Poll finds anemic support for new taxes, growing number say city is on the wrong track

A slide from the presentation pollsters will give to the City Council's Finance Committee.
A slide from the presentation pollsters will give to the City Council's Finance Committee.

By the Daily Post staff

A pollster hired by the city has found that Palo Altans won’t support a parcel tax or a sales tax to fund the city’s infrastructure, including a new police station.

An increase in the hotel tax — now at 14% — is the only measure that drew solid support in the poll.

Part of the presentation a pollster will make to council’s Finance Committee.

The poll also found that a growing number of residents feel the city is on the wrong track compared to two years ago.

When asked, “Would you say that things in Palo Alto are generally headed in the right direction, or do you feel things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track,” 37% said wrong track compared to 25% in 2016.

Those who said the city was headed in the right direction fell from 61% to 43%.

The increasing number of people feel their city is on the wrong track is a “trend common in recent months for Bay Area cities facing increasing challenges like housing costs and traffic congestion,” said the pollsters, Dave Metz and Miranda Everitt of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates or FM3.

They polled 1,191 likely Palo Alto voters via phone and email between March 23 and April 2, and the margin of error was 4%.

The poll also found that 60% of residents felt the city was doing a good or excellent job providing services to residents, down from 74% in 2016.

City Council has a list of infrastructure projects it hopes to fund. They include a new police station at 250 Sherman Ave. in the California Avenue district, replacing a parking lot across from the courthouse. The cost of the station has grown from $57 million in 2012 to an estimated $92.2 million.

Other projects on the list include a bicycle-pedestrian bridge over Highway 101, street improvements for bicyclists, changes to the Charleston-Arastradero Road corridor, improvements to Byxbee Park, a parking garage at 350 Sherman Ave, a downtown parking garage and replacement of two fire stations.

The survey found that only 40% of residents supported a parcel tax, and that figure dropped to 34% when the pollster read the respondent arguments for and against such a tax.

Residents also don’t want to raise the sales tax, which is now at 9%. Just 27% supported such a tax, which dropped to 26% when respondents heard pro and con arguments.

There was slightly more support, 53%, for a tax on real estate transactions. But when respondents were read pro and con arguments, that support slipped to 47%.

About the only tax that looked promising for city officials is raising the hotel tax, which now is at 14% after voters increased it by 2 percentage points in 2014.

An increase in the hotel tax — which is largely paid by visitors to the city — was supported by 61%, a figure that fell to 58% when respondents heard arguments on both sides.

According to data supplied by FM3, the only cities in the state with a hotel tax higher than 14% are Garden Grove (14.5%) and Anaheim (15%), the home of Disneyland.

City Council’s Finance Committee will discuss the poll Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.


  1. Why should residents have to pay for parking structures when developers were allowed to build buildings without adequate parking?

  2. The city spent tens of millions buying the Buena Vista trailer park, and now we’re being asked to raise our taxes to pay for things the city can’t afford? This is crazy. This is why so many people feel the city is on the wrong track.

  3. If we vote down the tax Council puts on the ballot, can we stop new roundabouts from going in? Defeating any tax from the city might be the way to send Council a message.

  4. I hope that this Poll will show the Council that they shouldn’t throw any more money at trying to rehabilitate the Roth Building into a Palo Alto History Museum. Converting that building into housing is a much more sensible alternative, with more benefits to the community. Palo Alto doesn’t have enough “history” to require a full-blown museum.

  5. Instead of raising taxes, the City needs to cut salaries. Don’t make the people shovel out more money when City employees are living high off the hog with lifetime pensions and lifetime healthcare.

  6. No poll on the council chambers renovation? I’m wondering why that didn’t get on the list of projects in this poll?

  7. I’m glad the poll turned out this way. The council has got to be out of its mind if they think people want higher taxes.

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