2030 Comprehensive Plan

The Comprehensive Plan (or Comp Plan) is the primary tool for guiding preservation and development in Palo Alto. The Plan reflects community values and provides a collective vision that both guides preservation and growth and change.

The Plan fulfills the State requirement that the City adopt a General Plan to serve as its constitution, with internally consistent goals and policies that reflect the community’s priorities regarding land use, circulation, conservation, housing, open space, noise, and safety. The Plan provides a foundation for the City’s development regulations, capital improvements program, and day-to-day decisions.

The Comprehensive Plan update adopted in November 2017 brings all the Plan Elements up to date and addresses changes to the demographic, economic and environmental conditions in Palo Alto that are anticipated to occur through 2030. Through a separate process, to meet State deadlines, the City’s Housing Element was updated to provide a framework for growth through 2023, and was adopted by the City Council in November 2014.

Download the 2030 Comprehensive Plan(PDF, 72MB)

Amendments to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan

On July 30, 2018, the City Council amended Policy L-1.10 of the Land Use and Community Design Element and Title 18 (Zoning) of Palo Alto Municipal Code to reduce the citywide maximum allowable new office and R&D development from 1.7 million square feet to 850,000 square feet, subject to specified exemptions. To learn more about this amendment, please review the staff reportaction minutesmeeting video, and approved Ordinance # 5446.

On November 16, 2020, the City Council amended Program L2.4.1 of the Land Use and Community Design Element to increase housing sites along San Antonio Road between Middlefield Road and East Charleston Road. To learn more about this amendment, please review the staff report, action minutes, meeting video and approved Resolution # 9926.

On December 19, 2022, the City Council amended the Comprehensive Plan land use designation at 1237 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto Homekey (22PLN-00113), from Public Conservation Land (CL) to Major Institution/Special Facilities (MISP) to create an alignment between the existing use and its designation. To learn more about this amendment, please review the staff report, presentation, action minutes, meeting video, and approved Resolution # 10091.

What is the Comprehensive Plan’s EIR?

In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the City prepared an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to provide an assessment of the potential environmental consequences of adopting and implementing the proposed Comprehensive Plan Update and associated zoning amendments. The Final EIR is now complete and contains responses to comments received on a Draft EIR and a Supplement to the Draft EIR (both of which are available below). The Final EIR also contains corrections and clarifications to the text and analysis of the Draft EIR and Supplement to the Draft EIR, where warranted.

Who was involved in the recent Comprehensive Plan update?

In November 2017, City Council adopted Palo Alto’s comprehensive plan update after nearly a decade of policy research, land use planning and public engagement. The finished plan, entitled Our Palo Alto 2030, seeks to preserve Palo Alto’s unique character and rich history while also embracing its promising future. Key participants in this process included the Citizens Advisory Committee, City Council, City Planning Staff and local community members. 

In late 2008, City Staff and consultants began working with the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) to review each Element of the Plan, as well as to develop conceptual plans for the California Avenue/Fry’s and the East Meadow Circle/Fabian Way areas. During their review, the PTC identified potential updates to the Plan with the goal to create a clearer, more cohesive document, including suggested format and organizational changes.

Since the PTC completed their review in 2014, regional development pressures resulting from an exceptionally strong economy have continued to exacerbate community concerns about traffic, parking, and housing affordability, among other quality of life issues in Palo Alto. In response, the City Council endorsed a new framework for the planning process to include broad community engagement, discussion and analysis of alternative futures, cumulative impacts, and mitigation strategies.

Specifically, the Comp Plan update public engagement process from 2014 to 2017 included:

  • The Summit: a gathering of over 350 concerned citizens in May 2015, including presentations, small group discussions, and informational booths.
  • The Citizens Advisory Committee: 25 community representatives charged with advising the City Council on suggested changes to the existing Comprehensive Plans programs and policies. The CAC met monthly between July 2015 and May 2017 when they completed their recommendation to the City Council.
  • PTC Meetings: The Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) plays an important role in reviewing draft Elements, as well as the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and making recommendations to the City Council. Community members are encouraged to attend all PTC meetings.
  • Council Meetings: In 2016 and 2017, the City Council reviewed draft Elements, formulating a preferred scenario in June 2017, and providing direction for revision and refinement to create a draft Comprehensive Plan. The Council will also review the EIR. The Council certified the EIR and adopted the updated Comprehensive Plan in fall 2017.
  • Public review of the EIR: The EIR is a legally-required public information document to describe potential physical environmental impacts of the Comp Plan. The Draft EIR and a Supplement to the Draft EIR consider and compare six possible future scenarios. The public was invited to comment on the EIR at public hearings before the PTC and City Council as well as through written comments. The final step in the public review process was to publish the Final EIR. The Final EIR was presented to the City Council for certification at the same time the Comprehensive Plan Update was considered for adoption in the fall of 2017.