Palo Altans seem to love their schools, parks and overall quality of life, but when it comes to things like public transportation, storm drainage and job opportunities, different parts of the city have radically different opinions, a new survey shows.
Those are some of the indications from the ninth annual Service Efforts and Accomplishments Report, which the City Council is scheduled to review tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 18). The comprehensive report, compiled by the Office of the City Auditor, provides an overview of each department's accomplishments and a detailed survey of local residents.
The survey, conducted through the National Research Center, showed 94 percent of the surveyed residents rating the overall quality of life in Palo Alto as "good" or "excellent" and 95 percent gave the city the two highest ratings as a "place to live."
The survey showed Palo Alto ranking in the 5 percent of surveyed jurisdictions for "overall image or reputation, educational opportunities, ease of bicycle travel, water quality, as a place to work, for the number of residents reporting that they recycled in their home, and for the number of residents reporting that they visited the City of Palo Alto website," City Auditor Michael Edmonds stated in a news release.
But much as in previous years, the city continued to get low marks from its residents on such issues as street repair (where 43 percent ranked it as good or excellent), sidewalk maintenance (51 percent) and availability of affordable housing (15 percent). And while residents generally agreed that Palo Alto is a great place to raise children, only 25 percent felt the availability of affordable child care in the city is "good" or "excellent."
An accompanying survey, which split responses by zip code, also indicated that residents from different zip codes sometimes have dramatically different opinions about city services.
Residents in the 94301 zip code, which includes downtown Palo Alto and the surrounding area, and the 94304 zip code, which includes a small section of Sand Hill Road and the area around Foothill Expressway, gave high marks when asked about Palo Alto's employment opportunities (60 percent), ease of rail travel (70 percent) and "value of services for the taxes paid" (70 percent).
Responders in the 94303 zip code (east of Middlefield Road, extending into the Baylands) proved more critical with 52 percent giving it high marks in employment opportunities, 59 percent when asked about rail travel and 59 percent when asked about the "value of services for the taxes paid." In the 94306 zip code (west of Middlefield and around El Camino Real), the proportion of responders giving the two highest ratings in these three categories were 47 percent, 57 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
Responses also varied sharply when residents were asked about bus or transit services. In the 94301 and 94304 zip codes (which were grouped together on the survey), 58 percent gave high marks, while only 36 percent in the 94303 zip code and 43 percent in the 94306 had high words of praise.
Different neighborhoods also have sharply varying sentiments when it comes to city growth. When asked if the city's population growth is seen as "too fast," 33 percent of the responders in the 94301 and 94304 zip codes agreed, compared to 62 percent in the 94303 and 54 percent in the 94306.
The report doesn't explain the great variations in responses and the high number of "statistically significant differences." Edmonds wrote in his cover letter that according to the National Research Center, there is a less than 5 percent probability that these differences are due to chance, "or in other words, a greater than 95 percent probability that the differences observed are 'real.'"
The council meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. or as soon as possible after a closed session. The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.