News

Music school faces possible shutdown

Palo Alto's code enforcement targets New Mozart for violating zoning rules

For more than a decade, the New Mozart School of Music has helped Palo Alto's aspiring pianists unleash their inner Wolfgang Amadeuses.

Now, the school is facing the music: The city's code-enforcement officials determined last month that the school's very existence violates the city's zoning code, and it must shut down one of its locations.

New Mozart, which specializes in private lessons and focuses on children, has been leasing classrooms at the First Baptist Church in the Old Palo Alto neighborhood since 2005. It wasn't until early 2016, however, that the city's planning staff made a determination that the school is not considered a "permitted use" and sent New Mozart a notice of violation.

Initially, the city and the school, located at 305 N. California Ave., tried to resolve the issue by having New Mozart apply for a conditional-use permit. In January, attorney Charles S. Bronitsky submitted on behalf of the school a letter requesting such a permit so that the school can continue to operate in the R-1 (single-family residential) zone.

The school -- which offers lessons in piano, violin, viola, guitar, flute, saxophone and singing -- provides a "significant benefit to the community as it offers after-school music education to young students, most of whom live in Palo Alto," Bronitsky wrote. He also argued that the school does so "in a way that is not disruptive of the residential nature of the neighborhood" and that it actually enhances the neighborhood by providing the service.

Not everyone feels this way. Last Wednesday, several residents who live near the church attended a city Planning and Transportation Commission hearing on New Mozart to offer their thoughts on how the school affects the neighborhood. Sarah Burgess, who lives around the corner from First Baptist, told the commission that having a school operating in the church is causing traffic and parking problems.

"It's easy to say, 'It's just a few students,' but for most of the students who come, their parents drop them off and wait during lessons, sitting in the car and reading," Burgess said.

Margie Kane, who also lives near the church, said that between 4 and 6 p.m., there are cars parked all along California Avenue. The conditions, she said, are "an accident waiting to happen."

"They park on the corner and block visibility for drivers," Kane said.

In April, city staff notified New Mozart that its application for a permit was denied. The decision, according to the letter, was based on staff's determination that New Mozart is not providing sufficient parking and hasn't provided evidence to support its assertion that the church's parking stalls are actually available for the school's use.

In addition, staff had determined earlier this year that the music school is considered a "personal service" rather than a "private education facility," which means that it is not eligible to set up shop in a residential neighborhood even with a conditional-use permit. The zoning code allows private academic schools, community centers, outdoor recreation services and day care centers in single-family zones, some of which require a conditional-use permit.

Christine Shin, the founder and director of New Mozart, said she was surprised by the city's decision to penalize the school, which she said has always tried to be a good neighbor. They keep the school's windows closed during hot days to limit noise, for example, out of courtesy to neighbors.

Both Shin and Bronitsky said they have no desire to fight the city on the issue. They have, however, requested that the city grant them six months to transition to a new location.

Shin said the city's decision to deny her a permit caused her to do some "soul-searching" about the school's future.

"I seriously had to think about closing down," Shin said, citing the school's small profit margins.

Ultimately, she found a possible location at a brand new building fairly close to the present site. The rent, she said, would be roughly four times what the school has been paying at First Baptist Church. To pay for the buildout, she had to put up her house as collateral, Shin said.

She also noted that as tenants in a new building, the school would have to draw up tenant-improvement plans, get the needed city building permits and complete construction, she said. All told, the process could take six months.

"Hopefully, the city will be reasonable in its expectations of us moving out," Shin said. "I'm willing to move. I want to move. I don't want to be in a neighborhood where neighbors would be this way, even if it causes such an amount of liability."

The Planning and Transportation Commission sympathized with Shin, even as it unanimously affirmed staff's findings that the school violates the zoning code. Both Commissioner Eric Rosenblum, whose child attended New Mozart, and Chair Michael Alcheck said the school should be given a reasonable length of time to move.

Rosenblum asked staff to allow for an "amicable transition period, whereby the kids don't have disruption in lessons and the tenant can move on to a new facility in a smooth way." Alcheck said he would encourage the City Council "to do everything possible to help this business succeed in this city, and if not in this city, in any city with close proximity to this place."

At the end of its discussion, the commission unanimously voted to include an amendment requesting that City Manager James Keene and the city's code enforcement officers be "lenient" with time to facilitate a "smooth transition."

