City Budget Revenue Shortfalls
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our city, state, and federal budgets. The economy will take time to recover, and It's crucial that we manage our newly-limited city resources wisely to ensure that Palo Alto emerges from the pandemic as unscathed as possible. Sensible spending and fiscal oversight can help the city continue to provide high levels of prized services such as our libraries, our parks, the Children's Theater, the Junior Museum & Zoo, and other much-loved City of Palo Alto amenities that have been receiving cuts. It is also crucial that we execute a recovery plan to enable a strong economy that can support the services and investments that make Palo Alto a great community.
Support for Local Businesses
Vacancy signs were already appearing in local retail and restaurant locations before COVID-19. But with our economy heading into one of the deepest recessions on record, local businesses are facing major additional challenges. Palo Alto is home to over 7000 businesses and data shows that 92% of small businesses have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. As a business owner, I understand how small businesses are being impacted. From adapting to quarantine restrictions, to adjusting to the lockdown lift, to re-establishing their former customer bases and revenues we face an economic recovery that could take up to 10 years. Given the current situation, many local businesses will fail if they don’t receive immediate help.
The death of George Floyd has sparked a nationwide conversation about needed reforms in our public safety and law enforcement sector. Palo Alto’s City Council is taking part in these conversations, asking how law enforcement here can be administered fairly and with full accountability and transparency. We need to consider reforms such as the 8 Can't Wait program, committing to keeping our community safe while also addressing the pressing need for equity.
As the center of innovation in Silicon Valley and home to a highly educated populace, Palo Alto is a great place to live and raise a family. But that reality also has a significant impact on our cost of housing. Palo Alto has long been unaffordable. The current median home value in Palo Alto is $3,108,321, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,208. I recognize the difficulty that many of our residents have in affording to live in Palo Alto, especially given the current economic recession.
Parking, Traffic, and Development
Palo Altans have consistently expressed concern about increasing traffic and congestion on local streets and ever-harder-to-find parking, as well as the growing impact of development on both issues. According to a ballot measure survey in 2020, 53% of respondents said that traffic and congestion on local streets and roads are a concern. The city is charged with protecting the quality of life in Palo Alto while evaluating potential development. Post COVID-19, with the rise of remote work, we need to revisit that equation and look for innovative new approaches that can meet both needs.
Palo Alto has long been a leader in working to reduce its carbon footprint. Yet climate change continues to threaten us and will directly affect the City of Palo Alto in both the short and long term. Studies show that the San Francisco Bay is due to rise by up to 12 inches by 2030, resulting in flooding both east and west of Highway 101 in Palo Alto. The city must work quickly and diligently to better understand and mitigate these climate change impacts.
With its population of homeless people living in RVs and vehicles growing until very recently, Palo Alto has been grappling with homelessness for years. When surveyed, 30% of homeless respondents labeled job loss as their top reason for homelessness. While there are many reasons and causes of homelessness, we need first to understand the root causes of homelessness if we’re to address this problem with any success and ensure that proper resources are in place to support those in need.