Words that defined Palo Alto in 2017 | News | Palo Alto Online |


Words that defined Palo Alto in 2017

A Palo Alto spin on words that dominated the year's community conversations

Rush-hour commuters merge onto northbound U.S. Highway 101 at Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto. Photo by Veronica Weber.

As we took a look back at 2017, several words jumped out in our coverage that sum up the year in Palo Alto. We've compiled them (along with their particular "Palo Alto" definitions) into the list below:

ACCESSORY | adj. -- 1. Jewelry. 2. A small, secondary dwelling located behind a main house to boost Palo Alto's affordable housing inventory; usually comes with parking restrictions.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | n. -- 1. below-market-rate housing. 2. An oxymoron.

BEAUTY CONTEST | n. 1. Palo Alto's short-lived idea to treat proposed office developments like "Star Search" contestants.

CAR LIGHT | adj. --1. Housing built with expectation that residents won't own cars. Ever. 2. Strategy to bypass the need to include parking and a rebuttal to allegations that development will increase traffic.

CARMAGEDDON | n. --1. Traffic jams on Palo Alto's streets during the afternoon rush hours that occur mainly in the Crescent Park neighborhood and cause frustrated drivers to be stuck for hours and engage in risky driving behavior, such as driving in the oncoming lanes.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN | n. -- 1. Palo Alto's official land-use bible. 2. A book that everyone cites but no one reads.

PENSION |n. 1. Insane financial liability that keeps Palo Alto leaders up at night estimated this year to be upwards of $1 billion owed to current and former city retirees that the city has no way to pay right now.

FIBER TO THE PREMISES | n. -- 1. An underground network of fiber-optic cables that brings ultra-high-speed broadband access to every premise in the city. 2. A dream deferred, again and again.

GATEWAY | adj. -- 1. A designation that developers apply to ordinary building proposals for which they're seeking extraordinary zoning exceptions.

ICONIC | adj. -- 1. Doomed to fail because of unrealistically high ambitious and unexpectedly high costs.

LEVEL OF SERVICE | n. -- 1. A measure of traffic impacts favored by those who think that the real problem is congestion.

LOW INVENTORY | n. - 1. A phenomenon in Palo Alto that forces homebuyers to compete against one another in bidding wars, which can push a home's price as much as 63 percent higher than the original asking price.

MEGAHOUSE | n. -- 1. An opulent, usually two-story residential structure that dwarfs other smaller homes in a neighborhood or nearly consumes the entire lot. 2. Sometimes called a dinosaur.

MISUNDERSTANDING | n. --1. A failure to understand something correctly. 2. The term Palo Alto school district leadership used to describe their failure to adhere to a contractual deadline to reopen salary negotiations with employee unions, an error that cost the district $4.4 million in unbudgeted raises, plus another potential $1.5 million for bonuses.

MOBILITY | n. -- 1. The ability to move people or oneself around with ease in a community. 2. A pipe dream in the Bay Area for the fluid ease of movement on streets and across town.

OMNICHANNEL | n. -- 1. Stream-of-consciousness approach to retail business in Palo Alto deemed crucial to brick-and-mortar business survival that includes all kinds of sales and marketing: e-commerce, brick-and-mortar, email, etc.

PALO ALTO TMA (Transportation Management Association) | n. --1. A small nonprofit charged with solving downtown Palo Alto's traffic problems.

THE PERFECT | n. -- 1. The sworn archenemy of "the good" and, as such, a thing to be avoided at all costs.

QUALITY OF LIFE | n. -- 1. a collection of characteristics and amenities (including, but not limited to, good schools, safe streets, leafy parks, quiet skies and Philz coffee) that collectively form an idealized version of a Palo Alto lifestyle; 2. An ill-defined but treasured entity that that every City Council candidate promises to defend and that, according to proponents of slow-growth polices, is under perpetual assault from developers and commuters.

RECALL | v. -- 1. Remember or recollect something. 2. Remove a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge.

RESIDENTIALIST | n. -- 1. A Palo Alto label that connotes a preference for slow-growth policies and skepticism toward new development.

RETAILTAINMENT | n. -- 1. A marketing strategy deemed by Palo Alto business leaders as necessary for survival against e-commerce. It adds incentives and hooks to get customers into the downtown stores.

RETIRE | v. -- 1. What school superintendents do when under pressure from the Board of Education to leave the district immediately because of questionable performance. Similar to, but usually precedes, "resign."

SEL | n. -- 1. Educational buzzword and acronym for social-emotional learning. 2. The next phase in the Palo Alto school district's ongoing efforts to improve student well-being, sparked in part by youth suicide clusters.

SERFR | n. --1. A flight path above Palo Alto that causes consternation due to noise and frequency of flights.

TITLE IX | n. 1. Federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment and assault, in schools and colleges. 2. Government jargon that became a household term in Palo Alto following reports of sexual violence at Palo Alto High School this spring.

TRANSPORTATION DEMAND MANAGEMENT | n. -- 1. a collection of carrots and sticks aimed at weaning drivers off their four-wheel habit.

VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED (VMT) | n. -- 1. A measure of traffic impacts favored by those who think that the real problem is that there are too many drivers.

Contribute to the list by leaving a comment with your own words and definitions.

Related content:

Webcast: Year in Review

2017: From behind the camera lens

Quotes to remember from 2017


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5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2017 at 8:18 am

Two more additions.

Resident - someone who lives in Palo Alto as opposed to somebody who works in Palo Alto or someone who wants to live in Palo Alto. It seems the CC keep forgetting about us.

Sharrows - a word that is not in the dictionary but seems to mean taking out of bike lanes and allows a free for all.

Like this comment
Posted by Y Member
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 29, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Since someone mentioned sharrows, I noticed today that they were removing them from the speed bump outside the Y.

2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Once again, I am deeply offended by the Weekly's use of the phrase "beauty contest" to describe the never-used and now-defunct design competition intended to improve the quality of Palo Alto office developments.

The phrase is not only inaccurate -- aesthetics were only one of the qualities to be evaluated, along with environmental concerns, parking capacity, etc. -- it is also demeaning. Many, perhaps even most, Palo Altans consider a "beauty contest" to be something trivial, at best.

When certain City Council members used the phrase "beauty contest", it is quite possible, perhaps even probable, that they were doing so in order to convey disrespect for the process. After all, this is 2017, this is Palo Alto; we all know a beauty contest is not something to be taken seriously.

The Weekly ridicules the concept by using the phrase "beauty contest" and defining it as "Palo Alto's short-lived idea to treat proposed office developments like 'Star Search' contestants."

This mockery is pure nonsense. Architectural contests have been practiced for more than 2500 years, going back to the Acropolis in ancient Athens.

Throughout the world, winning such a contest is considered a prestigious honor. Here in America, the design of cultural landmarks such as the White House as well as office buildings such as One World Trade Center are the result of design competitions.

The design competition was a serious attempt to improve office developments on several meaningful dimensions. I think it was a great idea. I don't know why the Weekly considers it some kind of joke.

2 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 1, 2018 at 11:24 am

More words:
Cement trucks
Dirt trucks
Traffic slog
Passenger jets
Tear downs
Office buildings

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