The commission's request seems to have had a desired effect. On Wednesday night, Bronitsky was informed that the school can have some additional time to move to a new location, Shin told the Weekly.

The extension came with some conditions, including a provision that the school ensure that cars don't idle outside the church, Shin said.

Shin said Thursday morning that in conversations with the planning department, city officials verbally agreed to give New Mozart four months, with a possible extension if necessary.

"It's turning out to be a much happier situation and I'm really happy that they are being reasonable and will give us more time," Shin said. "At this point, that's the best I was hoping for."

The council will also have a say in the matter on Tuesday, when it is scheduled to affirm staff's denial of the music school's conditional-use permit. The item appears on the council's "consent calendar," which means it would be voted on as part of a long list of items without any discussion unless three council members agree to pull the item off consent.

If the council opts to pull the item, it would have to schedule a separate hearing on it at a future date, said Project Planner Claire Hodgkins.

Meanwhile, the city is looking at other uses in First Baptist that potentially run afoul of the zoning code. Last Thursday, after repeated requests from the city, the church finally submitted a list of all of its tenants.

According to the list, which was obtained by the Weekly, tenants include (among others) the iSing Girl Choir (with an average class size of 20 students); regular dance groups (including folk dancing and Argentinian tango); a Persian culture art and reading class; the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center (which will close its office at the church at the end of this month); the Peninsula Macrobiotic Community (which suspended its weekly dinners at the church last month); a psychiatrist and two psychologists who counsel teenagers.

City planning staff acknowledged in the April letter that the city had not determined whether it's actually New Mozart that is causing the "insufficient queuing space" and "excessive noise" at the site (of the school's nine music rooms, eight are used for one-on-one lessons and only one is used for group lessons). But the letter also noted that this use, "in conjunction with other non-permitted uses, is resulting in noise, traffic and parking concerns that may be impacting the safety, general welfare and convenience of adjacent residents."

In addressing the commission last week, Pastor Rick Mixon of First Baptist Church, attributed the controversy over the music school to "an outdated code that doesn't recognize the reality of church life in this area, at this point in time."

"We're a small congregation with a very large public building that we're responsible for keeping up," Mixon said. "We don't have the resources to do that without renting our space or sharing our space."

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

95 people like this
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:07 am

Seriously?
The city is shutting down a music school? At a church?
Get a grip.


30 people like this
Posted by Reaping what was sown
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

Seems like selfish, car-centric parents ruined it for everyone.
Well done.


15 people like this
Posted by MattB
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:27 am

MattB is a registered user.

@"Reaping what was sown": Can you please elaborate? Your opinion does not seem to be supported by the article. Even if there was a shortage of parking space at times, which does not even seem to be the case, why would you call the parents "selfish"?


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:36 am

There are pros and cons both sides of this story.

First, I can fully understand the need for a church to rent out space to help pay its bills. It is a useful space in an area where space for such activities is limited and we are a growing community that needs lots of activities for its residents. Neighbors who move next door to a church probably expect Sunday morning activities rather than lots of afternoon and evening activities are not aware that churches do have a lot more going on than just Sunday morning services. Anyone planning to live near a church should look to see exactly what activities that church do have during the week.

Saying that though, there are codes for a reason. If this music school was getting lower rental charges at a building that was not designed and zoned for rental then they had lucked out. Paying the going rate for a rental facility is unfortunately what happens in Palo Alto for any established business and this school is like any other business, because call it what you like, it is a business.

In my opinion, although I can understand the reasoning of why a church feels the need to rent out its space, they are the ones in the wrong, not the music school.

But the bottom line is that the community is the one going to suffer. We have so few useful amenities at affordable costs due to the fact that rents in the area are so high. We are basically turning into a bedroom community because anything affordable is being forced to move out of town. We need cars for our evening and weekend activities just so that we can drive out of town to do something out of our homes. You can't use a park to hold orchestra practice in the rain!


79 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:46 am

Wow! I really have to wonder at the people who are running our city government.

It's been proven that music education helps to greatly develop focus, firing all areas of the brain, making for better students and better contributing adults.

Why would they ever think that eliminating such a resource is in the city's best interests?

Perhaps they'd prefer these kids be out roaming the streets stealing bikes and cell phones. Give me a break!


