The latest National Citizens Survey, compiled by the National Research Center, Inc., and the International City/County Management Association, found that 92 percent of the respondents rated the city's quality of life "good" or "excellent" and that 94 percent gave these ratings when sizing up Palo Alto as "a place to live."
The numbers are similar to the 2010 results, when 94 percent and 95 percent, respectively, rated Palo Alto as "good" or "excellent" in these categories. In addition, 93 percent of the respondents said Palo Alto was a "good" or "excellent" place to raise children, despite a perceived shortage of affordable child care (only 35 percent gave "availability of affordable quality child care" in the city the two highest ratings). The city also scored far higher than benchmark cities when it came to cleanliness and natural environment.
The survey was released in conjunction with the Services Efforts and Accomplishments Report, a comprehensive annual report from the Office of the City Auditor that tracks trends and accomplishments in each department.
Though the survey reflects a high level of overall satisfaction with the city, it also indicates that residents are less pleased when it comes to transportation issues such as traffic, bus service and parking. Only 40 percent of respondents gave the city the highest ratings for street repairs while 46 percent ranked the city's bus or transit services as "good" or "excellent," a similar rate as in 2010 but well below the 2006 rate of 56 percent. Residents' satisfaction with the amount of public parking has also slipped, with 54 percent giving this service a high ranking (down from 60 percent in 2010).
As in previous years, affordable housing remained a glaring weakness, with only 14 percent giving the city high marks for "availability of affordable housing" and only 37 percent expressing satisfaction with its "variety of housing options." And while residents love the "overall appearance of Palo Alto" (89 percent rated it "good" or "excellent"), they are somewhat skeptical when it comes to new developments. According to the survey, 57 percent of the respondents gave the highest ratings to the overall quality of the city's newest buildings.
Residents were more generous, however, when it came to assessing the city's role as an employment center. Palo Alto scored far above benchmark cities in every category pertaining to employment opportunities.
The survey showed 89 percent of the responders rating Palo Alto a "good" or "excellent" place to work. The city's "employment opportunities" received top marks from 56 percent of residents while its "shopping opportunities" were lauded by 71 percent.
But they were far less sanguine when it came to their own economic prospects in the near term. Only 12 percent said they expect the next six months to have a "somewhat" or "very" positive economic impact on their families, far below the percentage in benchmark jurisdictions.
Palo Alto residents also indicated in the survey that they feel extremely safe in their city, particularly during the day. The survey showed 98 percent of responders saying they feel "very" or "somewhat" safe in their neighborhoods during the day (and 83 percent after dark). Downtown Palo Alto also received mostly high marks for safety, with 91 percent saying they feel safe there during the day, although just 65 percent said they feel safe there after dark.
The survey also indicated that Palo Alto residents generally feel they're getting their money's worth from the local government. Two-thirds of the respondents gave the city "good" or "excellent" marks when asked to assess the "value of services for the taxes paid to Palo Alto" and 92 percent gave high marks to the "overall image or reputation" of the city.
Furthermore, 83 percent gave the highest ratings to "services provided by City of Palo Alto." By comparison, federal, state and county governments received high marks from only 41 percent, 26 percent and 45 percent of respondents, respectively.
The survey also identified those services that most closely correlate to residents' overall perception of local government. In 2011, these were: public-library services, police services, public schools, preservation of natural areas, traffic-signal timing and city parks.
The report can be read online at www.CityofPaloAlto.org by searching for "Service Efforts and Accomplishments."
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