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By Steve Levy

What Kind of City is Palo Alto?

Uploaded: May 12, 2014

Residents have been invited to participate in a discussion of "our Palo Alto" kicked off with a meeting on "Who We Are'. This post explores what kind of city we are.

Nancy and I lived and raised our children in two neighborhoods near Duveneck Elementary School. They were great single-family home neighborhoods and, if one never ventured out, could have been in a quiet suburb somewhere. I feel confident that residents in Barron Park and other PA neighborhoods have the same experience.

But these are neighborhoods, not the entire Palo Alto community. When I came here in 1963, I came to a city that was home to one of the world's leading universities. In addition by then Palo Alto was home to a regional medical complex, a regional shopping center and a regional research park. Despite the peaceful feeling inside our neighborhood, I knew Palo Alto was not a typical suburb.

Over time all of these regional centers grew and kept pace with changes within how they operated. Stanford has more buildings and homes than when I came in 1963. The campus is fuller and older facilities have been modernized. The same is true for the medical center and related Welch Road facilities and is true also for the shopping center and research park.

I have worked downtown since 1969 and have seen the business area expand up and out. Our city is very popular. We have near the highest home prices and are the sixth largest job center (not including the campus) behind San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Santa Clara and Fremont.

And Palo Alto sits in the midst of a region where job growth is surging, where 50% of the nation's venture capital was invested last quarter and where people want to live and work.

That's the Palo Alto I live in. So, for me, the challenge of the Comp Plan update is to make both parts of Palo Alto thrive—the wonderful neighborhoods and the regional and world centers of innovation and excellence. And, yes, there will be more traffic so we should be figuring out how best to respond.

While some projects that come before the city involve council discretion and should be thoroughly examined for public benefits, most growth occurs under existing rules and rights—another reason to plan carefully.

If you agree or disagree with my view of our city, please jump in. Tell readers what kind of city Palo Alto is for you—quiet suburb, university town, regional center of activity?

If you want to complain about past decisions or the city council or staff, find another blog to post on—there are many.