Draft Existing Conditions Report

Every thoughtful planning process includes consideration of the regulatory and the physical context of the affected area and the ongoing update to Palo Alto’s Comprehensive Plan is no exception.  The attached Existing Conditions Reports (Reports) address fourteen different topics that will be important to the Comprehensive Plan update, and are presented in draft form for review and comment by interested members of the community.

The Comprehensive Plan is the City’s blueprint for the future; it contains policies related to land use, housing, transportation, natural resources, safety, community services, and more — providing a foundation for City regulations and capital improvements.  The Comprehensive Plan must comply with State requirements about its contents, although the City may organize and supplement the required contents as desired.

The City’s current Comprehensive Plan, Embracing the New Century, Palo Alto 1998-2010 Comprehensive Plan, has served the City well and may require only modest updates and changes; however, the City must conduct an environmental review process before a final decision can be made to adopt an updated Comprehensive Plan.  The environmental review process must consider the potential environmental impacts, including direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, of changes expected to occur during the life of the Comprehensive Plan, and the State law requires that we address the fourteen topics covered in these Reports. The environmental review process also requires that the City consider a range of alternatives when evaluating the Comprehensive Plan.

The Reports describe applicable laws and regulations, document existing conditions, and identify current trends where possible.  Please dip into those topics that interest you and let us know what you think.  You may find something missing that we can add to the next draft, or you may find some interesting facts of which you were unaware.  For example, did you know:

  • Approximately 59 percent of land within the Palo Alto City limit is park land, open space, or public conservation land, compared to 40.5 percent in 1996.
  • There are over 300 species of trees on Palo Alto’s streets.
  • There are approximately 400 places of historic merit in Palo Alto, ranging from the thousand-year old “El Palo Alto” redwood tree, where early Spanish explorers are believed to have camped, to the HP garage, where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the HP Computer Company.
  • In 2013, the median home sales price in Palo Alto was $1,720,000, more than 2.5 times that of the County median price of $645,000.
  • Palo Alto has a ratio of approximately 3.04 jobs for every employed resident, compared to 1.05 jobs for every employed resident in the county as a whole.
  • Palo Alto has added over 625 affordable housing units since 1999.
  • The City has tracked increases in non-residential square footage in Downtown since 1986 and in other areas of the City since 1989.  The average annual growth in non-residential square footage Citywide between 1989 and today has been 96,406 square feet per year.
  • City of Palo Alto Utilities delivered carbon neutral electricity in 2013 and has achieved the State goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, well in advance of the 2020 deadline.
  • Average daily traffic (ADT) volumes along Sand Hill Road increased by 38 percent between 1996 and 2014, and the average delay experienced by drivers at the El Camino Real and Alma Street/Sand Hill Road intersection during the PM peak period rose from 11 seconds to 48.4 seconds over the same timeframe.
  • Palo Alto has approximately 65 miles of existing bikeways and 93 percent of households in Palo Alto own a bicycle.

Please email us your questions and comments using the form below. Any input we receive will help provide a context for the Comprehensive Plan Update, and help us prepare a revised version for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that will be released for public review later in the planning process.

Existing Conditions Report - Comment Form

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Help Text

Click on the icons below to access the reports, available in PDF and Flip-Book formats. To navigate the interactive Flip-Books, scroll through onscreen or jump to a specific chapter by clicking on the hyperlinked chapter title in the table of contents. Additional navigational tools are available at the top and bottom of the screen.

Aesthetics and Visual Resources

Air Quality

Biological Resources

Cultural Resources

Geology, Soils, and Seismicity

Hazardous Materials

Hydrology and Water Quality



Land Use


Population, Housing, and Employment

Public Services

Transportation and Traffic

Utilities and Service Systems

Greenhouse Gas Emissions