Business and Economics Element

The Business and Economics Element is an optional Element not required by State law, but it is just as important as the mandated elements in shaping the future of Palo Alto. Renowned globally for innovation in research and technology, Palo Alto also has regional commercial districts and neighborhood shopping centers that play a major role in local quality of life. The Element emphasizes diversity, growth, and flexibility of businesses, as well the interdependence between commercial areas, employment districts, and residential neighborhoods.

The Current Plan: A Solid Foundation

The Business and Economics Element has supported City efforts to attract and retain commercial activities that fit with—and are prized by—our community. Our Palo Alto 2030 includes the following policy direction:

  • Maintaining distinct business districts as a means of retaining local services and diversifying the City’s economic base.
  • Ensuring that neighborhood shopping areas, including California Avenue, are attractive, accessible, and convenient to nearby residents.
  • Promoting revitalization of selected areas and providing community amenities and services.
  • Supporting advanced communications infrastructure and other improvements that businesses of all sizes and types rely on.
  • Encouraging pedestrian-oriented neighborhood retail along El Camino Real.

The Element also recognizes the roles that Stanford University plays in our local economy, both as the largest employer in Palo Alto and as an incubator of innovation. The policy framework supports Stanford Research Park as a thriving employment district and Stanford Shopping Center as a major regional commercial attraction.

The Element includes maps and data that describe overall trends and specific indicators of the local and regional economy.

Our Palo Alto 2030

The Plan update assesses growth management strategies, including alternatives to the existing citywide development cap. Policies in this Element ensure that economic prosperity is balanced with dynamic growth management and land use compatibility goals. The updated Element includes the following topics:

  • Encouraging new businesses that contribute to economic vitality, enhance the city’s physical environment, promote municipal revenues and provide needed local services.
  • Supporting a thriving business environment that complements and is compatible with Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods and natural environment.
  • Maintaining the City’s fiscal health through careful attention to revenues and costs.
  • Stimulating diverse commercial, retail and professional service business opportunities through supportive business policies and a culture of innovation.
  • Provide certainty, predictability, and efficiency in regulations and operating procedures that help businesses adapt to changing market conditions.
  • Support attractive, vibrant retail centers with a mix of uses and a distinctive character, as well as business employment districts that complement the City’s business and neighborhood centers.

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Vision Statement

“Palo Alto’s business environment will be dynamic and vital. Businesses will have access to a wide array of support services and will enjoy positive relationships with Palo Alto residents, officials and City staff. The diverse character of Palo Alto will remain, so that the City’s livable neighborhoods are protected and enhanced, while its business districts remain competitive and attractive. The local economy will thrive, a diverse array of goods and services will be provided to Palo Alto consumers, and the City’s historic, mutually beneficial relationship with Stanford University supported. Most development will occur within Palo Alto’s business employment districts and will be consistent with the role and character designated for those districts by this Plan.”


Click here to view the 1998 Comp Plan version of the Business and Economics Element.

Click here to view the June 30, 2017 version of the Element.

Click here to view all CAC meetings where this Element was discussed.