Palo Alto is a city in Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA. Palo Alto is located at the northern end of the Silicon Valley, and is home to Stanford University (which is technically located in an adjacent area — Stanford, California), and to several successful high-technology companies. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 58,598. Palo Alto is home to the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard. It is named for a tree called El Palo Alto.
The northern half of Palo Alto, north of Oregon Expressway, is filled with elegant homes, some of which date back to the 1890s but most of which were built in the first four decades of the 20th century on tree-lined streets. South of Oregon Expressway, in the southern half of Palo Alto, the houses, including many Joseph Eichler-designed or Eichler-style houses, were primarily built in the first 20 years after World War II.
While both halves of the city contain homes that now cost anywhere from $700,000 to well in excess of $1 million, giving the entire city a somewhat-deserved reputation as a wealthy enclave, the fact is that the housing stock of south Palo Alto is rather middle-class in the style of mid-century California suburbia, and would not be so expensive were it not in such a desirable location, close both to Stanford University and the Silicon Valley. Typically, homes in the northern half of the city are even more expensive than those in the southern half. Palo Alto is also generally perceived to have excellent public schools and a high quality of life.
A good description of high-tech life in Palo Alto around 1995 is found in the novel by Douglas Coupland, Microserfs. One visible trend at the time was that of people who lived in San Francisco, but who drove south 30 to 50 miles each weekday in order to work in Silicon Valley.
Palo Alto's sister city in Sweden is Linköping. Its Mexican sister is Oaxaca.
Palo Alto is located at 37°25'45" North, 122°8'17" West (37.429289, −122.138162)1. It is in the south-eastern section of the San Francisco Peninsula.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 66.4 km² (25.6 mi²). 61.3 km² (23.7 mi²) of it is land and 5.1 km² (2.0 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 7.65% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 58,598 people, 25,216 households, and 14,600 families residing in the city. The population density is 955.8/km² (2,475.3/mi²). There are 26,048 housing units at an average density of 424.9/km² (1,100.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 75.76% White, 2.02% African American, 0.21% Native American, 17.22% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 1.41% from other races, and 3.24% from two or more races. 4.65% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 25,216 households out of which 27.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% are married couples living together, 7.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% are non-families. 32.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 2.95.
In the city the population is spread out with 21.2% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 32.4% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 93.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $90,377, and the median income for a family is $117,574. Males have a median income of $91,051 versus $60,202 for females. The per capita income for the city is $56,257. 4.8% of the population and 3.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 4.0% of those under the age of 18 and 5.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
University Avenue at the Circle with train steaming toward El Palo Alto, 1894
The township of Mayfield was formed in 1855, in what is now South Palo Alto some 40 years before Palo Alto. Known for its rowdy saloons, it rejected Leland Stanford's requests for reform which led him to drive the formation of Palo Alto. With Stanford's support, saloon days faded and Palo Alto grew to the size of Mayfield. The two communities came together and eventually there was talk of annexation.
On July 2, 1925, Palo Alto voters approved the annexation of Mayfield and the two communities were officially consolidated on July 6, 1925. The Mayfield News wrote its own obituary four days later:
"It is with a feeling of deep regret that we see on our streets today those who would sell, or give, our beautiful little city to an outside community. We have watched Mayfield grow from a small hamlet, when Palo Alto was nothing more than a hayfield, to her present size . . . and it is with a feeling of sorrow that we contemplate the fact that there are those who would sell or give the city away."
Palo Alto serves as a central economic focal point of the Silicon Valley, due in large part to the Stanford Research Park on Page Mill Road. The city's economy generally follows the economic trends of the rest of the Silicon Valley.
Several well-known companies are headquartered in Palo Alto, including:
Other notable corporate citizens:
In addition, Palo Alto has a lively retail and restaurant trade, and the Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Palo Alto (centered around University Avenue) are popular destinations.
See also: Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce list of Major Employers (http://www.paloaltochamber.com/ABOUTPACC/majore.html)
Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is well known for being one of the finest in the state. There is also a selection of private schools in Palo Alto.
- Terman Middle School - recently moved to new Arastradero location; reopened in 2001
- Jordan Middle School - located in Midtown/Northern part of Palo Alto
- Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School - located in southern Palo Alto; has 1000 students
- Addison School
- Barron Park School
- Juana Briones School
- Duveneck School
- El Carmelo School
- Escondido School
- Fairmeadow School
- Walter Hays School
- Hoover School
- Lucille Nixon School
- Ohlone School
- Palo Verde School
- Pinewood School - located on Arastradero in Los Altos Hills; most of the students are from Los Altos Hills/Los Altos area
- Kitty Petty Insitute - a preschool for disabled children
- St Elizabeth Seton Extended - a Catholic school
- Castilleja School - a prestigious girls' school
- International School of the Peninsula - a K-8 school emphasizing on dual language teaching
- Bowman International School - a school founded in 1995 which emphasizes on teaching about different cultures
Palo Alto is served by two major freeways, US Highway 101 and Interstate 280, and is traversed by the Peninsula's main north-south boulevard, El Camino Real (California State Highway 82).
The city is also served indirectly by California State Highway 84 which traverses the Dumbarton Bridge to the north. None of the highways on the Peninsula side of the bridge have been upgraded to freeway status due to opposition from residents of Palo Alto, Atherton and Menlo Park. The freeway opponents fear that upgrading Highway 84 will encourage more people to live in Alameda County (where housing is more affordable) and commute to jobs in the mid-Peninsula area, thus increasing traffic in their neighborhoods to the south of the bridge. Also, Palo Alto has only one major crosstown arterial, Page Mill Road/Oregon Expressway, which completely connects the two freeways. Because of these two defects in the regional road network, Palo Alto is notorious for severe traffic congestion at rush hour.
Palo Alto boasts a municipal airport, with IATA airport code PAO. The Palo Alto airport is one of the busiest single-runway general aviation airports in the country.
Train service is available via Caltrain with service to San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain has two regular stops in Palo Alto, one at University Avenue (local and express) and the other at California Avenue (local only). A third, located beside Alma Street at Embarcadero Road, is used to provide special services for occasional sports events (generally football) at Stanford Stadium.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) provides primary bus serivce through Palo Alto with service to the south bay and Silicon Valley. The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) provides service to San Mateo County to the north. The Stanford University Free Shuttle (Marguerite) provides a supplementary bus service in and around Palo Alto.
- City of Palo Alto web page (http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/)
- Palo Alto Airport (http://www.paloaltoairport.org/)
- Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce (http://www.paloaltochamber.com/)
- Palo Alto Historical Association (http://www.pahistory.org/)
- Two Towns Are Better Than One, Palo Alto Weekly (http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news_features/centennial/1920D.html)
- Maps and aerial photos
- Street map from Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?latlongtype=decimal&latitude=37.429289&longitude=-122.138162&zoom=6)
- Topographic map from Topozone (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=37.429289&lon=-122.138162&s=200&size=m&layer=DRG100)
- Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver (http://terraserver.microsoft.com/map.aspx?t=1&s=14&lon=-122.138162&lat=37.429289&w=750&h=500)