22 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:56 am

I suggest anyone who may sympathize with New Mozart, and the church, walk (please don't drive-it's a zoo) past the church around 4 in the afternoon. Although, actually since it's summer, is not at its usual pace. Parents block driveways, move and tip over garbage cans, make careless u-turns on Bryant, park on hydrants, and, on corners blocking visibility. I've walked by the church almost daily in the late afternoon for years. There has clearly been much more activity in the last couple of years. I must say, while I was mildly sympathetic to the Church and the programs before this article, I'm not anymore. They have misrepresented their situation and the neighbors' perspective.


49 people like this
Posted by bj
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:58 am

This is too bad. My kid actually bikes or walks here for the music lesson. It's so convenient to have something like this in the neighborhood. In the winter when it dark and I've driven, I've noticed that it can get a little busy, but only on the area in front of the church. I'm sorry to see the veggie dinners are gone--they've been there forever. This location has been acting as a de-facto community center and in addition to providing the church with additional funds. I've seen a diversity of activities occurring there and it's sort of sad if its just a big building shell that's only used a few times a week--tango anyone?


Like this comment
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

Typo "Since it is summer, it is not at its usual pace"


100 people like this
Posted by shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

How very palo alto. Let's close a music school. A few neighbors are unhappy. Lets look at the complaints. Burgess says that parents park and wait. Are they illegally parked? Or Is the problem that they are sitting and reading? Lane says that for two hours there are cars parked on california avenue. Are they illegally parked? How many cars can park one the corner? Is the corner red striped. Sound like these people just don't like others using their " private " street. What a shame.


16 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:04 am

Sort of off-topic, I'm curious whether the county tax collector goes after these groups' possessory interest. I know those regularly renting space in a public school are charged, even if they are non-profit.


15 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:04 am

If residents are worried about "an accident waiting to happen", why not put up no-parking signs in areas where this could happen?


24 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

Don't blame the city. Sounds to me like the city wanted to look the other way, but the church's neighbors are complaining and forcing the city to follow the law.


53 people like this
Posted by Grouchy
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:18 am

Shame on the council! It's ok to approve hugely under-parked buildings and put more cars on the streets, but they want to shut down programs benefiting the community and kids because of too many cars on the street! Unbelievable.


55 people like this
Posted by Sarah Burgess
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:28 am

Since I was quoted in the article (without being contacted first) I feel the need to respond. It is unfortunate the Weekly chose to sensationalize this with the idea of a music school being closed, rather than reading the entirety of the packet presented to the commission, or attempting to contact one of the many neighbors in the location who have been impacted by this. Had they done so, they could have corrected the following:

1. This is not a sudden action. The music school was first notified it was in violation of the city use codes in February of 2016, over 16 months ago. They have never been permitted for this use, and it is in a R1 zone, a purely residential zone. The process was delayed at the request of the school for the unavailability of their attorney, for approximately one year. In February of this year, the school was advised that due to the lack of parking and other code violations, it was unlikely that they planning department would recommend a Conditional Use Permit be granted, and offered to refund the school the money they had paid to request this. Despite their claims that they have tried to resolve this, the school chose instead to fight it. They were have had over 4 months of knowing that this permit would most likely not be granted, yet came into the hearing last week to request another extension. I can only view this article as an attempt to go to the press to gain sympathy, without reference to the facts, as another attempt to delay.

2. This school alone operates from 2 in the afternoon until 9 at night, with up to 40 cars turning over every half hour and hour. It might be easy for someone who lives in another neighborhood to downplay the effect, but this is N. California, a primary bike route with kids coming to and from Jordan daily, as well as home from sports practices. One side of N. California is no parking, reserved for bikes. It is on the corner of Bryant, the bike boulevard. There are only 5 parking spaces at the church. On a daily basis, cars illegally park in the bike lane, blocking it, on the corners where the cars have to go through the bikes, at a 45 degree angle out from the curb, blocking people's driveways, knocking over their trash cans. I have seen too many near misses between cars trying to make an illegal u-turn on N. California, through two bike lanes, to count. I have almost been hit by a car jetting into a driveway to get out of the way of another car making an illegal u-turn. Again, this church has only 5 parking spots.

