Policies and Documents

Public Art in Capital Improvement Projects

The City of Palo Alto Public Art Program operates in accordance with Chapter 2.26 Visual Art in Public Places Policy of Palo Alto Municipal Code. The Muni Percent for Art Policy(PDF, 109KB) specifies that the City will budget one percent (1%) of its construction costs to include public art for City capital improvement projects that have a visual impact on the surrounding environment by altering a site through new construction or reconstruction, at the initial stages of design, thereby ensuring that art elements become an integral part of the overall design.

Examples of projects may include:

  • New buildings such as libraries, public safety buildings, community centers, parking garages
  • Parks and plazas
  • Gateways entering and exiting at the City boundaries
  • Bridges, walls and tunnels

In 2015, in order to strengthen its ongoing commitment to the City’s municipal public art program, the Palo Alto Council amended the Palo Alto Municipal Code to add Section 2.26.070 "Public Art for Municipal Projects" to Chapter 2.26 (Visual Art in Public Places). The new Ordinance no. 5301(PDF, 97KB) aims to enhance the funds available for public art and to increase flexibility to provide art experiences that are timely and relevant throughout the community. According to the Ordinance, one percent (1%) of the City’s annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget devoted to public art is deposited into the Public Art Fund. Funds may be used at any appropriate site within Palo Alto for permanent or temporary public art projects. Additionally, funds from two or more CIP projects may be pooled to fund a single work of art. This Process Chart(PDF, 39KB) outlines the art selection and approval process for municipal public art projects.

Public Art Policies

As part of the Public Art Master Planning effort to apply national standards and best practices in the field of public art for added transparency and accountability, the City staff worked with Master Plan consultants to update the following policies:

Percent for Art in Private Development

In December 2013, the Palo Alto City Council adopted an Ordinance no. 5226(PDF, 369KB) to add chapter 16.61 to the Municipal Code establishing a requirement for public art in construction projects requiring Architectural Review over 10,000 square feet, with an estimated construction value of more than $200,000. The Ordinance provides the option of commissioning artwork on the development site equal to the cost of one percent (1%) of the estimated construction valuation, or paying the one percent (1%) to the Public Art Fund in-lieu fee.

Public art enhances the quality of life in a community, fosters economic development and creates vital public spaces. This Ordinance allows for a very broad spectrum of types of artworks and provides opportunities for developers and artists to create diverse and exciting art experiences for the community.

The Public Art in Private Development Brochure(PDF, 1MB) and Guidelines for Developers(PDF, 601KB) allow to learn about the Ordinance and art opportunities at a glance. The Application Packet(PDF, 3MB) provides detailed information about the art requirements and application process, including the Ordinance and Application Form(PDF, 114KB). Developers are encouraged to meet with the Public Art Program staff within 60 days of the initial application to the Planning Department. During this meeting Developers will gain in-depth knowledge about the commissioning process, including the overview of the Application Checklists(PDF, 273KB) for the Initial and Final reviews by the Public Art Commission.

For more information or to set up an appointment with the Public Art Program staff please call 650-329-2227 or email.

City of Palo Alto Public Art Master Plan

In 2015, the Public Art Program engaged public art planners Barbara Goldstein and Gail M. Goldman to lead a public art master planning process that would provide a clear vision for the future of public art in Palo Alto. As a result of extensive outreach and research process the team developed a Public Art Master Plan(PDF, 14MB) working in collaboration with City staff, the Public Art Commission, and a Public Art Advisory Committee.

California Avenue District Public Art Plan

In 2021, Art Builds Community art consultants (formally Barbara Goldstein & Associates) in partnership with the Palo Alto Public Art Program developed a Public Art Plan for the California Avenue District. The planning process included extended community outreach and engagement with the California Avenue diverse community including  businesses, residents, local artists and visitors in the area to shape the future of public art in the district. The final California Avenue District Public Art Plan(PDF, 20MB), adopted by the Public Art Commission in March 2021, makes recommendations for the future of public art in the district that may be funded through the Percent for Art in Private Development.