Click this link to optimize Open City Hall for screen readers Skip to Content
Open City Hall
Peak Democracy

What ideas do you have about policies and programs for the draft Land Use and Community Design Element?

Sort by:

Share your ideas!

Congratulations! You've already figured out how to use this tool!

By clicking on any text that has this symbol, you can add your comments into a dialogue box, as seen below.  Remember, boxes with a number in it already have comments from your fellow residents.  If there isn't a clickable section, you can provide your comments here. Where applicable, please reference the policy or program number

P.S. - You can drag the comment box around if it covers parts of the document you want to read. 

Click here to see how to comment.

This document contains special sections that you can comment on; you're reading one right now.  Click here to see how it works.


Select one of the goals below to read an annotated version of the existing Land Use and Community Design Element and provide your ideas and comments.    

Growth Management thumbnail Sense of Community thumb Residential Neighborhood thumb Pedestrian Scale Centers thumb Employment Districts thumb

Well Designed Bulidings thumb Historic Resources thumb Cultural Facilities thumb Public Spaces thumb

ABOUT THE LAND USE & COMMUNITY DESIGN ELEMENT

The Land Use and Community Design Element fulfills State requirements for a “Land Use” Element. The State requires this Element to  establish the location and intensity of housing, business, industry, open space, recreation, natural resources, and public facilities. The added Community Design component reflects a special interest in Palo Alto in maintaining historic integrity and enriching the built environment.

The Element will describe these topics through a list of goals, policies, and programs, in addition to a land use map.   The Land Use Element contains a description, as well as recommended population density and building intensity standards, for each land use category identified. 

The Land Use and Community Design Element identifies the residential areas, commercial centers, and employment districts that together constitute the city’s “structure.” Understanding how these parts of the community are connected to each other and the region is essential to resolving transportation and traffic issues and ensuring that businesses can thrive in places where they can serve residents and visitors without increasing impacts on neighborhoods. As the appearance of buildings and public spaces greatly affects how people experience Palo Alto, the Element calls for high-quality design to encourage social gathering in attractive settings.

A significant focus of the Land Use Element is to translate the city’s values and vision for the future into a document that provides for the equitable and accessible distribution of land uses.  In Palo Alto, the existing Element supports the community’s objectives for growth management through the following main policy themes.  These themes will be carried forward to guide future land use decisions, including:

  • Supporting the city’s future needs by accommodating an appropriate mix and amount of residential, commercial, and employment uses within the Urban Service Area.
  • Maintaining and enhancing Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods, while ensuring that new development respects existing neighborhood character.
  • Providing adequate public services and facilities, parks, and open space.
  • Reducing emissions through energy efficiency standards and land use decisions that support walking, biking, and transit.
  • Fostering high quality design by improving streetscapes, maintaining and increasing connectivity, and enhancing gateways.
  • Preserving and protecting historic buildings and cultural and natural resources.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Click here to view the current Land Use and Community Design Element.

Click here to view the Planning and Transportation Commission’s recommended changes.

Click here to view the existing conditions report on Land Use.

What follows is a digital, annotated version of the existing Land Use and Community Design Element with questions and annotations intended to highlight potential changes that the Citizens Advisory Committee will consider. 


What policies and programs would be most effective in the Land Use and Community Design Element?

The City Council has expressed a desire to add goals and policies to the Comp Plan that relate land use and design to the sustainability issues that will be addressed in the Sustainability/Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) process currently underway. 

What policies and programs would be most effective in the Land Use and Community Design Element?


Local Land Use and Growth Management

GOAL L-1: A Well-Designed, Compact City, Providing Residents And Visitors With Attractive Neighborhoods, Work Places, Shopping Districts, Public Facilities, And Open Spaces.


POLICY L-1: Continue current City policy limiting future urban development to currently developed lands within the urban service area. The boundary of the urban service area is otherwise known as the urban growth boundary. Retain undeveloped land west of Foothill Expressway and Junipero Serra as open space, with allowances made for very low-intensity development consistent with the open space character of the area. Retain undeveloped Baylands northeast of Highway 101 as open space.

POLICY L-2: Maintain an active cooperative working relationship with Santa Clara County and Stanford University regarding land use issues.

PROGRAM L-1: Maintain and update as appropriate the 1985 Land Use Policies Agreement that sets forth the land use policies of the City, Santa Clara County and Stanford University with regard to Stanford unincorporated lands.

PROGRAM L-2A: City staff will monitor Stanford development proposals and traffic conditions within the Sand Hill Road Corridor and annually report to the Planning Commission and City Council.

PROGRAM L-2B: City staff will review development proposals within the Airport Influence Area to ensure consistency with the guidelines of the Palo Alto Airport Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and when appropriate, will refer development proposals to the Santa Clara County Airport Land Use Commission for review and comment.

POLICY L-3: Guide development to respect views of the foothills and East Bay hills from public streets in the developed portions of the City.

POLICY L-4: Maintain Palo Alto’s varied residential neighborhoods while sustaining the vitality of its commercial areas and public facilities. Use the Zoning Ordinance as a tool to enhance Palo Alto’s desirable qualities.

POLICY L-5: Maintain the scale and character of the City. Avoid land uses that are overwhelming and unacceptable due to their size and scale.

Are there certain targeted areas of the city where raising the height limit to  55 or 60 feet might make sense, if the additional allowed space was used specifically for additional housing units?

PROGRAM  L-3: Maintain and periodically review height and density limits to discourage single uses that are inappropriate in size and scale to the surrounding uses.

When you hear the word “density" used in relation to residential development, what do you envision? Is it a negative or positive word?

POLICY L-6: Where possible, avoid abrupt changes in scale and density between residential and non-residential areas and between residential areas of different densities. To promote compatibility and gradual transitions between land uses, place zoning district boundaries at mid-block locations rather than along streets wherever possible.

