Safety Element

The Safety Element is currently a part of the Natural Environment Element of the Comprehensive Plan, which addresses the protection of life and property in Palo Alto from natural hazards. This section of the Plan includes policies pertaining to hazardous materials and solid waste disposal. State law requires a Safety Element to describe how the city will protect residents from, and thus help reduce the risk from, exposure to natural hazards such as earthquakes, flooding, sea level rise, drought, and wildfires. Based on City Council direction, these policies are being separated from the Natural Environment Element into a new Safety Element as part of the Our Palo Alto 2030 process.

The Current Plan: A Solid Foundation

The existing Natural Environment Element supports the community’s desire to reduce solid waste generation, clean up contaminated sites, be well prepared for natural disasters and grow and change in a way the minimizes public exposure to natural hazards. The following policy themes are carried forward:

  • Protecting life, ecosystems, and property from natural hazards and disasters.
  • Minimizing the use of toxic and hazardous materials, and promoting the use of alternative materials and practices that are environmentally benign.
  • Reducing the amount of solid waste generated.

The Element includes maps and diagrams to depict the locations of natural hazards in Palo Alto, as well as city services such as police and fire.

Our Palo Alto 2030

In order to respond to changes in policy and conditions over the past decade, Our Palo Alto 2030 features a newly-created Safety Element, with concepts that have shifted from the existing Natural and Urban Environment and Safety Element, and new concepts that include:

  • Emphasizing and supporting community emergency preparedness, including energy resilience in the event of a natural disaster or other treats.
  • Protecting residents and sensitive habitat from increased likelihood of extreme storm events caused by climate change.
  • Protecting sensitive habitat from human threats, including biohazards.
  • Securing the City’s computer and digital infrastructure to protect it from unauthorized external access and internal system failures.

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Vision Statement

“The City of Palo Alto is committed to the day-today safety of its entire residential, business and visitor community. The City will remain aware of all potential risks, fully prepared for emergencies and will support public awareness, preparation and response. The following policy framework reflects Palo Alto’s longstanding belief that city safety begins internally, with education, awareness and action at the neighborhood level. Such prepared communities strengthen the City’s ability to be vigilant to both natural and human-caused hazards, and ultimately to minimize the impacts of these hazards. Community safety demands balancing a complex series of factors, and Palo Alto will continually develop best practices, coordinate with other organizations and adopt technological innovations in order to achieve this balance.”


Click here to view the 1998 Comp Plan version of the Natural and Urban Environment and Safety Element.

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

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