Palo Alto Race & Equity Priorities: Progress Update
Learn more about the City’s race and equity priorities and progress
As part of the City Council’s renewed 2022 priority on Community Health and Safety, the City continues to focus on fostering inclusiveness, equity and a sense of belonging. The following progress update on the City’s race and equity priorities is a big component of fostering a united sense of community, which is critical as we continue to recover from the pandemic together.
The City Council adopted the Race & Equity mission statement on November 16, 2020. On that same evening, the City Council voted on 16 other actions to advance equity work on a range of topics from use of police data to a community summit on gender equity issues. The City Council decided to continue this work through the Policy and Services Committee on an ongoing basis. Progress on each of the November 2020 directives, as well as other efforts since the last progress report in February 2022, are detailed below. Staff will continue to share information about race and equity efforts through the City’s blog, other communications channels, and will continue to maintain a Race and Equity webpage at www.cityofpaloalto.org/raceandequity.
COMPLETED AND ONGOING RACE AND EQUITY EFFORTS
City Council Actions
- March 7, 2022: The City Council discussed key dates and took action to celebrate the following dates as dates of historic significance Juneteenth (including a proclamation), Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta Day, May as Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month and to recognize Indigenous People’s Day; and to also refer to the HRC further discussion on how best to honor these dates and have further discussion on the topic of key dates. (Colleague’s Memo and Minutes)
- May 2, 2022: The City Council approved many recommendations that came from the Policy and Services Committee related to race and equity (CMR #14194; Minutes), including moving forward many recommendations from the 2021 Women and Girls Summit
- May 9, 2022: The City Council discussed hate crimes and hate speech and made further recommendations on ways to reduce hate crimes and hate speech (CMR #14079; Minutes)
- June 14, 2022: The City’s Policy and Services Committee met to hear and discuss the latest race and equity progress report. See the full staff report here (starting on page 40).
- June 20, 2022: The City Council approved the budget request to authorize a new staff position of an Equity and Inclusion Official (see Equity and Inclusion Official Information below)
Police Records Management System
The City debuted its new police records management system (RMS) — designed to comply with the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) — on Dec. 1, 2021. Since Jan. 1, 2022, the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) has been submitting Stop Data — traffic and pedestrian stops — to the Department of Justice (DOJ) portal, as required by law. This is a very important step in helping the City of Palo Alto to collect accurate racial identity data for Police contacts with members of the public. The first reporting period that will be used for Department of Justice annual data reports will be January 2022-December 2022. The DOJ report will not be Palo Alto-specific, so staff is pursuing options for a Palo Alto-specific report.
Mental Health Intervention
The PAPD collaborated in December 2021 with the County of Santa Clara County to take part in the Santa Clara County Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) program, which teams up a police officer with a licensed mental health clinician to provide rapid intervention to a person in mental health crisis. In addition to this program, the City successfully advocated to be included in Santa Clara County’s new community mobile response program — known as the Trusted Response Urgent Support Team (TRUST) — which is a non-law enforcement response resource for lower-level mental health crises. The program seeks to de-escalate crisis situations and divert individuals away from hospital emergency rooms or jail, and toward alternative means such as counseling, a sobering center, a respite program or mediation through a crisis stabilization unit. Learn more about the program here starting on page 101.
Additionally, Santa Clara County has the Mobile Crisis Response Team program currently available. Information on this program is provided above. Since the last progress report in February, staff has continued to work on these alternative service programs through its partnership with Santa Clara County, which have been successful thus far. The City also submitted for federal Community Project Funding (earmark) in 2021 for financial support in partnership with the Cities of Mountain View and Los Altos for additional mental health services. Under the leadership of Congresswoman Eshoo, the City received notification that the funding would be awarded to the City. As part of standard federal process, the City is completing a formal grant process to receive the funding.
