Palo Alto named second richest small city in nation

City tops out in categories like expensive clothing retailers and luxury car dealers per capita

Palo Alto is now unofficially the second richest small city in the country.

The city garnered this determination in a new data listicle released today by Movoto, a national real estate brokerage website.

Movoto analyzed census data and local business listings to peg Palo Alto as the No. 2 of the top 10 "richest small cities in America," following Bethesda, Maryland. Palo Alto ranks high in various 1-percent-centric categories Movoto used in its analysis, from plastic surgeons and luxury car dealers to really expensive fine dining per capita.

Movoto arrived at the determinations by evaluating the 2010 census data for 950 cities with populations between 30,000 and 80,000. The company then ranked these cities from one to 950, with one being best, based on two categories: median household income and median home value. The census listed Palo Alto's annual median household income as $122,482 and its median home value as $1 million.

The average of those two scores was used to determine the top 25 most wealthy small cities, which were further analyzed in nine categories that Movoto "chose to encapsulate a truly rich place," the website reads. The cities were given a score from one to 25 in the nine categories, with one being the best.

The nine sub-criteria, with Palo Alto's rankings in parentheses, were:

- Really expensive fine dining establishments per capita (5)

- Really expensive clothing retailers per capita (2)

- Really expensive jewelry stores per capita (3)

- Luxury car dealers per capita (2)

- Country clubs per capita (9)

- Cosmetic surgeons per capita (1)

- Distance to nearest polo field (19)

- Distance to nearest yacht club (10)

- Distance to nearest private airport (10)

Movoto said it used business listings to gather this data and only considered businesses actually located within city limits. Those rankings were then averaged into an overall score, with the lowest being the richest small city.

Also of note: neighboring Menlo Park came in at No. 5, and six out of the 11 total cities (two tied for 10th place) located in California.


Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Wonder how many Palo Altans actually frequent the business establishments that seem so important to Movoto (whatever that is)?

With nearby communities like Atherton, and Portolla Valley--which effectively don't have any businesses, but a heck of a lot of very wealthy people--focusing on the Palo Alto zip codes, and claiming that there is a lot of wealth here is pretty screwed up.

Better to look at Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Portolla Valley, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Atherton as a unit, than just Palo Alto alone.

1 person likes this
Posted by What $1 million dollar homes?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Palo Alto's annual median household income as $122,482 and its median home value as $1 million.

Those numbers seem super low... Must be all the old timers getting by on social security with their low assessed hom values skewing the numbers down...

Like this comment
Posted by OhWell
a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2014 at 5:13 pm

The city is also #1 in public projects overspending and behind schedule and....

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Yes, we folded our yacht harbor years ago. But I had to check how they missed our airport. Turns out they only count airfields accessible to private JETS, so San Jose is closest (since Moffett is a little too exclusive). Stanford's polo field is also too exclusive, we have to drive to Atherton.

Regarding the low numbers, it's from 2010 census data, reflecting the depths of 2009.

"Income" has always been a slippery figure. Look up "imputed rent" if you want a reality-check on retiree homeowners.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2014 at 10:46 pm

In the quality of life and aesthestic values index Palo Alto is dropping
like a rock. So it should have an asterisk in the Movoto study to provide
a little realism and relevance.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Maybe it's true that the wealthiest people are the least happy with their situation.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Atherton has a polo field?

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2014 at 2:55 pm

>Atherton has a polo field?

Menlo Polo Club at the Circus Club in Atherton. The Circus has an interesting history (look it up). A few rich kids decided go around in their wagons and have some fun, and they put on a little circus...then their moms took over, and it became an adult thing. Tiger moms back then, too. me a thought: Suppose the rich libs in Atherton would be willing to give up their polo field and build affordable housing on it?

1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2014 at 9:02 am

The cosmetic surgeons rating had me laugh! The vain drivers of BMWs and so on along with their re-made faces!

Like this comment
Posted by Kookoo
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

Median income and median home price seem lower than reality. It takes an income larger than the stated one to buy the a home in the stated median range.

Our family income is nearly $300,000, yet real estate agents and mortgage bankers tell us we cannot buy a home worth more than 1.7 million ( partly because 25% of our profit from selling the old home will be taxed away, and it is worth 2 million).

So far, we have found nothing more than fixer-uppers in the 2.3 to 2.6 million range.

Movoto needs to double check their facts and figures. Besides, LAH, Woodside, and Atherton are far more rich than PA.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

The number one small city in this study is Bethesda, Maryland. That is where the corporate headquarters is for Lockheed Martin Corporation. Other large corporations in that parkway location. It must be the business element that tilts the evaluation. Lots of travel to that location, hotel turnover, etc.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I'd say Bethesda's rank has much more to do with the National Institutes of Health.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2014 at 6:48 am

The National Institute of Health is a non-profit organization which has tax advantages. It is probably not providing much tax base to the city.

James Michner in his book "The Drifters" wrote of this problem in Philadelphia - the high incidence of non-profit organizations in the downtown city drives down the tax base and created many problems in that city.

My nephew lived in the downtown in a converted factory and had to leave for the suburbs.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Institutes is plural. Very plural. I couldn't find a headcount or average salary data.

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Musical - that must be it! You are confirming my opinion of non-profit organizations. I hear the head of Goodwill makes about $600,000 a year.
Forget about the rest of those businesses that hang out there.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 6, 2014 at 12:44 am

Non-profits include such entities as Stanford University and Sutter Health, which both have highly compensated executives and generate $billions annually in their communities.

But back to Bethesda, I couldn't find their website, then discovered it's not a city at all, but what's called a CDP ("census designated place") defined only for statistical purposes by the US Census bureau.

NIH and Walter Reed are within the Bethesda CDP limits, but Lockheed Martin is not, though the Post Office calls it Bethesda for convenience (just like unincorporated Santa Clara County outside Morgan Hill is still addressed as Morgan Hill).

Which doesn't differentiate about where all the employees and contractors reside or spend their money. But I'd still bet that community has a higher medical payroll than defense payroll.

Bottom line -- this is all just entertainment.

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm

If you look at the annual report for Lockheed Martin Corporation the address is: 6801 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20817. Rockledge Drive is a circular parkway with a number of corporate headquarters in the loop, including the headquarters for Marriott Hotels - same zip code - about 2 blocks away on Fernwood.
I am not sure why you are belaboring this point. As far as I am concerned I do not see why either city would rank by Movoto - I can think of a lot of other cities that have Fortune 500 companies located there. Stanford is in it's separate zip code - see your city charter for PA - it specifically excludes SU. Stanford is it's own city.
Coincidently PA does have a Lockheed Martin Facility in Stanford Research Park. It also has HP.

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