3. It is true it is impossible to determine which cars are for which illegal use. The numbers in the article are severely downplayed, however. As stated, it is up to 40 cars turning over every half an hour to hour (with 5 parking spaces in the church) for 7 hours a day, for Mozart alone. iSing may have classes of 20 children each, but they have over 400 children enrolled, and their offices in the church, so all those 400 children are rotating through the church each week. Who can tell how many patients are seeing the counselors each day, or going back and forth into the office uses? The pastor of the church, quoted above as saying "this is the reality of church life now", admitted to the neighbors after the hearing that he has seen the risk to children and parking difficulties these illegal uses have brought about, but he has never tried to do anything about it.

4. About 2 years ago, the church seemed to stop trying to enlarge its congregation, and instead began to focus on operating like a community center or office building within this residential neighborhood. We no longer see weddings, church fairs, or fliers inviting the neighbors to join in church functions. Many of the posters on PAOnline object to increased traffic and parking in the downtown areas from new building projects designed to bring revenue to the city from permited, legal projects (which have had the benefit of an EIR to determine how the traffic and parking would affect the area). Before you criticize anyone in our neighborhood who objects to the church illegally changing its use, please reflect upon how you would feel if your next door neighbor decided to turn their house into an office building/community center, with doctor's offices, public interest firm classes, dance classes, and music classes bringing about 40-60 cars an hour to park on your street, turning over every half an hour or so. Especially if that neighbor was calling themselves and church and enjoying tax exemptions for this.

We are all community members, and we all love community services. It is great to help those services along, but they need to be in the areas that have been designated for them, without bringing the traffic burdens.


16 people like this
Posted by Yes they are illegally parked
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:29 am

I drive and walk by there frequently. Yes the cars are illegally parked in the bike lane on the South side of N. California (which is a no parking lane). And double parked in the bike lane on the North side of the street. And making u-turns in front of the school. Or stopping in the street to let their kids out of the car. I have to say that a lot of the kids I see getting in and out of the vehicles have iSing shirts on though.


9 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:32 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:40 am

" Yes the cars are illegally parked in the bike lane on the South side of N. California (which is a no parking lane). And double parked in the bike lane... "

Welcome the kids, ban the parents.


42 people like this
Posted by jayches
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:48 am

jayches is a registered user.

More zoning silliness. So if this is about zoning (and it is not), I strongly take exception to the city finding that giving music lessons to children is a "personal service". I consider the conveyance of musical knowledge as falling within what one consider would occur in a "private education facility"

If the lessons were given to two students at a time, would that make the school a "private education facility"?

The guy who does my taxes is performing a "personal service". The guy who teaches my kids music is engaged in "private education".

The city has the use classification wrong.

I've attended a few of the macrobiotic organic dinners hosted at First Baptist, another amazing community organization thrown under the bus. Those events have drawn 20-30 people for the past 20+ years without complaint.

I think someone just moved into the neighborhood and wants to control what their neighbors have been doing for decades. Can we get a zoning law that prevents that?


31 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:49 am

If you see cars parked illegally in the bike lanes, call the police and have them towed. That problem can be fixed right now. I know that perps stopped parking in the bike lane across the street from Philz Coffee on Colorado Ave after neighbors continually called the police on them.


49 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

According to city zoning laws, Palantir should never have been allowed to operate downtown, but city code enforcement never seemed to be bothered by that.


54 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:56 am

What a tremendous shame. Could there not be a more imaginative and concerted effort to resolve this disparity of priorities? Strangling a center which has facilitated connections between individual citizens, created a haven for music, therapy, food, social & public service, at a minimum of disruption to others.... is breathtakingly shortsighted. Every neighborhood should have such a rich nexus of LIFE, interaction, diversity... What a huge loss to the citizens of our community. Commendations to Rick Mixon for his vision and to Chistine Shin for her resolve.


12 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:59 am

[Post removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:59 am

If the problem is parking then the solution is targeted traffic enforcement. You're welcome.


18 people like this
Posted by Yes they are illegally parked
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:01 pm

@john_alderman - It isn't just traffic, its truly a safety issue. The Church is on the corner of Bryant and N. California. Bryant is a designated bike route in Palo Alto. N. California is a bike route with bike lanes on both sides of the street. Cars park and block the bike lanes. They make U-turns into the bike lanes and endanger kids on bikes. They block people's driveways. They stop in the middle of the street to let their kids out of the car.


4 people like this
Posted by A lot of blather
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Gregory
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Religion is a tricky word. For us leftists it has nothing to do with doctrine and everything to do with cultivating community and spaces of care for the local community. Social Justice, teaching children art, cooking/eating vegan meals together, signing in a choir of young girls etc. etc. all benefit the community far more than any dogma, doctrine, or creed would ever do.

