PAF Holiday Social

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It is that time of year - people, food, soft lights, and lots of well wishes for each other during the short winter days. Palo Alto Forward is asking you: What’s your wish for Palo Alto?

Last Thursday, that is what 80+ Palo Altans and friends did when they met up for Palo Alto Forward’s winter social. Hosted by Sandra Slater, we all took a pass at naming our wishes for Palo Alto’s future, asking ourselves: What vision do we have for the city we live in and call home? What ideas could get us really excited to get involved, working with others to make the ideas a reality?

Adorning a paper tree with paper ornament wishes, lots of both new and familiar ideas came into view evenly spread along the topics of transportation, housing, and public engagement. 

Wishes covered a range: from “condos and mixed use near retail and transit” and “more housing our kids can afford” to “less development, more resident services”. From “dedicated bike lanes” and “double Caltrain capacity”, to “successful TDM launch” and “shuttle service for kids attending PAUSD choice schools”. 

There were some specific ideas like “off leash dog areas and dog runs” and “find a location for a new public safety building”, as well as “a crosswalk on Middlefield between Colorado & Loma Verde”, and even “every student at Jordan Middle School to be able to play on a sports team after school” to name a few.

 Like any Palo Altan, I have a bunch of rough ideas of directions I’d like to see unfold, several ideas I think would be cool to try, and a few suggestions that might help solve specific hiccups that I’ve observed, but lately though, I’m someone that has more questions than answers. Questions that run the gamut from challenging assumptions with How Do We Know? to big open ended ones like What If?

So maybe that’s where the wishing comes in. Putting the open ended “What Ifs” out there to see what sticks, what others can get excited about and want to participate in uncovering the “How Do We Know” parts of the process making our wishes a reality.

 The heart of the wishes gathered Thursday night were in public engagement:

  • Future vision (to keep the city vibrant and exciting)
  • Productive conversations
  • Stay civil and honest. Engaged
  • Constructive teamwork among citizens
  • Enthusiastic collaboration
  • Palo Alto Forward as the go-to organization for rational planning
  • Stay at the Center of Innovation
  • Open inclusive discussion about the future
  • Kindness and Generosity

These wishes reflect what Palo Alto Forward is truly all about: exploring better options for housing and transportation, through an engaged public which reflects Palo Alto residents overall. 

What if we can tap into the ingenuity we know exists in our community? What if we can encourage residents to weigh in on issues that effect them? What if we can create a community that feels it is ok to share their wishes without fear of ad hominem trolling? What if we can actually decide to be pragmatic about the community we live in and the larger interdependent forces that impact us and that we, Palo Altans, in turn contribute to?

My wish for Palo Alto is to try some new things, take some measured risks, and most importantly, start a real conversation with each other about what we want life here 5, 10, 15 years from now to look like. 

What’s your wish?

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