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Celebrating National Public Works Week

Learn about the services Palo Alto’s Public Works Department provides the community to commemorate National Public Works Week

It’s National Public Works Week and sharing the services the Public Works Department team provides our local community. Accredited by the American Public Works Association in 2015 and reaccredited in 2019, Palo Alto’s Public Works Department is the first agency to achieve this distinction in Silicon Valley. Did you know that the Public Works Department includes 4 divisions: Engineering Services, the Palo Alto Airport, Public Services, and Environmental Services. This blog showcases our City at work providing services such as supporting the City’s Urban Forest, Palo Alto Airport operations, construction and maintenance of public facilities, street, sidewalk, and storm drain maintenance, implementation of sustainability initiatives, waste management and recycling, operating the Regional Water Quality Control Plant and maintenance of the City fleet. We’re proud to celebrate the people who work to make these essential services available to our community!

Engineering Services

Staff teams within the Public Works Engineering Services division support the maintenance and operation of Palo Alto’s infrastructure, including the implementation of the City’s capital improvement program, designing and constructing City-owned facilities, streets, sidewalks, storm drains and parks infrastructure, and providing engineering support to City Departments and the private development community for construction in the public right of way.

The staff in this division have recently completed several projects, including the construction of Fire Station №3, the California Avenue Parking Garage, the Highway 101 Pedestrian/Bike Bridge, the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Rinconada Park improvements, and more! Other key projects underway include the Public Safety Building, Charleston/Arastradero Corridor improvements, and several park improvements.

For more about the City’s capital improvements, go here. For updates on current projects, go here.

Public Works Engineering Services is also making significant progress in meeting the Street Maintenance Program goal to provide excellent street conditions throughout the City. Current efforts are focused on the Fiscal Year 2022 Street Resurfacing Project, which involves upgrading street corner ramps for ADA compliance, as well as removing and replacing damaged concrete sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and driveway aprons to meet City Standards.

The Pavement Condition Index, or PCI, measures the condition of street surfaces on a scale of 1 to 100 and is based on inspections of each street that are done every other year. Since 2009, the average PCI score improved from 72 to 85 in 2018. Though the PCI dipped to 83 in December 2021 due to pandemic-related budget impacts, we still have some of the best roads in Santa Clara County.

Palo Alto Airport

The Palo Alto Airport is the busiest single runway airport in the state of California. It relieves three Bay Area Airports and is available to transient pilots and visitors. There are several independently owned onsite aviation businesses offering a wide range of services, including: fuel, aircraft ground support, flight lessons, pilot training, aircraft sales, rentals, maintenance, and repair.

The Palo Alto Airport is currently working on the Airport Apron Reconstruction Project. This project was partially funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and will renovate pavement surfaces and reconstruct the aircraft parking apron, all while installing underground conduit to support future solar photovoltaic installations.

Learn more about the Palo Alto Airport here.

Public Services

Street sweeping keeps our community clean and safe by removing the dirt, metals, petroleum products, garbage, and vegetation that regularly collect on our streets and paths. Removing these materials is important because they could end up in our storm drains and eventually into our creeks and the San Francisco Bay. Keeping the storm drains clear not only helps to reduce pollution, but also reduces the likelihood of flooding during heavy rain. The staff teams also respond to downed trees in the roadway after heavy wind or rainstorms.

For street sweeping schedules and other details, go here.

Fleet and Facilities Maintenance

Public Works teams also support fleet management services for City vehicles and heavy equipment. Timely maintenance and replacement of vehicles and equipment ensures safe, reliable, and efficient use of resources.

Facilities staff provide cost-effective custodial and facilities maintenance services that provide both clean and safe buildings.

Urban Forestry

In 2022 Palo Alto was accredited by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA for the 35th year, and as a Tree Line USA electric utility for the 7th consecutive year. In August 2016, the City of Palo Alto became the 15th municipality in the US and Canada to receive accreditation from the Society of Municipal Arborists, the highest recognition for municipal urban forestry programs.

