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 the City’s decision-making process. The Chapter provides information about participating in government; guidance to City staff and officials who carrying out the policies and programs in the Comprehensive Plan; describes how local planning decisions are made; profiles the City’s governing bodies and staff departments; and includes goals, policies, and programs that ensure City decisions are inclusive and clear.

The City offers many opportunities for participation, such as on 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
  • Citizen Corps Council
  • Utilities Advisory Commission

Palo Altans also have a voice in regional planning via the City Council members who 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’s objectives are featured in the Executive Summary for Our Palo Alto 2030, its policies are carried over in the updated Plan, and it informs the Our Palo Alto 2030 User’s Guide. The Chapter’s initiatives include:

  • Providing effective opportunities for public participation in local government.
  • Supporting informed and involved civic, cultural, environmental, social service and neighborhood organizations and residents.
  • Collaborating with regional partners and providing support on regional issues.
  • Encouraging active involvement of local citizens as volunteers.
  • Providing decision-makers and residents with clear tools for understanding planning regulations.

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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 1998 Comp Plan version of the Governance Chapter.

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

Click here to view all CAC meetings where revisions to the Chapter was discussed.