soiling our own nest. The sprawling tech firm’s public waterfront property, on the site of a former drive-in movie establishment, is a stunning achievement.

Years in the making, it includes four huge towers, a parking structure and an auxiliary building.

The extensive landscaping and outdoor amenities welcome one and all to the property with its stunning views of the Bay and Coyote Point to the immediate south in San Mateo. It’s actually a small community unto itself.

But there is little doubt that a downside to the huge project is coming, and probably fairly soon once pandemic restrictions are fully lifted and workers head back to their offices on a regular basis.

Traffic, in all of its frustrating reality, will almost certainly become a serious headache for people in the neighborhoods near the Facebook campus on both sides of Highway 101.

Improved vehicular access to the site is already on the drawing board, specifically changes for the Peninsula Avenue/101 interchange (and Poplar Avenue to the south), not to mention Peninsula Avenue itself.

Controversy and concern about those proposed alterations have grown for several years. As decision-time gets closer, we can expect those worries and complaints to become louder.

In the meantime, things are still relatively quiet on the Facebook land. Let’s just hope the annoying taggers can be kept at bay by the security folks who roam the site.

THE KEYSTONS WERE VISIONARIES: The Facebook property — and the Bayfront land to the north toward San Francisco International Airport — didn’t exist 65 years ago. It was barren marshland.

In the 1950s and 1960s, real estate interests and enterprising investors saw an opportunity to create new land in that area. They diked, drained, dried and developed the former shoreline.

The Anza Pacific Corp., the brainchild of the innovative George Keyston and his two sons, David and George, were prime movers in that effort. Over the years, they filled in the Burlingame Bayshore, including what has become the Facebook campus.

They used a variety of materials (including the discarded concrete roadbed of the original San Mateo-Hayward Bridge) to build up and secure (with makeshift levees) the marshes to such an extent that they became suitable for the construction of hotels, office structures, parking lots, etc.

They kept a portion of the shoreline just north of the Facebook land as a lagoon, which stretches north nearly to Broadway in Burlingame. The channel that feeds Bay water to the lagoon borders the Facebook campus.

There is a second, smaller lagoon (also fed by the Bay) located just south of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

It is highly doubtful that the Anza Pacific project, as it exists, could receive a green light from local, state and federal officials today. Even two generations ago, the Keystons faced some opposition to their work.

Encroachments on the shores of the Bay have greatly reduced its size and scope and environmentalists and others have essentially put a halt to further major development.

Witness what’s been occurring at the former salt drying ponds in Redwood City. There, plans for a huge development on land reclaimed from the Bay have been stalled for years.

Prospects for any sort of significant residential or commercial improvements there seem iffy at best.

You can get in touch with John Horgan by email at

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