The Urban Forestry Section maintains nearly 66,000 trees of Palo Alto’s urban forest. The urban forest consists of all trees in the City: both public and private street trees, park trees, forested park-lands and trees on private property. City staff, in-house tree crews, and contractors plant, prune, maintain, and remove public trees; clear vegetation from utility lines; issue tree permits and monitor tree protection for development and capital improvement projects; field resident questions and requests; and attend to tree emergencies.

The City is currently evaluating updates to its Tree Ordinance to complement current policy documents, strengthen requirements and procedures for when protected tree removals are proposed, and comply with new state legislation. For more on this effort, go here.

Both street sweeping and urban forestry management are essential services that keep our streets and trees clean and safe.

For more on the City’s Urban Forestry, go here.

Environmental Services

Watershed Protection

The Watershed Protection Group reduces pollutants from entering storm drains, surface waters, and sanitary sewers. The team consists of Stormwater Permit Compliance (responsibilities include inspecting and enforcing regulations and policies, managing the Stormwater Management Oversight Committee, and reviewing proposed stormwater management capital improvement projects), Pretreatment, Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) Permit Support and Special Projects (responsibilities include supporting the RWQCP through special studies and regulating business discharges to the RWQP), and Public Outreach and Policy (responsibilities include providing school education programs to 3,500 students annually, planning for sea level rise adaptation, and managing public outreach and pollution prevention programs).

Public Works staff teams within watershed protection work to protect local watersheds and minimize the effects of pollution; increasing Palo Alto’s safety and sustainability.

Go here for more information on Watershed Protection.

Regional Water Quality Control Plant

The mission of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) is to protect San Francisco Bay by cleaning and treating wastewater before it is discharged to San Francisco Bay. Owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto, the RWQCP operates 24 hours a day to treat all wastewater from the City of Palo Alto and the City’s five partner agency regional service areas including Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University, and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.

The facility treats 20 million gallons of wastewater daily and serves over 250,000 residents.

Go here for more information on the Regional Quality Control Plant.

Stormwater Management

Staff work in this area includes litter reduction, urban pollution prevention programs, commercial and residential rebates, nature-based approaches to managing flooding and water quality impacts (i.e., green stormwater infrastructure), and flooding emergency-response services with the goals of reducing stormwater runoff and maintaining stormwater quality protection for discharge to creeks and San Francisco Bay. The team also assists with inter-agency projects such as the San Francisquito Creek: Upstream to Highway 101 project, Flood Basin Tide Gate Replacement project, and planning for Sea Level Rise through efforts initiated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and Valley Water’s Shoreline Feasibility Study Phase II.

Learn about stormwater rebates for residents and businesses here.

Zero Waste

Zero Waste Palo Alto’s mission is to help the community reach its Zero Waste goal of virtually eliminating waste from being burned or buried, and to protect the environment and public health in a cost-effective manner by safely, legally, and sustainably managing Palo Alto’s solid and hazardous waste as well as our closed landfill. Zero Waste is sustainable materials management — seeking to eliminate waste wherever possible first and foremost, and then managing the discards we do have through reuse and recycling/composting.

This program improves the quality of life of our entire community.

Learn more about Zero Waste here.


Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability, making impressive — and in some cases remarkable — progress toward reducing its carbon impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource consumption. Sustainability efforts center around energy, mobility, electric vehicles, water, climate adaptation, natural environment, and zero waste. The City of Palo Alto has approved an ambitious goal of achieving an 80% reduction in Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) below 1990 levels by 2030, and previously created a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Framework in 2016 and a 2018–2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan in 2017. The City also offers a wide variety of programs, incentives, and rebates to help the community take action and enhance their own sustainability efforts.

There are many ways for the community to act locally and make a global impact now.

Go here to learn how you can get involved with Sustainability.

More Online Resources

Go here for more information on National Public Works Week.

Go here for more information on the City of Palo Alto’s Public Works Department.

Go here for more information on Engineering Services.

Go here for more information on the Palo Alto Airport.

Go here for more information on Public Services.

Go here for more information on Watershed Protection.

Go here for more information on Zero Waste.



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