City of Palo Alto Mayor Karen Holman emphasized the balance between retail and technology, youth goals and the connection between the city and its citizens during the State of Palo Alto Address on Wednesday at the Mitchell Park Community Center.
In her presentation, Holman stressed the need for both retail and technology business space in the city in order to make it a more balanced place.
“When people think of Palo Alto, they see us as the technology center of the world or even the universe,” Holman said. “We are the heart of Silicon Valley, but when I think of Palo Alto, I think of a mix [of the technology and retail stores]. ”
The city, however, has lost over 70,000 square feet of retail space since 2008, according to Holman.
Holman attributes the decline to rising rent prices that have driven stores away and empty spaces that have been replaced by housing.
“[One of City Council’s goals is to increase] the walkability of the city and to reduce vehicle emissions and it’s essential to have a mix [of retail and technology] in order to accomplish that,” Holman said. “Council is looking at ways to protect retail, especially on California Avenue.”
Holman also had a message to youth, urging them to find a passion and take action.
“Find something that inspires you [the youth] to action and then act,” Holman said. “Identify some issue that you believe is to be addressed and then speak to it. You do have a place and we can make this a better world whether standing up for someone being bullied or leading a march, it all matters. Sometimes in ways that we will never know because we never know who or how many people are watching us. Act as if the world is watching, because it is.”
Additionally, Holman wants to create a communication channel between youth and the city.
“There have been a bunch of meetings that have been organized to give youth a voice in the community and I encourage [youth] to seek them out,” Holman said.
Holman is also working to enhance communication between stewards and citizens.
“[We] seek to focus on communication between neighborhoods including holding annual town-hall style meetings with council members and staff and focus on different regions of Palo Alto,” Holman said. “You can expect this to be coming to the council in March.”
Palo Alto resident Dave Dockter was able to relate to Holman’s messages.
“I enjoyed [the address] because I could identify with the numbers: the population and the number of trees,” Dockter said. “They spoke to me. It was not just politics. I like [Holman’s stance on] stewardship, that’s the way I see the city staff, this will be a better community, we don’t want to be just a veneer.”
Throughout the address, Holman stated several data points to give a summary of the city’s condition:
- $1.8 million is the median home value in the city
- 54.8 percent of the homes in the city are occupied by the homeowners
- 45.2 percent of homes in the city are occupied by renters
- 148,209 is the population in Palo Alto, including residents at Stanford
- 8271 square feet of parks, preserves, and open space in the city.
- 836 bikers at Gunn High School, 805 at Palo Alto High School
Holman continued by outlining what she thought Palo Alto should be.
“[I want] Palo Alto to be the kind of town you want to live in, the kind of town that reflects your values, that makes you proud, that preserves your right to be heard, our open spaces and address traffic and housing issues, that supports diversity of business and residents that cares about and for those that are not as well of,” Holman said.
The mayor concluded by sharing her vision for the year.
“We have an inheritance that has been endowed upon us and it is up to us to care for it right now,” Holman said. “Your [the resident’s] voice still matters, use it this year so we can reconnect with each other. It’s [Palo Alto] a place I’m proud to call home.”