Fellowship Openings

Strengthening Civic Identity Through Developing a New City Hall

Project: Strengthening Civic Identity Through Developing a New City Hall

Agency: East Palo Alto City Manager's Office

Location: East Palo Alto, CA

Project context 
The City of East Palo Alto is a low-income minority enclave amidst the wealth and resources of Silicon Valley. Incorporated in 1983, East Palo Alto is a relatively young city, and still in the process of building out its administrative functions and city infrastructure. Without the financial resources of its neighbors or comparable land holdings, East Palo Alto has struggled to find and maintain appropriate municipal offices to house its roughly 100 person city staff. There are three critical city facilities:  City Hall, the Police Station, and the Corporation Yard.   To date, staff members work from multiple leased offices or re-purposed municipal buildings.   The City Hall is located in a building owned by San Mateo County.  The lack of a designated City Hall has symbolic implications for identity and civic pride. It also presents a liability as some 90 percent of civic staff, including critical public safety staff, work from leased space resulting in avoidable boundaries and silos between offices.   The City also lacks a general purpose community center.

In order for city officials to develop plans for a new City Hall, they must first evaluate current and future administrative needs based on the projected demographic growth of the city. This exercise offers an opportunity to develop a long-term vision for the city both as a community and as an administrative organization. In the short term, city officials have identified immediate opportunities for tenant improvements and upgrades to current facilities. By way of example, at a recent city council meeting, the audio/visual equipment was faulty preventing residents from being able to hear the content of the meeting as it was broadcast publicly. Upgrading equipment, as well as remodeling select spaces such as the council chambers, economic development offices and evidence/storage rooms, would help facilitate better access to the public and improve working conditions for city staff.

In the long run, the City aims to develop a new city hall and other critical city facilities that would bolster civic pride and improve resident access to city services and their elected officials. To support this work, East Palo Alto will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will collaborate with city staff on an assessment of current municipal facilities, improvements to current municipal facilities, identifying potential sites for a new City Hall and designing a plan for how the City might raise the funds for the development of a new building.

Project Summary & Potential deliverables 
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in September 2018, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will begin his or her work with an assessment of existing municipal facilities and anticipated future needs. The assessment should be informed by estimates of how much space will be needed by various departments, how many staff are in each office and how they can be organized, and projections of organizational needs and capacity over the next twenty years. These estimates should be used to determine the square footage required for office space and other critical city facilities, and an eligible list of buildings/properties that could be used as a City Hall and/or other critical city facilities. Additionally, the Fellow should develop a cost proposal for the project, as well as a comparison of financing options including but not limited to: tax increment financing, a ‘community benefit’ added to a private development project, etc. This assessment will be completed in close collaboration with the City Manager.
In order to be successful, the Fellow must demonstrate strong technical acumen, an ability to think creatively about financing and space use and be able to speak authoritatively to city stakeholder about their best options for achieving their long-term vision for the city. The Fellow should expect to work not only on long-term plans but also to step in and oversee immediate facility improvements as required.

  • Manage Immediate Facility Upgrades: Project manage a series of immediate tenant improvement projects as an opportunity to learn more about city facilities and their current use. Identify scenarios where the current facility is not meeting the needs of existing users including city staff and residents. Accomplish short-term wins by improving the public’s access to city government and to improve working conditions for current city staff.   This will include upgrading the audiovisual system at City Hall to facilitate increased public awareness and engagement.


  • Assessment of Future Space and Staff Needs: Engage city stakeholders in developing estimates of current and anticipated facility requirements. Interview representatives from each city department and community residents to identify opportunities for improving the use of city facilities. Collaboration should result in a comprehensive assessment and long-term vision for future administrative needs of the city.


  • Develop Implementation Plan: Develop clear recommendations and cost estimates for several future state scenarios that meet the space needs for the City and its residents. The plan should include but not be limited to purchasing land and/or the construction of a new municipal building. Include comparisons of various funding and financing options as well as any clear obstacles to implementation including local zoning regulations, financing challenges or community feedback.

key stakeholders

  • Carlos Martinez, City Manager, East Palo Alto Office of the City Manager
  • Sean Charpentier, Assistant City Manager, East Palo Alto Office of the City Manager


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in master planning, architecture, and/or engineering.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments.
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.

Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.