The City of Palo Alto’s Ongoing Efforts to Address Public Safety and Resiliency

Increasing Public Safety and Emergency Response

Aircraft Rescue Mutual Aid

Through the Santa Clara County Mutual Aid System, Palo Alto Fire Department has access to NASA Ames’ Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF). This vehicle is specific to fighting aircraft fire and was added to the mutual aid plan after 2010.

Mobile Emergency Operations Center and Mobile Department Operations Center

Airport Operations and Response

Strengthening the City’s Infrastructure

Utilities Infrastructure Investments

The City of Palo Alto provides Gas, Electric and Water services to the Palo Alto community. Utilities capital infrastructure replacement supports the City’s resiliency by upgrading and replacing water mains, gas mains, and electrical lines. Last year, the City completed the University Avenue water and gas infrastructure upgrade supporting safety and resiliency for the next 100 years.


· Colorado Substation Upgrade — Transformer and high voltage circuit breaker replacement to improve redundancy, reliability and resiliency of the City’s electrical transmission system (Project Cost: $4.5M).


· Gas Main Replacements — Replacement of structurally deficient gas mains that are subject to corrosion or reaching the end of their expected life (Project Cost:$35M).


· Emergency Water Supply — Construction of a new 2.5 million gallon reservoir and pump station. Construction of three new wells and rehabilitation of five existing wells. The project provides additional emergency water supply to meet the minimum emergency water demand, as recommended by the California Department of Health Services (Project Cost:$31M).

Airport Infrastructure and Electrical Upgrades

The Palo Alto Airport currently does not have a backup generator, but the ongoing Apron Reconstruction project will upgrade the Airport’s infrastructure to support airfield electrical upgrades including a back-up generator or connecting to the Public Works Storm Water airport pump station to support operations during an outage. Airport Operations has completed phase 1 and 2 of this project at a cost of $20M and anticipates the project to be completed late FY 2021 or early FY 2022 with a total project cost of approximately $40M. This schedule is dependent upon the Federal Aviation Administration funding and staff is working with the local FAA office to secure funding.

Public Safety Capital Investments

The City’s adopted Infrastructure Plan and recent increases in Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax) to fund the plan, seeks to address the City’s seismic resiliency specific to public safety services provided to the community, with a total of over $125M invested to support projects either recently completed, in the planning stages, or under construction. These projects include Fire Station 3, Fire Station 4, and the Public Safety Building. Critical buildings like fire stations, police stations, emergency operations centers, and 911 dispatch centers must be designed to meet the Essential Services Buildings Seismic Safety Act (ESBSSA). The former Fire Station 3 and the current Fire Station 4 and Police Station do not meet these standards.

Regional Water Quality Control Plant Back-up Power Generators

The outage caused by the 2010 plane crash impacted operations at the Regional Water Quality Control Plant. Owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto, the Plant treats wastewater for the communities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District. After the incident, City Public Works initiated a design project to improve standby power. The City invested about $2.5 million for construction in new standby generators, load banks, and automatic transfer switches to replace four aging standby power generators.

Matadero Creek Pump Station Replacement

The $6.5M Matadero Creek Pump Station Replacement Project was completed in FY 2018–2019. The project includes three new large pumps with an increased water capacity, allowing the City to manage flooding concerns and drain an approximate 1,300 acre area. The station also includes a new electrical building raised to comply with FEMA standards, which houses a new 1,000 KW capacity generator with 1,000-gallon fuel tank and the 13,500 square feet site was paved with permeable asphalt, allowing the site to self-treat and infiltrate rain runoff that lands at the site.

Pump Station Fiber Line Installation

In FY 2017–2018 staff completed the installation of new fiber optics to the City’s seven pump stations, creek monitors and tide gate. This project involved new overhead and underground fiber line installation, new panels and instrumentation at each facility that ultimately provides dependable and timely rainfall, flows data and verifies that facilities are functioning properly.

San Francisquito Creek Flood Projects

Because of several significant size flood events, Palo Alto and adjacent agencies are involved in the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority with a goal to address regional flood issues. The group successfully managed the construction and completion of a creek widening project downstream of Highway 101. The project completed in FY 2018–2019 is approximately 1.5 miles in length and includes raised levees and floodwalls to allow for significantly larger rain flows to pass and addresses long-term sea-level rise objectives. As part of the project two main utilities lines were relocated and a new electrical tower was built. This portion of the creek can now carry flows larger than the 100-year storm event that would otherwise flood the properties in East Palo Alto. In addition, Caltrans had a separate project to replace the existing bridge over Highway 101, that crosses over the creek and to allow for these larger flows to pass. Two additional projects are now underway, upstream of Highway 101, that will also increase the capacity of the San Francisquito Creek. The City of Palo Alto is working on the Newell Road Bridge Replacement project, which is estimated to cost $8.5M, and anticipated to be completed in FY 2021-FY 2022; and the Joint Powers Authority is working to replace the Pope/Chaucer Bridge and widen the creek at five locations.

Municipal Services Center Fuel Station Upgrade and Debris Hauling During a Large-Scale Disaster

Staff is exploring a proposal to support debris management in the event of a large-scale disaster and the City’s street sweeping contract is being revised to have dedicated rates related to debris hauling. In addition, staff is requesting a $125K proposal as part of the City’s upcoming budget process to upgrade the City’s Municipal Services Center Fuel Station to provide backup power.

Long-Range Planning Efforts to Address Public Safety and Resiliency Underway

Electrical Resiliency and Exploring Redundant Electrical Connections

The City’s electric distribution system is connected to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) transmission grid through three transmission lines. Although three lines provides some redundancy and back-up power delivery, all three lines run in a common corridor on the bay side of the City, in close proximity to the Palo Alto Airport. The proximity to an airport means that the City’s power supply is susceptible to single events that can affect all three lines, which happened in the 2010 plane crash, the aircraft hit the power lines resulting in a city-wide power outage for over 14 hours. PG&E paid for the repair of the transmission line since it is owned by PG&E.

Future Utilities Infrastructure Planning Underway

· Foothills Wildfire Mitigation — Mitigation of wildfire threat associated with overhead electric lines and equipment in high fire threat area and improve the resiliency of the electric grid (Estimated Project Cost: $5-$10M).

Sea Level Rise Policy

The City Council recently adopted sustainability as a 2020 priority; however, sustainability and environmental concerns have been a priority for the City for several years. Council adopted a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policy in March 2019 and staff will be developing a vulnerability assessment and a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan to protect Palo Alto’s infrastructure, neighborhoods, economy, and Baylands habitat. Plan components will use predicted sea level rise scenarios to consider risk management needs for City infrastructure and ecosystem assets, zoning requirements, budget planning, roles and responsibilities of City departments, and public education. For the policy, go here.

Next Steps

Finally, over the longer term the need for redundant systems and emergency response can be significantly affected by the actions we take to reduce our energy consumption and reliance on “imported” energy.

Additional Online Resources



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