The City of Palo Alto engages in state and federal legislative activities pursuant to our Council-approved Advocacy Process Manual and Legislative Guidelines. 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.
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.
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: 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 (Public Power Week): 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.
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.
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.
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 23rd letter and joined in a July 17th 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 21st.
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.
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 10th, 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 10th comment letter to the Council on Environmental Quality on behalf of the City.
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.
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
Small cell wireless infrastructure issue and H.R. 530 (Eshoo) the Accelerating Wireless Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019
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 letter; City'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 letter; City'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
CASA compact: Letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in December
"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