News

Palo Alto gets high marks for 'quality of life'

Residents also praise the city as place to raise children, but are more critical when it comes to street maintenance, transportation

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.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by A resident of 94301
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:11 am

Palo Alto is a bit of a dichotomy with 94301/94303 having a more "city like" environment and 94303/94306 more similar to suburban Silicon Valley. So the result somehow dont surprise me.


Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:55 am

It doesn't surprise me either.

When it comes to growth, the City fulfills all the state mandates by pushing all the development down to the south end of town (94306) while apportioning funding for repairs, etc. first to the 94301, etc. areas.

Midtown, etc. generally seems to be treated as the step-child when spending is decided.

Think about the fact that Alma was resurfaced from Oregon Express north many years ago and the same has yet to be done south of there.


Like this comment
Posted by Questioner
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

What about student suicides? Did the study factor in the stressful student environment?


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

To: Elizabeth
The absolutely WORST streets in town are north of the Oregon Expressway. Hamilton, Parkinson,Waverley, Seale, Tennyson, and Channing are car repairs waiting to happen. Sidewalks are dangerous. The oldest areas of Palo Alto, all north of Oregon, are already built out. The area where the former PA Medical Clinic was located is now massive housing and a park. There are condos stuffed all over into the downtown area. On the other hand, streets south of Oregon get frequent upgrades - like Moreno, Waverley, Louis, Greer, Colorado - and all points between Oregon and San Antonio. They have new striping, speed bumps and old ones refurbished. It is a prejudiced opinion that north of Oregon gets the goodies. You are still fighting the building of the Oregon Expressway years ago and an old North-South war. . Get over it. You don't know how good you've got it!!


Like this comment
Posted by Not a newspaper
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

This seems to me to be another example of poor reporting by the Weekly staff of "journalists".
The title states:
"Palo Alto gets high marks for 'quality of life' "
Yet, in the article they state "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.""
Don't the reporters consider street repair, sidewalk maintenance, affordable housing and affordable child care as "quality of life" issues?
Or did they feel the need to put a "feel good" headline on it so they do not upset the people they are beholden to who feel that everything in Palo Alto is perfect.
Either way, another example of bad reporting.

By the way, Bob, have you ever driven down San Antonio Road? The street was in horrible shape because of the trees for years--it has been improved somewhat but is still not up to par.


Like this comment
Posted by Answerer
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Questioner -

No, student suicides are not inluded in the quality of life polls. These are generally family-school issues & don't impact those who don't know the victims. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

The 94303 responses aren't a surprise. We're in the East Palo Alto zip code, so real estate and survey values aren't reported in Santa Clara County statistics. The high density housing is being dumped on us because of disposal of vacant industrial property. Traffic has increased horribly due to (yeah, the same thing) the proliferation of high density housing. Quality of life in Midtown is slowly deteriorating with the City Council's active help.


Like this comment
Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Bob says: "The absolutely WORST streets in town are north of the Oregon Expressway. Hamilton, Parkinson,Waverley, Seale, Tennyson, and Channing are car repairs waiting to happen. Sidewalks are dangerous." - WRONG.

The very worst street in Palo Alto is San Antonio Road between H.101 and Middlefield. There was a very serious accident on that section of roadway three weeks ago, and that follows two bicycle fatalities. The road bumps and overhanging tree limbs are dangerous, and the City hasn't repaved the street in years.

This is the main truck route into the City so truckers turn up East Charleston and return to San Antonio via Middlefield - when is this going to end?


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

What were the P values?


Like this comment
Posted by Cyclist
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Alma St is a very dangerous roadway, used by thousands of cars & some bikes daily, without safe bike lanes. The southbound striped lane is narrow & unsafe. Why not cut back the overgrown shrubbery to clear the marked lane so that it can be used by cyclists? Better yet, arrange with CalTrain to allow a small part of their right-of-way to be used to widen the bike lane.


Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

It's not perfect but I love this town. And the Weekly is a fantastic newspaper. Quit whining!


Like this comment
Posted by mom
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I agree, Alma needs safe bike lanes


Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Bike lanes on Alma? "Safe bike lanes" on Alma? That's as ridiculous as the bike lanes on Foothill Expressway and there have been deaths there.

I love living in Palo Alto due to the intelligent and helpful people and the convenient location - easy access to highways.

But the City Council of Mountain View is sure outdoing us. Their downtown is landscaped and their library is amazing. Maybe Mitchell Park will be as nice and South Palo Alto can quit whining about having nothing.


Like this comment
Posted by concerned
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 19, 2011 at 8:48 am

I applaud the city for Project Safety Net. Teen and adult suicide, as a cause of death, is a an unrecognized problem among many Palo Altans.


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

North having everything?

Like the new youth center, library, ice skating ring, bowling alley? All the stuff for kids to do is in the South, other than the Childrens Theatre and the pool (which is really for non-Palo Altan kids anyway).


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

North having everything?

Like the new youth center, library, ice skating ring, bowling alley? All the stuff for kids to do is in the South, other than the Childrens Theatre and the pool (which is really for non-Palo Altan kids anyway).


Like this comment
Posted by No trucks in South PA
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

If North Palo Alto wants more money spent on their part of town then University Avenue should become the main truck route into town.

San Antonio Road is in terrible condition with huge bumps and overhanging trees. The truckers are turning up East Charleston because the roadbed on San Antonio is too uneven, and using South Palo Alto residential streets.

As for bicycles on Alma, what's wrong with Bryant Street?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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