Intergovernmental Affairs


The City of Palo Alto engages in state and federal legislative activities pursuant to our Council-approved Advocacy Process Manual and Legislative Guidelines(PDF, 131KB). Additionally, City staff:

  • Tracks multiple bills that may impact or are of interest to the City
  • Directs legislative representatives in Sacramento and Washington D.C. who advocate on the City’s behalf
  • Collaborates with external partners whose interests align with our own
  • Supports the engagement of our local elected officials with state and federal policymakers

For items related to the FAA and airplane noise, please visit our separate FAA web page

2023 Items with City Action

Note that while City staff and our advocates track numerous bills and issues and engage with policymakers often, the items noted below are only those with formal written City action.

2023 High Gas Prices (Newsom): On February 7, the Mayor signed a letter to Governor Newsom as well as our State and Federal delegations supporting the Governor’s call for a federal investigation of the historic high gas prices seen since November.

2022 Items with City Action

Note that while City staff and our advocates track numerous bills and issues and engage with policymakers often, the items noted below are only those with formal written City action.

State Items

SB 960 (Skinner): On June 30, the Mayor expressed support for SB 960 Public Employment: Peace Officers: Citizenship. SB 960 will remove the provision requiring peace officers in the California to be United States citizens, broadening eligibility and allowing more individuals from the community to serve as peace officers.

AB 2449 (Rubio): On June 30, the Mayor signed a letter supporting AB 2449 Open Meetings: Teleconferences. This bill allows until January 1, 2028, members of a legislative body of a local agency to use teleconferencing without identifying each teleconference location in the notice of the agenda of the meeting, and without making each teleconference location accessible to the public, under specified conditions.

AB 2259 (Berman): On June 30, the Mayor signed a letter supporting AB 2259 Foster Youth: Substance Use Disorders. This bill requires the California Department of Social Services, upon appropriation, and in collaboration with the California Department of Health Care Services, to establish a grant program to fund the development and implementation of evidence-based models and promising practices to serve foster youth with substance use disorders who are residing in family-based settings.

AB 2181 (Berman): On June 30, the Mayor signed a letter respectfully opposing unless amended AB 2181 Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which seeks to make significant changes to the membership and governance of the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

SB 1032 (Becker): On May 31, the Director of Utilities signed a letter supporting SB 1032 Public Utilities Commission: Electrical Transmission grid Development and Expansion. This bill requires the California Public Utilities Department Commission to study proposals that accelerate the development and expansion of the state's electrical grid in a manner that both furthers the state's greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal and reduces ratepayer costs.

SB 1000 (Becker): On April 7, the Mayor signed a letter supporting SB 1000 Law Enforcement Agencies: Radio Communications Support from the City of Palo Alto. This bill would require a law enforcement agency, including the California Highway Patrol, municipal police departments, county sheriff's departments, specified local law enforcement agencies, and specified university and college police departments, to ensure public access to the radio communications of that agency

2022 Budget Requests from the City of Palo Alto (Becker): On March 10, City Council highlighted a few of the City's funding priorities for several projects related infrastructure improvements and housing funding support.

2021 Items with City Action 

Note that while City staff and our advocates track numerous bills and issues and engage with policymakers oftenthe items noted below are only those with formal written City action.

State Items 

AB 703 (Rubio): On May 14, the Mayor signed a letter supporting AB 703: Open Meetings. This bill is not moving forward this year. It would declare the Legislature’s intent, consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order No. N-29-20, to improve and enhance public access to local agency meetings into the future, and considering the digital age, by allowing broader access through teleconferencing options for the governing body and the public. 

SB 9 (Atkins): On March 8, the Mayor signed a letter opposing SB 9: Housing Development Approvals. This bill would require ministerial approval of a housing development of no more than two units in a single-family zone (duplex), the subdivision of a parcel zoned for residential use into two parcels (lot split), or both. This bill continues to move forward.

SB 10 (Weiner): On March 9, the Mayor signed a letter opposing SB 10: Planning and Zoning: Housing Development Density. This bill would authorize a city or county to pass an ordinance to zone any parcel for up to 10 units of residential density, at a height specified by the local government in the ordinance, if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site, as specified. This bill was recently on the Senate Floor.

SB 556 (Dodd): On April 30, the Mayor signed a letter opposing SB 556: Street light poles, traffic signal poles: small wireless facilities attachments. This bill would establish permitting requirements for the placement of small wireless facilities on street light and traffic signal poles owned by local governments, including specified timelines for approving and attaching infrastructure, limitations on fees for attachments, and restrictions on local governments’ ability to prohibit small wireless facility attachments. This bill has moved out of the Senate and into the Assembly.

SB 591 (Becker): On May 14, the Mayor signed a letter supporting SB 591: Senior citizens: intergenerational housing developments. The bill would authorize the establishment of an intergenerational housing development for senior citizens, caregivers, or transition age youths, as provided. This bill has moved out of the Senate and into the Assembly. 