PROGRAM  L-4: Review and change zoning regulations to promote gradual transitions in the scale of development where residential districts abut more intense uses.

PROGRAM  L-5: Establish new performance and architectural standards that minimize negative impacts where land use transitions occur.

PROGRAM  L-6: Revise the City’s Neighborhood Commercial (CN) and Service Commercial (CS) zoning requirements to better address land use transitions

POLICY L-7: Evaluate changes in land use in the context of regional needs, overall City welfare and objectives, as well as the desires of surrounding neighborhoods.

The Council and the community have been engaged in a set of in-depth conversations about managing non-residential growth and the ratio of jobs to housing in Palo Alto. What tools would you like the city to employ to deal with the impacts of non-residential growth? Should the city retain a long term limit on new non-res development? Is simply dealing with these impacts enough?

POLICY L-8: Maintain a limit of 3,257,900 square feet of new non-residential development for the nine planning areas evaluated in the 1989 Citywide Land Use and Transportation Study, with the understanding that the City Council may make modifications for specific properties that allow modest additional growth. Such additional growth will count towards the 3,257,900 maximum.

PROGRAM  L-7: Establish a system to monitor the rate of non-residential development and traffic conditions related to both residential and non-residential development at key intersections including those identified in the 1989 Citywide Study and additional intersections identified in the Comprehensive Plan EIR. If the rate of growth reaches the point where the citywide development maximum might be reached, the City will reevaluate development policies and regulations.

PROGRAM  L-8: Limit new non-residential development in the Downtown area to 350,000 square feet, or 10 percent above the amount of development existing or approved as of May 1986. Reevaluate this limit when non-residential development approvals reach 235,000 square feet of floor area.

PROGRAM  L-9: Continue to monitor development, including the effectiveness of the ground floor retail requirement, in the University Avenue/Downtown area. Keep the Planning Commission and City Council advised of the findings on an annual basis.

The 1998 Comp Plan introduced a new Mixed Use designation to increase the types of spaces available for living and working in certain areas, and to encourage buildings designed to provide a high quality pedestrian-oriented street environment. Recently, some voices in the community have expressed interest in a mixed use designation with limited office uses or one that includes only retail and housing. In your opinion, what type of mixed use will best suit Palo Alto in the years to come? In what areas should that designation apply?

POLICY L-9: Enhance desirable characteristics in mixed use areas. Use the planning and zoning process to create opportunities for new mixed use development.

PROGRAM L-10: Create and apply the following four new Mixed Use zoning standards: A “Live/Work” designation that permits individuals to live on the same site where they work by allowing housing and other uses such as office, retail, and light industrial to co-exist in the same building space; and “Retail/ Office, “Residential/Retail,” and “Residential/Office” designations that permit a mix of uses on the same site or nearby sites Develop design standards for all mixed use designations providing for buildings with one to three stories, rear parking or underground parking, street-facing windows and entries, and zero setback along the street, except that front gardens may be provided for ground floor residential uses.

Do you have other ideas/comments about local land use and growth management?

Do any of the land use definitions below need to be updated to better reflect the character of open space, residential, commercial, or institutional areas of the city desired in 2030?

LAND USE DEFINITIONS as they correspond to the categories on the Land Use and Circulation Map

Do any of the land use definitions below need to be updated to better reflect the character of open space, residential, commercial, or institutional areas of the city desired in 2030?

Open Space

Publicly Owned Conservation Land: Open lands whose primary purpose is the preservation and enhancement of the natural state of the land and its plants and animals. Only compatible resource management, recreation, and educational activities are allowed.

Public Park: Open lands whose primary purpose is active recreation and whose character is essentially urban. These areas have been planted with non-indigenous landscaping and require a concerted effort to maintain recreational facilities and landscaping.

Streamside Open Space: The corridor of riparian vegetation along a natural stream. Hiking, biking, and riding trails may be developed in the streamside open space. The corridor will generally vary in width up to 200 feet either side of the center line of the creek. However, along San Francisquito Creek between El Camino Real and the Sand Hill Road bridge over the creek, the open space corridor varies in width between approximately 80 and 310 feet from the center line of the creek. The aerial delineation of the open space in this segment of the corridor, as opposed to other segments of the corridor, is shown to approximate scale on the Proposed Land Use and Circulation Map.

Open Space/Controlled Development: Land having all the characteristics of open space but : upon which some development may be allowed. Open space amenities must be retained in these areas. Residential densities range from 0.1 to 1 dwelling unit per acre but may rise to a maximum of 2 units per acre where second units are allowed, and population densities range from 1 to 4 persons per acre.

Residential

Single Family Residential: Includes one dwelling unit on each lot as well as conditional uses : requiring permits such as churches and schools. Specific areas may be zoned to allow second units or duplexes where they would be compatible with neighborhood character and not create traffic and parking problems. The net density in single family areas will range from 1 to 7 units per acre, but may rise to a maximum of 14 units in areas where second units or duplexes are allowed. Population densities will range from 1 to 30 persons per acre.

Multiple Family Residential: The permitted number of housing units will vary by area, depending on existing land use, proximity to major streets and public transit, distance to shopping, and environmental problems. Net densities will range from 8 to 40 units and 8 to 90 persons per acre. Density should be on the lower end of the scale next to single family residential areas. Densities higher than what is permitted by zoning may be allowed where measurable community benefits will be derived, services and facilities are available, and the net effect will be compatible with the overall Comprehensive Plan.

Village Residential: Allows residential dwellings that are designed to contribute to the harmony and pedestrian orientation of a street or neighborhood. Housing types include single family houses on small lots, second units, cottage clusters, courtyard housing, duplexes, fourplexes, and small apartment buildings. Design standards will be prepared for each housing type to ensure that development successfully contributes to the street and neighborhood and minimizes potential negative impacts. Net densities will range up to 20 units per acre.

