Land Use and Community Design Element

The Land Use and Community Design Element is the guiding force behind the physical form of our city. It lays out a framework for conservation and development to preserve neighborhoods, protect historic and natural resources, channel growth and commercial activity to suitable sites, respond to climate change, reduce pollution, and promote active and healthy lifestyles.

State law requires a Land Use 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 Current Plan: A Solid Foundation

The existing Land Use and Community Design Element supports the community’s objectives for growth management, and the following cornerstone policy themes are carried forward

  • 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.

The Element includes maps and diagrams to depict the intensity and distribution of land uses.

Our Palo Alto 2030

This Element focuses on the relationship between infrastructure, transportation investments, land use, and development. Building on the solid foundation of the existing Land Use and Community Design Element, the updated Element will continue to direct growth and provide clear development standards, while reexamining the existing growth caps for the City and Downtown. The updated Element reflects emerging trends, community concerns, and CAC and Council input, including:

  • Requiring the highest quality development with the least impacts
  • Providing housing that is affordable, including increased housing for seniors and others with special needs
  • Setting high standards for urban design and protecting neighborhood character
  • Supporting local retail
  • Preserving and enhancing open spaces and the urban forest
  • Updating the growth management system to manage the growth of Office and R&D uses
  • Assessing the influence of both existing and new development on livability of the community.

The Land Use and Community Design Element also will include maps and diagrams to depict densities and distribution of land uses.


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Vision Statement

“Palo Alto’s land use decisions shall balance our future growth needs with the preservation of our neighborhoods, address climate protection priorities through sustainable development near neighborhood services and enhance the quality of life of all neighborhoods.”


Click here to view the 1998 Comp Plan version of the Land Use and Community Design Element.

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

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