If "cars and parking" are your social justice campaign, cute, but please be reminded that there are actual problems in the world like black lives being erased and murdered, animal agriculture, Trumpzilla, ecological devastation, trans* and queer rights, or like the fight against ICE's raids on families in East Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by QuitDrivingKids
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Disclosure - my kids are grown, so this may make my comments 'insensitive or inappropriate', but here goes.
Why are parents driving their kids everywhere?
Have the kids walk, ride a bike, take a bus (OK, the last may be impossible).
But give the kids some responsibility and independence. Don't pamper them and don't over protect them. The exercise alone will be good for them. And in the meantime, parents, get yourself out of the car! It is a waste of gas, worsens the air quality, and increases congestion.


19 people like this
Posted by Commuting Traffic
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:08 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


32 people like this
Posted by Solution
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:24 pm

The music school should consider having the parents sign their children in-- and out-- of classes.

That would force the parents to park their cars a short distance away and walk the kids into the class!

The city should not be closing down a music school!


28 people like this
Posted by Too Many Bike Lanes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Expect more parking problems and garbage can spills as the city paints the town green and creates too many bike lanes while it shoves more commuters and spillover parkers into our neighborhoods.

What did the city expect when it keeps trying to shove 100 lbs into 5-lb bags.


28 people like this
Posted by Palatir's A Nice Company?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Ms. Shin is running a private, for-profit business out of the church. On its website, New Mozart boasts of currently having: “over twenty teachers and hundreds of students”. These students aren't all local kids. The website adds: “ We serve families from all over the Bay Area with the majority of our students coming from the nearby Peninsula cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Mountain View, Redwood City and Atherton. “  If you look at the website, I think you will be surprised at how large, and professional this business actually is.


32 people like this
Posted by Grouchy
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Don't be too surprised if the church property is put up for sale if there is difficulty paying bills without the leases. No doubt under-parked high density housing would take its place? Be careful what you wish for.


26 people like this
Posted by Rick Mixon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Just to be clear, First Baptist Church, contests the claim in the article that there were "repeated requests" from the city for an accounting of the use of our building. We have no reason to withhold that information from anyone. From our perspective, we complied with the request for an accounting in a timely fashion when the request was received.


36 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow Dad
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm

so let me get this straight...music school violates code and must leave while Castilleja violates code and gets a pass?


19 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 3:40 pm

@Fairmeadow Dad-Castilleja, a non-profit, violates its CUP and pays a several hundred thousand dollar fine. Music School, for profit, doesn't even have a CUP to violate, pays-what, wait-nothing? I'm not a supporter of Castilleja, but, come on.


31 people like this
Posted by Jon Didier
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I'm always surprised how quickly online forums become forums for slinging mud at people we don't know. If we look at the circumstances without emotion for a minute it comes down to a for-profit business operating out of a non-profit entity (First Baptist Church) without a permit for several years. The building and the neighborhood are zoned R-1. After this discovery the permit was rejected. Whether a law suits us or not, it is in place for a reason. We can't hope to skirt the law because we view a business as benevolent, or even worse, as a victim. If it were a knife-throwing academy would we be outraged that the city is trying to enforce its zoning laws? The term "justice is blind" comes to mind.


When my own child was interested in attending the New Mozart School the website for the school claimed to have a student body of more than 500 students. That's more than Castilleja school I believe. My family and I bike to school and work whenever possible and we pass the FBC on our route. It is chaos in the evenings and bike lanes become blocked, car doors open without looking, mid-block u-turns are made, etc. Both N. California Ave and Bryant Street are major corridors for cyclists and part of Palo Alto's safe route for kids. I'm sure the neighborhood's R-1 zoning had a part to play in choosing these streets.

If everyone made it to the end of the above article we would all know that the school has already found another facility and will continue operating. Music and the arts are vital to a community but not at the expense of others.


31 people like this
Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Seems like bureaucrats harassing a community treasure, but that's pretty typical of Pali Alto these last ten years.


23 people like this
Posted by Too Many Bike Lanes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Seems like bureaucrats harassing a neighborhood by banning all parking by putting bike lanes on both sides of the street where they also have to contend with about all the space needed for 3 waste cans/

But that's unfortunately increasingly typical of Palo Alto these last few years where the bureaucrats don't anticipate the consequences of their edicts and then never bother to reconsider them beyond claiming they're "monitoring" the situation.