Transit-oriented Residential: Allows higher density residential dwellings in the University Avenue/Downtown and California Avenue commercial centers within a walkable distance, approximately 2,000 feet, of the City’s two multi-modal transit stations. The land use category is intended to generate residential densities that support substantial use of public transportation and especially the use of Caltrain. Design standards will be prepared to ensure that development successfully contributes to the street and minimizes potential negative impacts. Individual project performance standards will be developed, including parking, to ensure that a significant portion of the residents will use alternative modes of transportation. Net density will range up to 50 units per acre, with minimum densities to be considered during development of new City zoning regulations.

Commercial

Neighborhood Commercial: Includes shopping centers with off-street parking or a cluster of streetfront stores that serve the immediate neighborhood. Examples include Alma Plaza, Charleston Center, Edgewood Center, and Midtown. Typical uses include supermarkets, bakeries, drugstores, variety stores, barber shops, restaurants, self-service laundries, dry cleaners, and hardware stores. In some locations, residential and mixed use projects may also locate in this category. Non-residential floor area ratios will range up to 0.4.

Regional/Community Commercial: Larger shopping centers and districts that have wider variety goods and services than the neighborhood shopping areas. They rely on larger trade areas and include such uses as department stores, bookstores, furniture stores, toy stores, apparel shops, restaurants, theaters, and non-retail services such as offices and banks. Examples include Stanford Shopping Center, Town and Country Village, and University Avenue/Downtown. Non-residential floor area ratios range from 0.35 to 2. Service Commercial: Facilities providing citywide and regional services and relying on customers arriving by car. These uses do not necessarily benefit from being in high volume pedestrian areas such as shopping centers or Downtown. Typical uses include auto services and dealerships, motels, lumberyards, appliance stores, and restaurants, including fast service types. In almost all cases, these uses require good automobile and service access so that customers can safely load and unload without impeding traffic. In some locations, residential and mixed use projects may be appropriate in this land use category. Examples of Service Commercial areas include San Antonio Road, El Camino Real, and Embarcadero Road northeast of the Bayshore Freeway. Non-residential floor area ratios will range up to 0.4.

Mixed Use: This category includes Live/Work, Retail/Office, Residential/Retail and Residential/Office development. Its purpose is to increase the types of spaces available for living and working to encourage a mix of compatible uses in certain areas, and to encourage the upgrading of certain areas with buildings designed to provide a high quality pedestrian-oriented street environment. Mixed Use may include permitted activities mixed within the same building or within separate buildings on the same site or on nearby sites. Live/Work refers to one or more individuals living in the same building where they earn their livelihood, usually in professional or light industrial activities. Retail/Office, Residential/Retail, and Residential/Office provide other variations to Mixed Use with Retail typically on the ground floor and Residential on upper floors. Design standards will be developed to ensure that development is compatible and contributes to the character of the street and neighborhood. Floor area ratios will range up to 1.15, although Residential/ Retail and Residential/Office development located along transit corridors or near multi-modal centers will range up to 2.0 FAR with up to 3.0 FAR possible in areas resistant to revitalization. The FAR above 1.15 will be used for residential purposes.

Commercial Hotel: This category allows facilities for use by temporary overnight occupants on a transient basis, such as hotels and motels, with associated conference centers and similar uses. Restaurants and other eating facilities, meeting rooms, small retail shops, personal services, and other services ancillary to the hotel are also allowed. This category can be applied in combination with another land use category. Floor area ratio will range up to 1.5 for the hotel portion of the site.

Research/Office Park: Office, research, and manufacturing establishments whose operations are buffered from adjacent residential uses. Stanford Research Park is an example. Other uses that may be included are educational institutions and child care facilities. Compatible commercial service uses such as banks and restaurants, and residential or mixed uses that would benefit from the proximity to employment centers, will also be allowed. Additional uses, including retail services, restaurants, commercial recreation, churches, and private clubs may also be located in Research/Office Park areas, but only if they are found to be compatible with the surrounding area through the conditional use permit process. Maximum allowable floor area ratio ranges from 0.3 to 0.5, depending on site conditions.

Light Industrial: Wholesale and storage warehouses and the manufacturing, processing, repairing, and packaging of goods. Emission of fumes, noise, smoke, or other pollutants is strictly controlled. Examples include portions of the area south of Oregon Avenue between El Camino Real and Alma Street that historically have included these land uses, and the San Antonio Road industrial area. Compatible residential and mixed use projects may also be located in this category. Floor area ratio will range up to 0.5.

Institutional

School District Lands: Properties owned or leased by public school districts and used for educational, recreational, or other non-commercial, non-industrial purposes. Floor area ratio may not exceed 1.0. Major Institution/Special Facilities: Institutional, academic, governmental, and community service uses and lands that are either publicly owned or operated as non-profit organizations. Examples are hospitals and City facilities.

Major Institution/University Lands: Academic and academic reserve areas of Stanford University. Population density and building intensity limits are established by conditional use permit with Santa Clara County. These lands are further designated by the following sub-categories of land use:

Major Institution/University Lands/Campus Single Family Residential: Single family areas where the occupancy of the units is significantly or totally limited to individuals or families affiliated with the institution.

Major Institution/University Lands/Campus Multiple Family Residential: Multiple family areas where the occupancy of the units is significantly or totally limited to individuals or families affiliated with the institution.

Major Institution/University Lands/Campus Educational Facilities: Academic lands with a full complement of activities and densities that give them an urban character. Allowable uses are academic institutions and research facilities, student and faculty housing, and support services. Increases in student enrollment and faculty/ staff size must be accompanied by measures that mitigate traffic and housing impacts.

Major Institution/University Lands/Academic Reserve and Open Space: Academic lands having all the characteristics of open space but upon which some academic development may be allowed provided that open space amenities are retained. These lands are important for their aesthetic and ecological value as well as their potential for new academic uses.

