Palo Alto has a few things in common with its newest sister city: a top college, dozens of tech companies, a University Avenue and plenty of Chinese New Year celebrations at this time of the year.
The City Council on Monday approved a resolution formalizing Palo Alto's relationship with the Yangpu District, one of 16 municipal districts in Shanghai. The partnership, spearheaded by Neighbors Abroad, makes Yangpu the eighth sister city in Palo Alto’s global family and the second to be added in the past year.
Palo Alto's other sisters are Albi, France; Enxschede, the Netherlands; Linkoping, Sweden; Oaxaca, Mexico; Palo, Philippines; Tsuchiura, Japan; and Heidelberg, Germany, which joined the family last year.
The city's relationship with Yangpu began in 2012, when the two municipalities signed a "Smart City" agreement focused on business relationships. In December 2012, then-Mayor Yiaway Yeh joined City Manager James Keene and former council members Nancy Shepherd and Marc Berman cemented the partnership with a visit to Yangpu. Facilitated by the Bay Area Council, the relationship further evolved in the summer of 2013, when a group of Palo Alto students visited Shanghai as part of an exchange program.
The movement to formalize a "sister city" relationship accelerated in 2016, when Neighbors Abroad formed a committee to work on the issue. Bing Wei, who was at the Bay Area Council when the two cities first forged their relationship, now serves as one of the vice presidents at Neighbors Abroad for the Yangpu relationship.
City officials embraced the effort. In November 2016, then-Mayor Pat Burt and Neighbors Abroad President Bob Wenzlau co-signed a letter to Yangpu District Vice Mayor Bing Tan, expressing their support for the formal "sister city" relationship.
The letter called the Yangpu District "an innovation and education hub for Shanghai as well as for China, a university town similar to Palo Alto with strong intellectual/student populations and filled with the spirit of entrepreneurship."
Last year, Neighbors Abroad hosted a community meeting with members of the city’s Chinese Community. According to the organization’s background document on the new partnership, more than 40 people attended and showed "unanimous support" for developing a sister city relationship with Yangpu District.
The original introduction was made by Ms Bing Wei in 2012 when she was working at the Bay Area Council, and currently she serves as one of Neighbors Abroad's vice presidents for the Yangpu relationship. The relationship further evolved in the summer of 2013, when a group of Palo Alto students visited Shanghai as part of an exchange program.
"It has enormous commitment to education, enormous commitment to innovation, enormous commitment to sustainability," Wenzlau told the council Monday, minutes before the unanimous vote.
Located in northeast Shanghai, Yangpu boasts a population of 1.3 million residents. According to Neighbors Abroad, it has more than 30,000 companies and 14 universities, including Fudan University and Tongji University.
The new agreement comes at a time when Palo Alto’s population of Asian residents is on the rise. According to the 2010 census, the city’s Asian population increased from about 10,090 in 2000 to nearly 17,461 in 2010 -- a 73 percent increase. Asian residents made up 27 percent of Palo Alto in 2010, according to the census. Chinese residents made up 15 percent.
Michael Zhu, vice president of Neighbors Abroad, told the council that Yangpu District has much in common with Palo Alto, including a bustling sports scene, a University Avenue and world-class cultural offerings, including an international music festival. These common features, as well as Yangpu’s leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation, create great opportunities for collaboration between the two municipalities.
"I hope we can work together and set a great example of what a new sister relationship will look like," Zhu said.