Innovation Palo Alto 101

City of Palo Alto unveils new IT office that mirrors start up culture and invites collaboration

The City of Palo Alto has been named a Leading Digital City for two years in a row, and it is on the cutting edge of information services for citizens with the launch of the PaloAlto311 App and the Open Data website. Now the City’s IT Department has a physical space that matches the creative vision of its leader, Jonathan Reichental, whose experience in private industry has transformed Palo Alto’s information services in the three years since he became been CIO.

300 applications that keep Palo Alto running


Todd Henderson and Parag Kumar at the IT “smart bar”

Palo Altans might not spend much time thinking about the IT Department located at City Hall, but the 32 employees who work there keep over 300 applications running that impact life every day, including the Fire and Police Departments, libraries, parks and more.

On April 22, Palo Alto Pulse took a tour of the new IT office to see how Silicon Valley’s start up culture has influenced the redesign of this key area of city government in Palo Alto. Our tour was led by Todd Henderson, Parag Kumar and Kevin Crachian, who were proud to show the many ways the office has been transformed from a walled in warren of high cubicles and closed off rooms to an open, inviting and flexible workspace.

Designed to spur creativity and problem-solving

A few key features of the new space include:

  • variety of work environments, from standing desks, to open tables, to benches, which allow employees to work in different areas, IMG_3614connect with each other or have quiet time, depending on what’s needed.
  • two conference rooms that are available for public use, one designed for inspiration, with white boards and modular furniture, and the other for execution, with a traditional conference table, and smart board. The conference rooms can be reserved by contacting the IT Department.
  • accessibility of managers– upper tiers of the department who used to have closed-door offices are now working in low cubicles in close vicinity with their colleagues, where they can engage in dialogue and problem solving throughout the day.
  • “smart bar”– modeled after the Apple “Genius Bar,” this help desk gives City employees a place to get real time answers to tech problems. Last year the IT department resolved  over 9,000

    visitors left comments on the wall-sized white board in the “Inspire” conference room

    support requests with a 94% ‘excellent’ rating.

A plan to cut servers and energy use in half

We also visited the IT Department’s 1200 square foot ‘server farm,’ which is planned to be cut in half over the next few years as more programs and applications begin running on the cloud. This will eventually dramatically decrease City’s energy usage for IT services.

The public is welcome

The candy area pays homage to Star Trek

The candy area pays homage to Star Trek

Visit the City of Palo Alto’s IT Department at 250 Hamilton Avenue and see why Jonathan Reichental and his team are gaining national recognition for their innovative work in using technology to solve problems and engage citizens. If you like what you see, text a comment to 22333 with PACTC in the body of the text. To learn more about Jonathan’s vision for how Palo Alto can use technology to encourage citizen engagement in civic life, check out this profile of him

City of Palo Alto CIO Jonathan Reichental

City of Palo Alto CIO Jonathan Reichental

on Palo Alto Pulse.



About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.