What specific land use designations or physical design requirements could help foster public life and community interaction?


City Structure

GOAL L-2: An Enhanced Sense of “Community” with Development Designed to Foster Public Life and Meet Citywide Needs.


POLICY L-10: Maintain a citywide structure of Residential Neighborhoods, Centers, and Employment Districts. Integrate these areas with the City’s and the region’s transit and street system.

POLICY L-11: Promote increased compatibility, interdependence, and support between commercial and mixed use centers and the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Do you have other ideas/comments about city structure?

Back to the goals.


Residential Neighborhoods

GOAL L-3: Safe, Attractive Residential Neighborhoods, Each With Its Own Distinct Character And Within Walking Distance Of Shopping, Services, Schools, And/or Other Public Gathering Places.


What strategies can help ensure our residential neighborhoods retain their unique character and quality of life? What factors contribute to the quality of life here in Palo Alto?

POLICY L-12: Preserve the character of residential neighborhoods by encouraging new or remodeled structures to be compatible with the neighborhood and adjacent structures.

Should pedestrian-oriented design guidelines be applicable citywide or only in certain areas? What should the key objectives of the guidelines be?

PROGRAM  L-11: Establish pedestrian-oriented design guidelines for residences that encourage features that enliven the street.

PROGRAM L-12: Where compatible with neighborhood character, use Zoning and the Home Improvement Exception process to create incentives or eliminate obstacles to remodel houses with features that add street life and vitality.

At the Summit, some community members suggested that new housing types like micro-units, secondary units, and multi-generational housing are needed to house local workers and seniors. Do you agree? If so, are there specific locations where this type of housing would be appropriate?

POLICY L-13: Evaluate alternative types of housing that increase density and provide more diverse housing opportunities.

PROGRAM  L-13: Create and apply zoning standards for Village Residential housing prototypes. Develop design guidelines for duplexes, townhouses, courtyard housing, second units, and small lot single family homes that ensure that such housing is compatible with single family neighborhoods and other  areas where  it  may  be permitted.

PROGRAM  L-14: Create and apply zoning standards for Transit-Oriented Residential housing prototypes, including consideration of minimum density standards. Develop design guidelines that ensure that such housing is compatible with the University Avenue/Downtown and California Avenue centers where it may be permitted.

POLICY L-14: Design and arrange new multifamily buildings, including entries and outdoor spaces, so that each unit has a clear relationship to a public street.

POLICY L-15: Preserve and enhance the public gathering spaces within walking distance of residential neighborhoods. Ensure that each residential neighborhood has such spaces.

Would you support a small convenience store in your neighborhood? What criteria would need to be used for review and approval?

POLICY L- 16: Consider siting small neighborhood-serving retail facilities in existing or new residential areas.

POLICY L-17: Treat residential streets as both public ways and neighborhood amenities. Provide continuous sidewalks, healthy street trees, benches, and other amenities that favor pedestrians.

Do you have other ideas/comments about residential neighborhoods?

Back to the goals.


Commercial Centers

GOAL L-4: Inviting Pedestrian Scale Centers That Offer A Variety Of Retail And Commercial Services And Provide Focal Points And Community Gathering Places For The City’s Residential Neighborhoods And Employment Districts.


POLICY L-18: Encourage the upgrading and revitalization of selected Centers in a manner that is compatible with the character of surrounding neighborhoods.

PROGRAM  L-15: Establish a planning process for Centers that identifies the desired character of the area, its role within the City, the locations of public gathering spaces, appropriate land uses and building forms, and important street and pedestrian connections to surrounding Residential Neighborhoods.

POLICY L-19: Encourage a mix of land uses in all Centers, including housing and an appropriate mix of small-scale local businesses.

POLICY L-20: Encourage street frontages that contribute to retail vitality in all Centers. Reinforce street corners with buildings that come up to the sidewalk or that form corner plazas.

POLICY L-21: Provide all Centers with centrally located gathering spaces that create     a sense of identity and encourage economic revitalization. Encourage public amenities such as benches, street trees, kiosks, restrooms and public art.

PROGRAM L-16: Study the feasibility of using public and private funds to provide and maintain landscaping and public spaces such as parks, plazas, and sidewalks within commercial areas.

PROGRAM L-17: Through public/private cooperation, provide obvious, clean, and accessible restrooms available for use during normal business hours.

POLICY L-22: Enhance the appearance of streets and sidewalks within all Centers through an aggressive maintenance, repair and cleaning program; street improvements; and the use of a variety of paving materials and landscaping.

PROGRAM L-18: Identify priority street improvements that could make a substantial contribution to the character of Centers, including widening sidewalks, narrowing travel lanes, creating medians, restriping to allow diagonal parking, and planting street trees.

What do you like about Downtown? What don’t you like?

POLICY L-23: Maintain and enhance the University Avenue/Downtown area as the central business district of the City, with a mix of commercial, civic, cultural, recreational and residential uses. Promote quality design that recognizes the regional and historical importance of the area and reinforces its pedestrian character.

PROGRAM L-19: Support implementation of the Downtown Urban Design Guide.

PROGRAM  L-20: Facilitate reuse of existing buildings.

POLICY L-24: Ensure that University Avenue/Downtown is pedestrian-friendly and supports bicycle use. Use public art and other amenities to create an environment that is inviting to pedestrians.

PROGRAM  L-21: Improve the University Avenue/Downtown area by adding landscaping and bicycle parking and encouraging large development projects to benefit the public by incorporating public art.

POLICY L-25: Enhance the character of the South of Forest Area (SOFA) as a mixed use area.

The South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) Area benefitted from a Coordinated Area Plan prepared to guide development in this diverse, mixed-use sector of the city. What other areas would you prioritize for Coordinated Area Plans?

PROGRAM  L-22: Prepare a Coordinated Area Plan for the SOFA and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) site. 

