News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 01/28/2015
Subject :

Palo Alto again ranks high as place to live in latest National Citizen Survey
Contact : Harriet Richardson, City Auditor    (650) 329-2629
Claudia Keith, Chief Communications Officer    (650) 329-2607
Palo Alto, CA—Continuing a long term trend, 95% of residents rank Palo Alto as an excellent or good place to live as highlighted in the latest report from the National Citizen Survey.  This is the 12th year Palo Alto has participated in the survey, which is conducted by the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and which gathers resident opinions across a range of community issues, in cities and counties across the United States.  The survey focuses on gauging community sentiment on the quality of community and related services, as well as residents' engagement level within their communities.  

"Our community continues to rate Palo Alto as a top place to live, work and raise a family," said City Manager James Keene.  “We experience and enjoy a high quality of life in Palo Alto, and the survey results reinforce this sentiment across the neighborhoods of our community.”

In the past, the survey was sent out to 1,200 residents within Palo Alto, but the distribution was expanded to 3,000 this year.  Almost 800 people returned the survey, a 27% response rate, which falls within the average response rate of 25% to 40% for such surveys.  

In addition, the survey was distributed and tabulated for six geographic areas of the city, and the overall margin of error decreased from five percentage points (plus or minus) to three percentage points (plus or minus).  

“This year we were able to distribute and tabulate the survey results on a more specific geographic and neighborhood level, providing insights into how different areas of the city view community life,” said City Auditor Harriet Richardson, whose office contracts with the National Research Center to conduct the survey.  

Highlights from the survey find that overall, Palo Altans say their city is an excellent or good place to live, raise children, work, and visit, with an overall high quality of life.  Overall, areas that were rated as “excellent” or “good” included:   

  • Palo Alto as a place to live:  95%
  • Your neighborhood as a place to live:  92%
  • Palo Alto as a place to raise children:  93%
  • Palo Alto as a place to work:  86%
  • Palo Alto as a place to visit (new question): 75%
  • Palo Alto as a place to retire: 60%
  • Overall quality of life:  91%
  • The quality of services provided by the City of Palo Alto:  83%
In addition, the combined “excellent” and “good” responses improved in several areas by six or more percentage points, which are considered to be statistically significant.  Among those included:

  • Economic development:  2014:  73% vs. 2013: 61%
  • Street repair:  2014:  55% vs. 2013:  47%
  • Land use, planning and zoning:  2014: 43% vs. 2013: 36%.
  • Community engagement:  2014: 79% vs. 2013: 73%.
  • Overall quality of new development:  2014:  51% vs. 2013: 44%
  • Storm drainage:  2014: 80% vs 2013: 69%.
A benchmark comparison between Palo Alto and more than 500 communities for which the National Research Center gathers survey data for found that Palo Alto received higher than benchmark scores as a place to raise children, good neighborhoods, overall appearance and natural environment, safety and overall economic health.  

A series of questions related to public trust in government rated Palo Alto as comparable to other benchmarked communities with overall scores in several categories ranging from 52% to 57%.

There were also statistically significant differences in perspectives from citizens in North and South Palo Alto, and within the six designated geographic areas.  For example, North Palo Alto gave higher “excellent” or “good” ratings than South Palo Alto in areas including place to retire (68% vs. 54%), availability of affordable quality mental health care (70% vs. 57%), the job city government does at welcoming citizen involvement (61% vs. 49%), and overall “built environment” (73% vs. 63%).  The South Palo Alto area gave the city higher marks than North Palo Alto rating as “excellent or “good” in areas including feeling of safety in neighborhoods after dark (86% vs. 80%), ease of public parking (42% vs. 32%), ease of travel by car (56% vs. 45%), quality of storm drainage services (83% vs. 75%), overall natural environment (84% vs. 77%), and overall economic health of Palo Alto (83% vs. 76%).

There was only one area–emergency preparedness services that prepare the community for natural disasters or other emergency situations–that declined more than six percentage points where the combined “excellent” and “good” ratings declined from last year’s 77% to 70% in 2014.   

In addition to the standard survey result questions, respondents were asked four customized questions dealing with housing, transportation investment, ease of travel and parking.  Overall, respondents indicated a preference for adding additional multifamily housing units east of Highway 101; expressed strong support (80% or more in favor) of transportation investments including bicycle/pedestrian, shuttle service, incentives to drive less, electric vehicle infrastructure, parking garages, road widening and Caltrain grade separation.  Respondents rated the ease of driving around town as extremely low, particularly during the early morning and late afternoon rush hours.  Finally, the community gave low marks to the availability of public parking.  The overall excellent/good rating for late afternoon through rush hour was 26%. 

The full text of all the responses to an open-ended question, “What one change could the City make that would make Palo Alto residents happier?” was put into a software program that gives greater prominence to words that appeared more frequently in residents’ responses to the question.  The word “housing” appeared most often in combination with the word, “affordable,” with traffic and parking also prominent words.  

To reach the complete report, go to here.