The Seven Weirdest Planning Terms

Part II in our series documenting the unexpected and entertaining words and phrases we encounter in our planning classes.

1. Astroturf

What you’re expecting: a surface on which to play soccer.

Photo credit: Nigel Chadwick

What it actually is: fake grassroots organizations sponsored by large corporations.

2. The Garbage Can Model

What you’re expecting: Oscar the Grouch


What it actually is: a decision-making approach where solutions are applied to problems without regard to their fit.

3. Bollards

What it sounds like: a British curse word

What they actually are: short, sturdy vertical posts used to control road traffic.


4. Expulsive Zoning

What it sounds like: what might happen the day after you eat seafood that’s gone bad.

What it actually is: when residential areas are zoned for industrial or commercial uses, in an attempt to displace current residents.

5. ROC

What you’re expecting: “CEO of the ROC” – Jay Z


What it actually is: ROC stands for Return of Capital or Recovery on Capital, which are both related to returns on investments.

6. Logrolling

What you’re expecting: something lumberjacks might be good at.


What it actually is: the trading of votes by legislators to get their favored projects passed.


What it sounds like: a refreshing drink, or the beloved rapper/star of Law & Order: SVU.


What it actually is: The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991

Readers: what is your favorite planning term?