What type of infill development could be appropriate on surface parking lots at the Stanford Shopping Center?

POLICY L-26: Maintain Stanford Shopping Center as one of the Bay Area’s premiere regional shopping centers. Encourage any new development at the Center to occur through infill, including development on existing surface parking lots.

PROGRAM  L-23: Identify strategies to reuse surface parking lots and improve pedestrian and transit connections at Stanford Shopping   Center

PROGRAM  L-24: Maintain a Stanford Shopping Center development cap of 80,000 square feet of additional development beyond that existing on June 14,   1996.

POLICY L-27: Pursue redevelopment of the University Avenue Multi-modal Transit Station area to establish a link between University Avenue/Downtown and the Stanford Shopping Center.

PROGRAM  L-25: Prepare a Coordinated Area Plan for the University Avenue Multi-modal Tran- sit Station Area.

Are these still the right community design priorities?

PROGRAM L-26: Establish the following unranked community design priorities for the University Avenue Multi-modal Transit Station Area:

  • Improving pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and auto connections to create an urban link between University Avenue/Downtown and Stanford Shopping Center
  • Creating a major civic space at the Caltrain Station that links University Avenue/Downtown and Palm Drive
  • Infilling underutilized parcels with a mix of uses such as shopping, housing, office, hotel, and medical facilities
  • Improving public park space
  • Protecting views of the foothills by guiding building heights and massing

POLICY L-28: Maintain the existing scale, character, and function of the California Avenue business district as a shopping, service, and office center intermediate in function and scale between Downtown and the smaller neighborhood business areas.

PROGRAM L-27: Create regulations for the California Avenue area that allow for the replacement or rehabilitation of smaller buildings while preventing buildings that are out of scale with existing buildings

PROGRAM L-28: Work with merchants, property owners, and City representatives to create an urban design guide for the California Avenue business district

POLICY L-29: Encourage residential and mixed use residential development in the California Avenue area.

PROGRAM L-29: Revise zoning of the California Avenue business district to reduce the non- residential development potential to levels comparable to other commercial areas in the City while retaining substantial residential development potential.

POLICY L-30: Improve the transition between the California-Cambridge area and the single family residential neighborhood of Evergreen Park. Avoid abrupt changes in scale and density between the two areas.

POLICY L-31: Develop the Cal-Ventura area as a well-designed mixed use district with diverse land uses, two- to three-story buildings, and a network of pedestrian-oriented streets providing links to California Avenue.

PROGRAM L-30: Prepare a Coordinated Area Plan for the Cal-Ventura area. Use the land use diagram from the Community Design Workshop as the starting point for preparing this Plan

PROGRAM  L-31: Establish the following unranked priorities for redevelopment within the Cal-Ventura area:

  • Connect the Cal-Ventura area with the Multi-modal Transit Station and California Avenue. Provide new streets and pedestrian connections that complete the street grid and create a walkable   neighborhood.
  • Fry’s Electronics site (300 Portage): Continued retail activity is anticipated for this site until 2019. A program should be developed for the future use of the site for mixed density multi- family housing and a park or other open space.
  • Hewlett-Packard: Uses that is compatible with the surrounding area and a site plan that facilitates pedestrian use of Park Boulevard.
  • North of Sheridan Avenue: Development of one or more of the City-owned parking lots with primarily residential uses, provided that public parking spaces are replaced.
  • Park Boulevard: Streetscape improvements.

Where do you do most of your shopping? Is it in the city? If your shopping patterns have changed, why is that the case?

POLICY L-32: Maintain Town and Country Village as an attractive community-serving retail center. Future development at this site should preserve its existing amenities, pedestrian scale, and architectural character.

POLICY L-33: In Town and Country Village, encourage housing development consistent with a vibrant business environment.

POLICY L-34: Encourage improvement of pedestrian and auto circulation and landscaping improvements, including maintenance of existing oak trees and planting additional oak trees.

What is your vision for the character of El Camino Real in 2030?

POLICY L-35: Establish the South El Camino Real area as a well-designed, compact, vital, Multi-neighborhood Center with diverse uses, a mix of one-, two-, and three-story buildings, and a network of pedestrian-oriented streets and ways.

PROGRAM L-32: Prepare a Coordinated Area Plan for the South El Camino Real area. Use the land use map from the Community Design Workshop as a starting point for preparing this Plan.

PROGRAM L-33: Study ways to make South El Camino Real more pedestrian-friendly, including redesigning the street to provide wider sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossings at key intersections, street trees, and streetscape improvements.

PROGRAM L-34: Provide better connections across El Camino Real to bring the Ventura and Barron Park neighborhoods together and to improve linkages to local schools and parks.

POLICY L-36: Allow a full range of office and retail uses on shallow parcels along South El Camino Real, subject to adequate buffering from adjacent residential uses.

PROGRAM L-35: Consider Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) as a tool to encourage re-development and/or community-serving amenities along South El Camino Real.

POLICY L-37: Maintain the scale and local-serving focus of Palo Alto’s four Neighborhood Centers. Support their continued improvement and vitality.

PROGRAM L-36: Evaluate current zoning to determine if it supports the types of uses and scale of buildings considered appropriate in Neighborhood Centers.

PROGRAM  L-37: Encourage property owners within Neighborhood Centers to prepare master plans, with the participation of local businesses, property owners, and nearby residents.

POLICY L-38: Encourage maximum use of Neighborhood Centers by ensuring that the publicly maintained areas are clean, well-lit, and attractively landscaped.

POLICY L-39: Facilitate opportunities to improve pedestrian-oriented commercial activity within Neighborhood Centers.

PROGRAM  L-38: Revise land use and zoning designations as needed to encourage medium- density housing (20 to 25 units per acre) within or near Neighborhood Centers served by public transportation to support a more vital mix of commercial activities.