City Staff Assignments
Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Assessment
Staff is in the process of completing an overall diversity and inclusion assessment of the City workforce and collecting workforce demographic data as a baseline. Last year, staff completed the demographic survey of the City’s boards and commissions. The summary report, which is anonymous, will be uploaded to the City’s race and equity webpage and repeated either annually or biannually.
Equity and Inclusion Official
Staff continues to do to work on the workforce diversity and inclusion assessment, which is the foundation for normalizing equity into City organization operations. To assist with equity efforts going forward, on June 20, 2022 the City Council approved the requested budget item in the City Manager’s Office Department Budget for an Equity and Inclusion Official. This approval allows the staff to initiate the recruitment process in the new fiscal year. When hired, the Official will carry out diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts at the City.
As a coordinator role, this position will help integrate equity into City Services and the City’s Boards and Commissions. The official will also:
- Serve as an informal advisor to City departments on equity and inclusion principles and practices.
- Provide strategic technical guidance and policy direction of the City’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
- Coordinate citywide outreach and engagement strategies, actions, events, and Communications related to equity efforts.
- Support ongoing dialogues (on topics such as implicit bias and microaggressions) with the City’s Boards, Commissions and City Council by fostering discussions about how equity impacts the work that they do.
- Helping move many of the City workforce equity and inclusion efforts forward, including organizing an equity team.
Community engagement is an integral part of Palo Alto’s race and equity work. Engaging the community at large to provide feedback for the City’s Race and Equity strategy has been a priority throughout this process as shown in the Framework. The City continues to engage the community through a series of Race and Equity conversations to help inform, gain input and listen and hear from many perspectives. The City recently facilitated the connection between different conversations that took place focused on Racial Equity:
- 100 Community Conversations About Race and Lived Experience in Palo Alto, sponsored and initiated by the Human Relations Commission.
- Palo Alto Summit on Women and Girls
- Book to Action: How to be an Anti-Racist
- 21-Day Equity Habit Building Challenge (in partnership with PAUSD) and 7-Day Equity Book List for Children
- Learn about other previous meetings here.
Recent and Upcoming Events and Activities Celebrating Inclusion and Belonging
This year for Juneteenth — a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States that takes place every June 19 — the City recently published a blog promoting various events and activities throughout Santa Clara County for the public to participate in.
Palo Alto Art Center Activities
Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration
Started in January 2022, this recent exhibition, which wrapped up May 21, 2022, explored the power of art to promote individual and community wellbeing. The exhibition also included two artist residencies — one with artist Christine Wong Yap, who explored places of belonging in the community with teens and seniors and the other with Marcel Pardo Ariza, who led workshops with the Rainbow Collective, the LGBTQ+ community at Avenidas.
In the new Restart exhibition, which launched June 25 and runs through August 20, these themes continue, showcasing how art can promote healing and restoration. The first juried exhibition in more than a decade at the Palo Alto Art Center, this exhibition includes work in a wide range of media by artists from throughout Northern California. To ensure maximum inclusion for blind visitors, some of the visual descriptions of artworks are available through QR code.
“Working Together” Internship Program
The summer is also when the Art Center offers the “Working Together” internship program — a collaboration with the Junior Museum & Zoo that promotes diversity in the museum field through a pipeline of engagement for diverse youth in paid teen opportunities, paid undergraduate internships and paid graduate fellowships.
Palo Alto Children’s Theatre Activities
To encourage inclusivity, the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre has focused on producing work that allows all Palo Alto residents to see themselves reflected on the stage. They also continue to create accessible programming for underserved communities, with classes, camps and productions offered through collaborations with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), Bay Area Title-1 Schools, the Magical Bridge Foundation, Stanford University, and The Breath Project. These include:
- The Children’s Theatre works with PAUSD family services specialists every year to identify students who benefit from full scholarships for summer camps and classes. As a result of recent recruitment efforts, nine students are participating in summer 2022 programs on full scholarships, offered in collaboration with the Friends of the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre.
