News Detail

City Implements Service Changes and Proclaims Emergency

City Implements Service Changes and Proclaims Emergency

For Immediate Release

March 12, 2020

New service changes seek to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and limit exposure to highest risk community members

PALO ALTO, CA Palo Alto city manager Ed Shikada announced actions to further the City’s COVID-19 public safety response, implementing citywide service changes and signing a proclamation of emergency. The goals of these service changes are to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and limit exposure to our highest risk community members while maintaining a high level of support for the community and continuing essential City services.

“The Palo Alto community is understandably concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. I encourage the community to remember that we are in this together; stay calm and help each other by staying home if you are sick, checking in on your neighbors, and continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Adrian Fine, mayor of the City of Palo Alto. “The proclamation of emergency is a necessary step to enable more flexibility in how we can respond to this changing crisis and will help our public safety and emergency services personnel secure vital supplies, funding, and assistance.”

Other steps already in place are expanded 911 dispatcher protocols to support Police, Fire, emergency medical first responders, and Utilities staff, increased cleaning and hand sanitizer stations at City facilities, and enhanced City communications to keep our community members informed and up to date on local developments.

Some of the most recognizable and immediate service changes going into effect in this period are reduced face-to-face customer service interaction between the public and staff. Where possible, the City is encouraging the public to call, email, or make an appointment with City staff.

“Palo Alto will continue to provide essential services and community support through thoughtful planning for several impact scenarios during this time of heightened public health risk. We are closely monitoring the public health situation in our community and following guidance from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department,” said Ed Shikada, city manager of the City of Palo Alto. “This is a fast-changing situation, and service changes may continue to evolve. We have already taken several steps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses, including limiting public gatherings according to the public health department’s guidance, which has already resulted in the cancellation, postponement, and adjustment of over 30 city events and programs.”

Implementing Service Changes to slow the spread of COVID-19

Several service changes are implemented as of today or are going into effect over the next several days. Full implementation if not stated will occur Monday, March 16. The City may announce other service and operations changes as this situation evolves. For a full list of service changes, a dedicated webpage is set up at, and this list will be updated as needed.

Changes to Police Operations and Customer Service:The Police Department is requesting that members of the public who are ill to stay home and call the police department at (650) 329-2413 for non-essential customer service requests. The City has discontinued police public tours and police and fire ride-a-longs/sit-a-longs of non-employees. The City is modifying patrol operations for non-emergency police calls for service that can be completed via phone/video. Officers will use all methods available to limit face-to-face public contact and ensure social distancing of six feet when available.

Changes to Community Services Operations and Customer Service: The (temporary) Junior Museum and Zoo will be closed as of Friday, March 13. Children’s Theatre performances have been postponed until June. The Rinconada Pool is closed as of today, March 12. Other front counter customer support will be suspended and adjusted to encourage interaction by appointment only, by phone at (650) 463-4900 or email at, where ever possible.

Changes to Library Operations and Customer Service: Palo Alto’s libraries extended check-outs to May 1 and is temporarily disabling some of the computers to ensure social distance between users. Other front counter customer support will be adjusted to encourage interaction by appointment only, by phone or email, where ever possible.

Changes to Development Center Operations and Customer Service: Access to the City’s Development Center will be by appointment only by calling (650) 329-2496. Non-essential business will be conducted by phone or video conference.

Changes to City Hall Customer Service Changes:City Hall’s first floor lobby customer service hours and staffing will be modified. Access to Real Estate transactions are by appointment only. Revenue collections customer service and Residential Parking Program permits approach will be modified, services are offered by appointment, by phone, email, and online.  Revenue Collections customers can call (650) 329-2317 or email  Real Estate Customers can call (650) 329-2264 or email Residential  Preferential Parking (RPP) Program transactions can be serviced online at For assistance with RPP Permits call 650.440.8074 or email:

Changes to Utilities Operations and Customer Service: Changes to Utilities operations and customer services includes suspending meter reads accessible only through the backyards of resident customers or facilities requiring security access. These meter reads will be estimated for billing purposes. Utility Development Services Center and Utilities Engineering customer service is by appointment only at Elwell Court. For Electric service, contact (650) 566-4500. For Water, Gas and Wastewater service, contact (650) 566-4501. Utilities Customer Service at City Hall on the Ground floor, 2nd and 3rd floors are suspended at this time with customer service available through the call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) at (650) 329-2161, online customer account service at, email and in-person by appointment only at

Changes to the City Council Meetings and Other Boards and Commission Meetings: City Council meetings are currently scheduled to proceed in Council Chambers on Monday evenings; however, the public is encouraged to submit their comments via email to and to watch the live broadcast of the meeting here or on TV Channels 26 or 29. If you must attend, community members are asked to follow meeting etiquette and social distancing that includes sitting six feet away from others, not shaking hands, and waiting until the podium is clear to speak. The public will be asked to assemble in the Community Room at City Hall, once the Council Chambers adjusted capacity is full. Members of the public who wish to address Council will be called to do so at the appropriate time. Similar approaches will be implemented for all Boards and Commissions meetings.

Informing the Community on the Latest Local Developments

Santa Clara County Public Health Department is the lead agency focused on public health and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a City we will continue to follow guidance and update the community with the following goals in mind including slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses; enhancing the safety of the community and first responders including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders and utilities staff, maintaining essential City services through this heightened public health risk; continuing as much as possible, regular City services and programs and high level of customer service; and limiting public gatherings or groups of community members waiting for services.

Santa Clara County is finalizing and San Mateo County is using 211 as a "call center" for persons with questions about COVID-19. Community members can also text "coronavirus" to 211211 for information and updates. There is also a public information phone number to gain updates by calling (408) 885-3980.

In addition, the City has set up a dedicated webpage and other communications efforts, including placing posters at high use public facilities and printed materials to help inform and provide tools to help keep our community safe. For more on recent coronavirus updates and other online resources, go to the City’s dedicated webpage on this issue at  

For more about the City of Palo Alto, go to

Sent By:

Meghan Horrigan-Taylor
Chief Communications Officer
City Manager's Office

Last Updated: March 12, 2020