SB 765 (Stern): On April 7, the Mayor signed a letter supporting SB 765: Accessory Dwelling Units. This bill would repeal the existing prohibition on a city or county imposing a requirement of a setback for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) of more than four feet from the rear and side lot lines.  

Broadband Infrastructure Funding (Newsom): On May 18, the Mayor signed a letter supporting the state budget proposal Broadband for All Californians. This aligns with the City goal to increase broadband access and speeds in the community. If approved, the funding could be used for the expansion of broadband networks. The City submitted a second letter supporting the Governor's Broadband proposal as well. 

SCR 49 (Becker & Berman): On June 14, the Director of Palo Alto Utilities, Dean Batchelor, signed a letter of support for SCR 49. This proposed resolution would designate the first full week of October of each year as "Public Power Week" in California in honor of public power utilities such as the City of Palo Alto, and their customers, policymakers, and employees.

AB 758 (McGuire): The Utilities Department submitted an updated letter of support to the Senate regarding AB 758. This bill would allow electric publicly owned utilities to issue rate reduction bonds in the same manner already allowed for water publicly owned utilities. 

Federal Items

Community Project Funding Requests (Eshoo)The City successfully submitted for a few Community Project Funding requests to Congresswoman Eshoo for projects relevant to the Palo Alto Community. Congresswoman Eshoo recommended the the following funding requests on behalf of the City: 

  • Mental Health Alternative Response Program (CAHOOTS-like program): 
  • Palo Alto Avenue Grade Separation and Downtown Coordinated Area Plan Study
  • [Through the Palo Alto Museum]: Support for the Roth Building Reconstruction

The City also submitted to US Senators Feinstein for Community Project Funding for the Fire Station 4 Reconstruction Project. The City will be notified soon on the success of that request. 

On February 18, the Mayor sent a letter to President Biden and Congress for direct funding to cities as part of the American Rescue Plan. The City later received notice of direct allocation to municipalities, including Palo Alto. 

Broadband: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Senator Booker Lead Bicameral Letter Calling on the Treasury Department to Allow Municipalities to More Easily Use American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Funds for Broadband. The letter advocates to the Treasury Department to change the Interim Final Rule related to allowable expenditures of funds for state and local governments under the ARP. The proposed change would allow for more municipalities such as Palo Alto to use ARP funds to upgrade and provide accessible, high-speed internet in their towns and cities.


On June 8, 2021, the Mayor sent a letter to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) requesting that the SFPUC produce an appendix for inclusion in Urban Water Management Plans that analyzes the impact on regional water supply of shortening the Design Drought by one year to 7.5 years. 


2020 Items with City Action

COVID-19 relief

On April 29, 2020, representatives of the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, including Mayor Fine, Councilmember Liz Kniss and many other local elected officials, jointly requested the County of Santa Clara accelerate its actions related to COVID-19 testing.

When the third federal COVID-19 economic stimulus bill, the CARES Act, was signed into law on March 30, it provided direct federal aid to only those localities with a population of 500,000 or more. To help Palo Alto receive federal funding in future legislation, the City sent a letter to Congresswoman Eshoo on April 6 requesting the inclusion of cities of all sizes in any potential future stimulus package. On April 9 Mayor Fine submitted a request to the State to share in its direct financial aid, and followed up with a letter on June 3 noting that the proposed allocation of CARES Act money to cities is not enough to cover COVID-19-related expenses. 

Additionally, on April 13 the City wrote to Congresswoman Eshoo asking for her to consider co-signing or supporting H.R. 6467 (Neguse, D-CO), a bill to provide federal funding to cities with fewer than 500,000 residents. On April 16, we heard from Congresswoman Eshoo, who stated she would co-sponsor the bill. City staff are also monitoring the Senate companion bill. 

State Items 

Shift of ERAF-related property taxes. On June 2, the Mayor signed a letter opposing the Governor’s Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) budget proposal to retroactively shift property taxes away from some local governments and to the State. The proposal is in response to disagreements between the State and five counties, including Santa Clara, related to the calculation of the ERAF. The letter asks the state allow the parties to reach an agreement outside of the budget process.

Elimination of Community-Based Adult Services. The Governor proposes to eliminate the Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS) program, which provides health and social services to seniors and adults with disabilities who are at risk of institutional placement. On May 26, 2020, the City submitted a letter of opposition to the program's proposed elimination. Fortunately, the final budget preserved the CBAS program.

Grade separations. To support the upcoming project to separate at-grade rail crossings, the City requested money from the State budget through a January 27th letter to our local legislators. Due to the extreme and unforeseen state budget pressures caused by COVID-19, the City did not receive a state allocation for his project.

