City planners are urging Castilleja School to apply for an amended use permit as a way to resolve neighborhood traffic concerns around the school.
The school, which currently exceeds its city-imposed enrollment cap of 415 by 33 students, has presented a plan to gradually reduce its headcount as well as to curb traffic through use of school shuttles and other policies.
In a Feb. 28 letter to the school, city planner Steven Turner agreed to Castilleja's short-term plan to reduce enrollment by four students this fall and by an additional six in fall 2015.
But in the longer term, "future enrollment caps will be determined by the outcome of a process to amend the school's conditional use permit," Turner said.
Castilleja said it welcomed the news. Last July, the school announced its intention to seek a new use permit for as many as 515 students 100 more than is permitted under the existing permit. At that time, Head of School Nanci Kauffman also disclosed that Castilleja's current enrollment of 448 is in violation of the existing permit, which was negotiated in 2000.
The city imposed a $300,000 fine for the violation and ordered the school to cut back on car traffic and to reduce attendance "through natural attrition and voluntary measures."
Castilleja neighbors Vic Befera and Stan Shore have urged the city to take a harder line with the school.
"Castilleja has made a mockery of the (conditional use permit) process," Shore said in a Jan. 30 letter to the city.
"The school has created this over-enrollment, and it is the school's moral responsibility to get their enrollment back into compliance as rapidly as possible."
Other neighbors have sided with Castilleja.
"If the building can sustain more students, then I am in support of the program growing," nearby resident Glowe Chang said.
"Other than a couple of critical times during the day (the beginning and end of classes), there is not much traffic movement around the school. Realistically, I don't see any impact the school has on the daily peacefulness of the neighborhood," Chang said.
In a statement responding to Turner's Feb. 28 letter, Castilleja said it would continue with its "transportation demand management" programs, including shuttles, the use of which aims to reduce traffic to a level equivalent to a student population of 385.
"Moving forward, Castilleja will continue to dialogue with all of our neighbors to focus on ways to further improve parking and traffic, plan for future enrollment demands and preserve their quality of life," the statement reads.
In a Feb. 25 letter to Befera and Shore, City Manager Jim Keene said Castilleja's traffic is a better measure of neighborhood impact than enrollment numbers per se.
"I understand that the city's position of not immediately requiring a 33-student reduction to the 415 maximum enrollment will be unpopular with some members of the community," Keene wrote.
"However, we are of the opinion that the impacts of the school on adjacent neighborhoods are the most important factor in determining the appropriate maximum enrollment figures. A process to amend the (conditional use permit) will allow for the proper studies and analysis to be prepared so that we can understand the school's impacts, thereby assisting the city to make the correct decision regarding the future of the school."