Governance Chapter

The Governance Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan goes beyond the State-required Elements to affirm Palo Alto’s commitment to public participation in decision-making. The Chapter informs citizens about how to participate in government, and it provides guidance to City staff and officials carrying out the policies and programs in the Comprehensive Plan. The Chapter describes how local planning decisions are made, profiles the City’s governing bodies and staff departments, and includes goals, policies, and programs to ensure that inclusion and clarity surround all City decisions.

The City offers many opportunities for citizens to participate in governance through a variety of boards and commissions that advise the City Council, and in some cases are responsible for final decisions on project proposals. These include the:

  • Architectural Review Board
  • Historic Resources Board
  • Human Relations Commission
  • Library Advisory Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Planning and Transportation Commission
  • Public Art Commission
  • Storm Drain Oversight Committee
  • Utilities Advisory Commission

Palo Altans also have a voice in regional planning via the City Council members that represent the community in organizations such as the Santa Clara County Cities Association, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The Governance Chapter embodies Palo Alto‘s commitment to conducting City business in a collaborative and transparent manner. Its objectives will be featured in the Executive Summary for Our Palo Alto 2030, its policies will be carried over in the updated Plan, and it will inform the Our Palo Alto 2030 User’s Guide. The Governance Chapter’s initiatives include:

  • Building relationships among City staff and officials and neighborhood groups.
  • Providing access to information via all available media.
  • Encouraging volunteers, including youth and seniors, to provide community services.
  • Developing innovative new planning processes that emphasize collaborative exchanges of ideas.
  • Providing decision-makers and residents with clear tools for understanding planning regulations.


Vision Statement

Palo Alto will maintain a positive civic image and be a leader in the regional, state, and national policy discussions affecting the community. The City will work with neighboring communities to address common concerns and pursue common interests. The public will be actively and effectively involved in City affairs, both at the Citywide and neighborhood levels. Where appropriate, the City Council will delegate decision-making responsibilities to local boards and commissions. The Council will also assign advisory roles to these bodies as well as other community groups. Residents, businesses, and elected and appointed officials will work collaboratively to address the issues facing the City in a timely manner. This inclusive, participatory process will help build a sense of community.

Click here to view the current Governance Chapter.