SB 278 (Beall): Metropolitan Transportation Commission. This bill is the mechanism by which the FASTER Bay Area measure will appear on a future ballot. In anticipation of the bill moving forward in 2020, and a ballot measure in 2021 or beyond, On March 31st, the City asked Senator Hill and Assemblyman Berman to request funding for grade separation construction in the bill. Unfortunately, SB 278 will not pass the legislature this year.  

SB 793 (Hill): Flavored tobacco products. A re-introduction of a 2019 bill, SB 793 seeks to prevent a tobacco retailer from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product. The City supported the bill in a January 23 letter and joined in a July 17 coalition letter with dozens of other local governments and organizations. SB 793 was signed into law.

Bond request/recycled water. In his budget proposal, Governor Newsom included a climate resilience bond to provide $4.75 million to reduce risks against fires, water, and sea level rise. The City of Palo Alto joined with dozens of other municipalities to solicit funds through the Governor’s proposed bond for recycled water projects in this request letter of February 21.

Regional Items

Ballot Measure. On July 8, 2020, the City submitted a letter of support for advancing to the voters on the November ballot the renewal of Valley Water's Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

Federal Items

H.R. 5659 (Eshoo): The Protecting Community Television Act. In 2019, the FCC voted to allow cable companies to assign a value to their in-kind contributions to local governments, and then subtract that amount from the franchise fees the cable operator pays to the local community. The result was the decline of community television. This bill would clarify that the cable franchise fees only include monetary assessments and not in-kind contributions. On March 10, the City submitted a letter of support for this bill. A press release regarding H.R. 5659 provides more information.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)For fifty years, NEPA has ensured the public has the ability to comment on and, when appropriate, legally challenge the environmental impacts of federal projects. Now, the federal government is considering regulatory changes. In addition to implications for climate change and endangered species, the proposed changes might impact noise and/or emissions from federally approved aircraft operations. The City Council has repeatedly identified climate change and sustainability as key priorities, leading to the Mayor signing a March 10 comment letter to the Council on Environmental Quality on behalf of the City.

2019 Action Items

State Items

FASTER Bay Area. A potential Bay Area November 2020 ballot measure, FASTER is a proposal to increase the sales tax by one cent to raise more than $100 billion over 40 years for transportation-related projects. On December 30, 2019, the City submitted a letter to Senator Hill and Assemblyman Marc Berman regarding the proposal.

Grade separations. To help fund the future Environmental Impact Report required for any Caltrain grade separation projects, the City requested State monies and asked Senator Hill and Assembly Member Berman for their support. Please view this March letter requesting support for more information. The City's request was not included in the final state budget.

Housing. The Mayor sent a letter on August 6, 2019 to Senate President Toni Atkins, Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Marc Berman, and the entire Bay Area Caucus to provide information on the City's efforts to help increase the housing supply.

AB 533 (Holden):  Income taxes: exclusion: water conservation or efficiency programs. The City supported an earlier version of the bill; view our letter of support for AB 533.

SB 5 (Beall/McGuire/Portantino): Affordable Housing and Community Development Investment Program.  The City submitted a letter of support in June.

SB 38 (Hill): Flavored tobacco products, the City supported this bill and SB 39 (Hill):Tobacco products. Please view our January letter supporting both SB 38 and 39.

SB 50 (Weiner): Planning and zoning: housing development: incentives. The City opposed the latest 2019 version of the bill unless amended, as explained in our April letter noting our opposition and our recent affordable housing actions.

SB 424 (Jackson):Tobacco products: single-use and multiuse components. The City submitted a letter of support for SB 424 in April.

Regional Items

CASA (MTC's Committee to House the Bay Area) Compact: Letter to the Association of Bay Area Governments in January

Stanford's General Use Permit Development Agreement: Letter to the County's Planning and Development Director in February

Federal Items

Small cell wireless infrastructure issue and H.R. 530 (Eshoo) the Accelerating Wireless Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019

2018 Action Items

State Items

AB 3014 (Quirk): Brake friction materials: copper limits: high performance road and track capable vehicle exemption.  City's May 21 opposition letter

SB 998 (Dodd): Discontinuation of residential water service: urban and community water systems. City's June 18 opposition letterCity's August veto letter

SB 212 (Jackson): Solid waste: pharmaceutical and sharps waste stewardship. City's June 21 support letter

SB 328 (Portantino): Pupil attendance: start time. City's August 28 letter of concern

SB 881 (Wieckowski)  Flood control: County of Santa Clara: South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Project. City's March 23 support letterCity's September signature request letter

SB 827 (Wiener): Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus. City's February 13 opposition letter

AB 2308 (Stone): Single use filter cigarettes. City's March 6 support letter

AB 2809 (Patterson): California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: hydroelectric generation facilities. City's March 22 support letter

Regional Items

CASA compact: Letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in December

Federal Items

"Small Cell" wireless infrastructure issue: Letter to the FCC regarding proposed rules related to infrastructure on city poles

Net neutrality: Letter to U.S. Senate leaders urging a vote to repeal the FCC's December 2017 action on net neutrality