City Attorney's Office Frequently Asked Questions

The Office of the City Attorney receives many questions regarding claims, legal services, how to report issues to the city, ethics, city laws, and more. We have listed some of the frequently asked questions below. 

Legal Resources for the Public

I need a lawyer. Can the City Attorney help me?

The City Attorney is the lawyer for the City of Palo Alto as an organization. That means that we work for the City Council, the City Manager, and other City staff. By law, the City Attorney is prohibited from representing residents, business or any private individual or group.

Go to our Legal Resources page for a list of referrals to lawyers who can help with landlord-tenant issues, business or neighbor disputes, family issues, personal injuries, etc.

Who can I contact to help me with a rental problem in my neighborhood?

The City's Office of Human Services has resources for landlord/tenant issues here tenant / landlord mediation services.

What agency do I contact to handle the following issues?



I got hurt on City property. A City vehicle or tree damaged my property. What can I do?

Information about filing a claim against the City of Palo Alto is below.

How do I file a claim against the City of Palo Alto?

Claim forms and instructions are available online and from the City Clerk's Office, (650) 329-2571, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

How long do I have to file a claim?

Generally the claim must be filed with the City Clerk’s Office within six (6) months from the date of the incident but you should consult with an attorney to determine the applicable deadline.

What happens once a claim is filed?

The claim will be investigated and resolution sent generally within 45 days of filed date.


Reporting City Issues 

How do I report a resident or business that is violating City Codes?

Where can I report a pothole or other broken or damaged City property?

City-owned Road, sidewalk, and streetlight issues can be reported online at PaloAlto311. The County of Santa Clara maintains the County expressways and some streets in Palo Alto (including parts of El Camino Real), and more information can be found here.



Where can I find information about ethics requirements for City officials?

The California Fair Political Practices Commission enforces state conflict-of-interest laws for City officials. More information can be found on their website.



Where can I find more information about the City's COVID- related eviction moratorium?

Where can I find more information about COVID health orders?

The State of California and the County of Santa Clara have health orders that apply to the City of Palo Alto. You can find more information on their respective websites:

Where can I make a complaint about a business I suspect is not following COVID health orders?

The District Attorney’s Office has an online complaint form for businesses located throughout the County of Santa Clara.


Office Employment

Is the City Attorney's Office hiring?

Job postings for the City Attorney’s Office are posted at with other City job opportunities. The City Attorney’s Office also has a fellow program for new California attorneys interested in a career in municipal law. More information for the next cycle to begin in late 2022 is scheduled to be released in 2021.

Does the City Attorney's Office accept student interns?

The City Attorney’s Office does not accept high school, college, or law school student interns. The City has a summer program for high school student interns, who are placed throughout the City organization.


Public Records

How do I obtain a copy of a public record?

Many records are already available online. The City Clerk’s Office has online records of ordinances and resolutions, as well as agendas and minutes of City Council and commission meetings. Many Planning, Building, and Public Works records are located online at the City’s online permitting portal. The City also has an Open Data Portal with several searchable databases.

If you cannot find a document online, Public Records Requests can be submitted electronically by accessing the City’s online Public Records Request portal.

Police reports can be requested from the Palo Alto Police Department.


City Laws & Municipal Code

Where can I find the Municipal Code?

The Palo Alto Municipal Code and the Charter of the City of Palo Alto can be found online. The Municipal Code is updated periodically and may not yet reflect recently adopted ordinances.

Where can I find a signed copy of a resolution or ordinance?

For a copy of a resolution or an ordinance visit our Legislation page. 

Where can I find City Council agendas?

For City Council agendas visit our Council Agenda page.  


Legal Service

How do I serve the City of Palo Alto with a lawsuit?

By law, lawsuits against the City of Palo Alto must be served on the Office of the Clerk. The City Attorney’s Office does not accept service of lawsuits against the City of Palo Alto.

How do I serve the City of Palo Alto with a subpoena?

In cases in which the City of Palo Alto is not a party to a lawsuit, subpoenas should be served on the specific City department that you are seeking records from.


Other Agencies

Does the City Attorney's Office represent the Palo Alto Unified School District or East Palo Alto?

No, PAUSD and East Palo Alto are each separate government agencies with their own legal counsel.

Can the City Attorney's Office give me information about a criminal prosecution?

Unlike some cities in Southern California, the City Attorney’s Office generally does not handle the prosecution of state Penal Code infractions or misdemeanors, which are handled by the County’s Office of the District Attorney The City Attorney’s Office is responsible for enforcing the City’s own ordinances.