POLICY L-40: Revitalize Midtown as an attractive, compact Neighborhood Center with diverse local-serving uses, a mix of one- and two-story buildings, adequate parking, and a network of pedestrian-oriented streets, ways and gathering places. Encourage retention of Midtown’s grocery stores and encourage a variety of neighborhood retail shops and services.

PROGRAM  L-39: Prepare a plan for Midtown with the participation of property owners, local businesses, and nearby residents. Consider the Midtown Economic Study and the land use concepts identified during the 1994 Community Design Workshop in developing the plan. The plan should have a special emphasis on public improvements, including parking, street furniture and signage.

PROGRAM  L-40: Make improvements to Middlefield Road in Midtown that slow traffic, encourage commercial vitality, make the street more pedestrian-friendly, and unify the northeast and southwest sides of the commercial area, with consideration given to traffic impacts on the residential neighborhood.

PROGRAM  L-41: Support bicycle and pedestrian trail improvements along a restored Matadero Creek within Hoover Park.

POLICY L-41: Maintain existing residential uses within the Midtown area and encourage additional residential development.

PROGRAM L-42: Retain the existing housing along Colorado Avenue and consider increasing the density to allow townhouses, co-housing, and/or housing for the disabled.

Do you have other ideas/comments about commercial centers?

Back to the goals.


Employment Districts

Goal L-5: High Quality Employment Districts, Each With Their Own Distinctive Character And Each Contributing To The Character Of The City As A Whole.


What are the most important characteristics the city’s employment districts should have, and how would you promote them?

Some examples of characteristics might include:

  • Uses: should employment districts add retail or service uses, or would this drive business away from existing retail? Childcare? Housing?
  • Connectivity: Is walkability important, or do we expect most workers to arrive on transit or bike? 
  • Design: is building massing or block size important within an employment district, or only at its edges where it adjoins other types of districts or neighborhoods?

POLICY L-42: Encourage Employment Districts to develop in a way that encourages transit, pedestrian and bicycle travel and reduces the number of auto trips for daily errands.

PROGRAM L-43: Modify existing zoning regulations and create incentives for employers to provide employee services in their existing buildings—for example, office support services, restaurants, convenience stores, public gathering places, and child care facilities—to reduce the need for employees to drive to these services.

POLICY L-43: Provide sidewalks, pedestrian paths, and connections to the citywide bikeway system within Employment Districts. Pursue opportunities to build sidewalks and paths in renovation and expansion projects.

PROGRAM L-44: Design the paths and sidewalks to be attractive and comfortable and consistent with the character of the area where they are located.

Is it your sense that Stanford University, Stanford Research Park and the City are partners working together on issues?

POLICY L-44: Develop the Stanford Research Park as a compact employment center served by a variety of transportation modes.

POLICY L-44: Develop the Stanford Research Park as a compact employment center served by a variety of transportation modes.

PROGRAM L-45: Create and apply zoning standards and design guidelines for commercial hotels and conference centers.

POLICY L-45: Develop Stanford Medical Center in a manner that recognizes the citywide goal of compact, pedestrian-oriented development as well as the functional needs of the Medical Center.

PROGRAM L-46: Work with Stanford to prepare an area plan for the Stanford Medical Center.

POLICY L-46: Maintain the East Bayshore and San Antonio Road/Bayshore Corridor areas as diverse business and light industrial districts.

POLICY L-47: Consider the East Meadow Circle Area as a potential site for higher density housing that provides a transition between existing housing and nearby industrial development.

PROGRAM L-47: Undertake a Community Design Workshop for the East Meadow Circle Area.

Do you have other ideas/comments about employment districts?

Are there additional considerations that should be added here to address the evolving needs of Palo Alto’s population, such as universal design for enhanced access, or design of public green spaces?


Design of Buildings and Public Space

GOAL L-6: Well-Designed Buildings That Create Coherent Development Patterns And Enhance City Streets And Public Spaces.


What elements make up “high quality, creative design” for you?

POLICY L-48: Promote high quality, creative design and site planning that is compatible with surrounding development and public spaces.

PROGRAM L-48: Use the Zoning Ordinance, design review process, design guidelines, and Co- ordinated Area Plans to ensure high quality residential and commercial design

PROGRAM L-49: In areas of the City having a historic or consistent design character, design new development to maintain and support the existing character.

POLICY L-49: Design buildings to revitalize streets and public spaces and to enhance a sense of community and personal safety. Provide an ordered variety of entries, porches, windows, bays and balconies along public ways where it is consistent with neighborhood character; avoid blank or solid walls at street level; and include human-scale details and massing.

PROGRAM L-50: Undertake a comprehensive review of residential and commercial zoning requirements to identify additional architectural standards that should be incorporated to implement Policy L-49.

PROGRAM L-51: Use illustrations and form code methods for simplifying the Zoning Ordinance and to promote well-designed buildings.

PROGRAM L-52: Discourage the use of fences that obscure the view of houses.

POLICY L-50: Encourage high quality signage that is attractive, appropriate for the location and balances visibility needs with aesthetic needs.

PROGRAM L-53: Promote awards programs and other forms of public recognition for projects of architectural merit that contribute positively to the community.

Do you have other ideas/comments about design of buildings and public space?

What should we be doing as a community to better identify and preserve our historic resources?


Historic Character

GOAL L-7: Conservation and Preservation of Palo Alto’s Historic Buildings, Sites, and Districts.


POLICY L-51: Encourage public and private upkeep and preservation of resources that have historic merit, including residences listed in the Historic Inventory.

PROGRAM L-54: Review and update the City’s Inventory of historic resources including City-owned structures.

PROGRAM L-55: Reassess the Historic Preservation Ordinance to ensure its effectiveness in the maintenance and preservation of historic resources, particularly in the University Avenue/Downtown area.