- This year, as part of our Magical Series Spectrum and Sensory Friendly offerings, the theatre is offering enrollment based on developmental age, rather than chronological ages like most City classes and activities. Recent and current programming includes the Magical Series Story Acting Classes each quarter, the newly launched free Magical Series Music Therapy classes, with a focus on accessibility for neurodivergent participants.
- In collaboration with Stanford’s University Compression Forum, the theatre is offering free internships to rising high school seniors and incoming college freshman now through August. The participants, who all come from underrepresented/underserved backgrounds, will take part in a research project that explores the use of advanced technology in theatre.
Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) Activities and Efforts
To further expand diversity of employees, the JMZ continues to work on recruitment and retention through internships — funded by a grant — as well as ensuring that all staff reflects the diversity of the community it serves. In this effort, the JMZ is working with East Side Prep, a college preparatory school in East Palo Alto, to recruit ethnically diverse students as staff and volunteers for its Science Camp Program. The JMZ and Friends of the Junior Museum & Zoo are also training staff on cultural diversity and sensitivity.
The JMZ’s Access from the Ground Up project to build-in accessibility for people with disabilities into every facet of the new facility is in the process of evaluation, the final stage of the project. The five-year project was made possible by a $270K grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (ILMS) and by the participation of community groups, parents and advisors. Additionally, another grant by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation allowed for two adult- sized, motorized changing tables in the restrooms to allow parent and caregivers the space to tend to the changing and care needs of a larger child who may have a physical disability.
The JMZ is also seeking further ways to increase access and opportunities for low-income neighbors. One such program is the Museums for All Program, a nationwide program to build economic equity into museum admission policies by the Association of Children’s Museum and the Institute of Museum & Library Services. It provides a deeply discounted admission ticket of
$3 per person to a family that has an electronic benefit card or similar benefits.
Palo Alto Public Art Program Activities
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Artist Residency
In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, for whom King Plaza is named, the City Council asked the Public Art Commission to consider commissioning a permanent work signaling the City’s commitment to race, equity, and belonging. As part of its permanent platform to promote ongoing conversations about equity, inclusion, and belonging in Palo Alto through the arts, the Commission also established the King Artist Residency Program, which recently debuted with its first resident, Rayos Magos.
A San Jose-native Latinx mixed media artist, Magoshas conducted over 30 meetings and interactions with the community since February this year to create free workshops that inspire conversations about equity and inclusion and help foster community. The most recent workshops, which took place June 7 and 9 at Cubberley Community Center, focused on letter writing as a tool for mental health, creative expression, and sharing.
Between February 2022 and May 2022, the Library hosted these race and equity related events and activities:
- Income Tax Preparation for Low-Income Patrons (February 19 — April 16)
- Black History Month (BHM) Storytimes
- Lunar New Year (LNY) Events: Performance by Leung’s White Crane Association and LNY Storytimes
- Created Web Content: Booklists, blogposts, social media posts on BHM, LNY
- Women’s History Month (WHM) Storytimes
- Fair Housing Rights with Project Sentinel
- Storytimes for Neurodiversity Week (March 21–27)
- Norooz Events: Norooz Dance Lesson and Norooz Storytimes
- Created Web Content: Booklists, blogposts, social media posts on WHM, Norooz
- Two Shibori Tie-Dye Workshops
- Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Storytimes
- Author Event: How to Make Dumplings with Samantha Mui
- Created Web Content: Booklists, blogposts, social media posts on AAPI
- Ongoing Activities:
Monthly ESL Book Club (Next one July 6, 2022)
Monthly Stay Woke Book Club (Next one Sept. 10, 2022)
Weekly ESL Conversation Group (Next one July 6, 2022)
Additional Online Resources
- March 26, 2021 blog post, “Steps the Community Can Take to Help Stop Hate Crimes”
- March 9, 2021 Race and Equity Progress Update to the Policy and Services Committee
- Staff report detailing the Race and Equity Framework
- Human Relations Commission Report about Black and Brown History in Palo Alto and HRC Recommendations on #8CantWait
- City Council Resolution
- Police Department’s Police Accountability page