PROGRAM L-56: Maintain and strengthen the design review procedure for exterior remodeling or demolition of historic resources. Discourage demolition of historic resources and severely restrict demolition of Landmark resources

PROGRAM L-57: Encourage salvage of discarded historic building materials

PROGRAM L-58: For proposed exterior alterations or additions to designated Historic Landmarks, require design review findings that the proposed changes are in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation.

POLICY L-52: Encourage the preservation of significant historic resources owned by the City of Palo Alto. Allow such resources to be altered to meet contemporary needs, provided that the preservations standards adopted by the City Council are satisfied.

POLICY L-53: Actively seek state and federal funding for the preservation of buildings of historical merit and consider public/private partnerships for capital and program improvements.

POLICY L-54: Support the goals and objectives of the Statewide Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan for California.

POLICY L-55: Relocation may be considered as a preservation strategy when consistent with State and National Standards regarding the relocation of historic resources.

POLICY L-56: To reinforce the scale and character of University Avenue/Downtown, promote the preservation of significant historic buildings.

PROGRAM L-59: Allow parking exceptions for historic buildings to encourage rehabilitation. Require design review findings that the historic integrity of the building exterior will be maintained.

PROGRAM L-60: Continue to use a TDR Ordinance to allow the transfer of development rights from designated buildings of historic significance in the Commercial Downtown (CD) zone to non-historic receiver sites in the CD zone. Planned Community (PC) zone properties in the Downtown also qualify for this program.

POLICY L-57: Develop incentives for the retention and rehabilitation of buildings with historic merit in all zones.

PROGRAM  L-61: Allow nonconforming uses for the life of historic buildings.

PROGRAM L-62: Promote awards programs and other forms of public recognition for exemplary Historic Preservation projects

PROGRAM L-63: Streamline, to the maximum extent feasible, any future processes for design review of historic structures to eliminate unnecessary delay and uncertainty for the applicant and to encourage historic preservation.

PROGRAM L-64: Encourage and assist owners of historically significant buildings in finding ways to adapt and restore these buildings, including participation in state and federal tax relief programs.

POLICY L-58: Promote adaptive reuse of old buildings.

POLICY L-59: Follow the procedures established in the State Public Resources Code for the protection of designated historic buildings damaged by earthquake or other natural disaster.

PROGRAM L-65: Seek additional innovative ways to apply current codes and ordinances to older buildings. Use the State Historical Building Code for designated historic buildings

PROGRAM L-66: Revise existing zoning and permit regulations as needed to minimize constraints to adaptive reuse, particularly in retail areas.

POLICY L-60: Protect Palo Alto’s archaeological resources.

PROGRAM L-67: Using the archaeological sensitivity map in the Comprehensive Plan as a guide, continue to assess the need for archaeological surveys and mitigation plans on a project by project basis, consistent with the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Looking at the policies and programs below, are there other strategies needed to enrich cultural activities and public life in Palo Alto?

Civic Uses

GOAL L-8: Attractive and Safe Civic and Cultural Facilities Provided In All Neighborhoods and Maintained and Used In Ways That Foster and Enrich Public Life.

POLICY L-61: Promote the use of community and cultural centers, libraries, local schools, parks, and other community facilities as gathering places. Ensure that they are inviting and safe places that can deliver a variety of community services during both daytime and evening hours.

PROGRAM L-68: To help satisfy present and future community use needs, coordinate with the School District to educate the public about and to plan for the future use of school sites, including providing space for public gathering places for neighborhoods lacking space.

PROGRAM L-69: Enhance all entrances to Mitchell Park Community Center so that they are more inviting and facilitate public gatherings.

PROGRAM L-70: Study the potential for landscaping or park furniture that would promote neighborhood parks as outdoor gathering places and centers of neighborhood activity.

POLICY L-62: Provide comfortable seating areas and plazas with places for public art adjacent to library and community center entrances.

POLICY L-63: Encourage small-scale local-serving retail services, such as small cafes, delicatessens, and coffee carts, in Civic Centers.

POLICY L-64: Seek potential new sites for art and cultural facilities, public spaces, open space, and community gardens that encourage and support pedestrian and bicycle travel and person-to-person contact, particularly in neighborhoods that lack these amenities.

POLICY L-65: Encourage religious and private institutions to provide facilities that promote a sense of community and are compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

Do you have other ideas/comments about mobility for people with special needs?

How do we reincorporate nature into the cityscape?


Public Ways

GOAL L-9: Attractive, Inviting Public Spaces and Streets That Enhance the Image and Character of the City.


POLICY L-66: Maintain an aesthetically pleasing street network that helps frame and define the community while meeting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

POLICY L-67: Balance traffic circulation needs with the goal of creating walkable neighborhoods that are designed and oriented towards pedestrians.

POLICY L-68: Integrate creeks and green spaces with the street and pedestrian/bicycle path system.

POLICY L-69: Preserve the scenic qualities of Palo Alto roads and trails for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians.

PROGRAM  L-71: Recognize Sand Hill Road, University Avenue, Embarcadero Road, Page Mill Road, Oregon Expressway, Interstate 280, Arastradero Road (west of Foot- hill Expressway), Junipero Serra Boulevard/Foothill Expressway, and Skyline Boulevard as scenic routes

POLICY L-70: Enhance the appearance of streets and other public spaces by expanding and maintaining Palo Alto’s street tree system.

POLICY L-71: Strengthen the identity of important community gateways, including the entrances to the City at Highway 101, El Camino Real and Middlefield Road; the Caltrain stations; entries to commercial districts; and Embarcadero Road at El Camino Real.

PROGRAM L-72: Develop a strategy to enhance gateway sites with special landscaping, art, public spaces, and/or public buildings. Emphasize the creek bridges and riparian settings at the entrances to the City over Adobe Creek and San Francisquito Creek.

POLICY L-72: Promote and maintain public art and cultural facilities throughout Palo Alto. Ensure that such projects are compatible with the character and identity of the surrounding neighborhood.

POLICY L-73: Consider public art and cultural facilities as a public benefit in connection with new development projects. Consider incentives for including public art in large development projects.

POLICY L-74: Use the work of artists, craftspeople, architects, and landscape architects in the design and improvement of public spaces.

POLICY L-75: Minimize the negative physical impacts of parking lots. Locate parking behind buildings or underground wherever possible.

PROGRAM L-73: Revise the Zoning Ordinance to require the location of parking lots behind buildings rather than in front of them, under appropriate conditions.

PROGRAM L-74: Modify zoning standards pertaining to parking lot layout and landscaping for land uses within Employment Districts.

POLICY L-76: Require trees and other landscaping within parking lots.

PROGRAM L-75: Consider Zoning Ordinance amendments for parking lot landscaping, including requiring a variety of drought-tolerant, relatively litter-free tree species capable of forming a 50 percent tree canopy within 10 to 15 years. Consider further amendments that would require existing nonconforming lots to come into compliance wherever possible.

POLICY L-77: Encourage alternatives to surface parking lots to minimize the amount of land that must be devoted to parking, provided that economic and traffic safety goals can still be achieved

PROGRAM L-76: Evaluate parking requirements and actual parking needs for specific uses. Develop design criteria based on a standard somewhere between average and peak conditions.

PROGRAM L-77: Revise parking requirements to encourage creative solutions such as valet parking, landscaped parking reserves, satellite parking, and others that minimize the use of open land for parking.

PROGRAM L-78: Encourage the use of Planned Community (PC) zoning for parking structures Downtown and in the California Avenue area.

POLICY L-78: Encourage development that creatively integrates parking into the project by providing for shared use of parking areas.

POLICY L-79: Design public infrastructure, including paving, signs, utility structures, parking garages and parking lots to meet high quality urban design standards. Look for opportunities to use art and artists in the design of public infrastructure. Remove or mitigate elements of existing infrastructure that are unsightly or visually disruptive.

PROGRAM L-79: Undertake a coordinated effort by the Public Works, Utilities, and Planning Departments to establish design standards for public infrastructure and ex- amine the effectiveness of City street, sidewalk and street tree maintenance programs.

PROGRAM L-80: Continue the citywide undergrounding of utility wires. Minimize the impacts of undergrounding on street tree root systems and planting areas.

PROGRAM L-81: Encourage the use of compact and well-designed utility elements, such as transformers, switching devices, and backflow preventers. Place these elements in locations that will minimize their visual intrusion.

Do you have other ideas/comments about public ways?

How to contribute your ideas.

Click on a section to read ideas written by others and/or write your own. Try it right now - click on this section to see how it works.

If you'd like to review the draft policy details, you may want to participate using the Extended Version.

What tools would you like the city to employ to deal with the impacts of non-residential growth? Is simply dealing with these impacts enough?

Growth Management thumbnail

What tools would you like the city to employ to deal with the impacts of non-residential growth? Is simply dealing with these impacts enough?

Share your ideas on growth management.

At the Summit, some community members suggested that new housing types like micro-units, secondary units, and multi-generational housing are needed to house local workers and seniors. Do you agree? If so, are there specific locations where this type of housing would be appropriate?

Height Limits thumbnail

At the Summit, some community members suggested that new housing types like micro-units, secondary units, and multi-generational housing are needed to house local workers and seniors. Do you agree? If so, are there specific locations where this type of housing would be appropriate?

Share your ideas on new housing types.

What elements make up “high quality, creative design” for you?

High Quality Design thumbnail

What elements make up “high quality, creative design” for you?

Share your ideas on high quality design.

What strategies can help ensure our residential neighborhoods retain their unique character and quality of life?

Neighborhood Character thumbnail

What strategies can help ensure our residential neighborhoods retain their unique character and quality of life?

Share your ideas on neighborhood character.

Are there certain areas of the City where raising the height limit to 55 or 60 feet might make sense, if the additional allowed space was used specifically only for additional housing units?

Height Limits thumbnail

Are there certain areas of the City where raising the height limit to 55 or 60 feet might make sense, if the additional allowed space was used specifically only for additional housing units?

Share your ideas on height limits.

What are the most important characteristics the city’s employment districts should have, and how would you promote them?

Some examples of characteristics might include:

a) Uses: should employment districts add retail or service uses, or would this drive business away from existing retail? Childcare? Housing?
b) Connectivity: Is walkability important, or do we expect most workers to arrive on transit or bike?
c) 
​Design: Is building massing or block size important within an employment district, or only at its edges where it adjoins other types of districts or neighborhoods?

Employment Districts thumbnail

What are the most important characteristics the city’s employment districts should have, and how would you promote them?

Some examples of characteristics might include:

a) Uses: should employment districts add retail or service uses, or would this drive business away from existing retail? Childcare? Housing?
b) Connectivity: Is walkability important, or do we expect most workers to arrive on transit or bike?
c) 
Design: Is building massing or block size important within an employment district, or only at its edges where it adjoins other types of districts or neighborhoods?

Share your ideas on employment districts.

What is your vision for the character of El Camino Real in 2030?

El Camino Real thumbnail

What is your vision for the character of El Camino Real in 2030?

Share your ideas on the future of El Camino Real.

The South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) Area benefitted from a Coordinated Area Plan prepared to guide development in this diverse, mixed-use sector of the city. What other areas would you prioritize for Coordinated Area Plans?

Coordinated Area Plans thumbnail

The South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) Area benefitted from a Coordinated Area Plan prepared to guide development in this diverse, mixed-use sector of the city. What other areas would you prioritize for Coordinated Area Plans?

Share your ideas on Coordinated Area Plans.

+
9
11
3
4
10
4
4
3
+
+
2
2
3
1
1
+
+
+
+
+
1
1
1
1
1
2
+
+
1
+
+
+
+
+
+
+
1
+
+
+
+