22 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Since people keep bringing up the bikes and bike lanes. I walk through this neighborhood frequently. I do see the cars at times stopping in the middle of the road to let kids in and out. I do see cars sometimes park in the bike lines.

But I almost never see bikes stop at any of the four stop signs at that relatively busy intersection. Even with cars coming, they do that think where they swerve and then loop around the car as it passes.

So, if people would like to bring up safety at this intersection, it would seem like a good place to start.

Again, the answer is not to punish the church or the music school but for targeted traffic enforcement. A few random nights of warnings and tickets for bikers and drivers alike with semi-regular "refresher" visits should make everyone happy, no?


31 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:08 pm

How can a music school not be an educational institution? Who would call that a service? Is the traffic worse than when the church is used for mass? Churches exist for communities as gathering places and that leads to traffic. If you live close to one you have to accept that. It says the music school was there for more than 10 years - does that not give them some rights?Believing that churches can survive without using the facilities around the clock is naive. I bet someone wanting to pressure the church to use it for something they personally favor that can put pressure on the council is behind this....


14 people like this
Posted by Another PA Grandma
a resident of Ohlone School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:59 pm

I'm not a big fan of Palo Alto's bike lane program, especially the disaster on Middlefield in front of Jordan, but the bike lanes down N. California and Bryant have been there for a long time. Bryant is part of the Bike Boulevard that goes through Palo Alto, at least into Menlo Park to the North, and down to Mountain View in the South. And N. California is a bike lane that goes through the underpass to the train station on California Ave, and on into Stanford Industrial Park. If you all already knew this, apologies. These bike paths are heavily used, and provide safe alternatives to driving a car. 500 students are a lot - it sounds to me as if the size of the school has expanded beyond reason, and the parents are not being particularly careful or respectful of the neighborhood. A good thing they have found a new space.


37 people like this
Posted by FactCheck
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2017 at 5:47 am


I felt the urge to provide some additional facts, given that my son went to the New Mozart School of Music for many years, before graduating last year to attend college.

I never liked the school or its owner in the sense that I would not visit the school just to say hi, or become a friend to the owner. However I found it quite misleading in the article or the neighbors' comments that these are not accounted for:

- there is a daycare center at the far corner on the church property. if I remember correctly, it is part of the PACCC. How many kids are there, and how many parents would be there to pick up in the afternoon? Does anyone know how much traffic this daycare contributed to the congestion?

The little kids run around all over the places. I got really nervous one day finding a toddler from the daycare dragging her doll hiding behind my car in the parking lot!

- Same goes with iSing. They started at the church in the past several years, and probably have many more students than the NMSM. I have seen girls rushing out of the church all together, and within seconds, their parents' cars quickly filled the Bryant - South Court section of N. California, before they all disappeared.

Same goes with other classes and the veggie dinner.

- All these beg the question of exactly how much traffic the music school actually contributes to the bad traffic situation at any given time and why they are the ones punished.

The school offers private lessons most of the time with about 5-6 individual classrooms. Whenever we were there, the hallway was really empty. And yes, my son did complain that the teachers closed their windows during lessons, including in the summer.

I think the NMSM has a group lesson for toddlers or preschool kids, which did operate over the weekends, so the parents could bring the toddlers over. Maybe this is the last straw?

There was also construction going on at the northeastern corner of N. California and South Court, which we had to tolerate as the project went on. There was a megahouse being built for several years. Online record shows that it is sold for over $10M recently? There are also some very influential people living very close by, including the Pages and Jobs.

The neighbors who complained about the music school never bothered to check the facts. The office opens at 2pm, when most of the PA schools are still in session---2pm is when the staff is there to pick up phone calls from parents, not when students arrive. Same goes with the 9pm ending time---most students would have been long gone by 8.

The NMSM used to have several locations in the Bay Area. Maybe this is why they claimed to have 500 students on their web site. There is still another location in downtown PA. I seriously doubt whether they still have THAT many students. Apparently, the neighbors looked at the NMSM website, and decided that it should be the first one to let go.

The music school was never an issue until now...At least when we were there, there was never a sign or a reminder about following parking rules, or paying attention to bikers, or not blocking the bike lane...

When people buy a house, they probably should think more about the existence of a church nearby. It is seldom the other way around: buying a house near the church, then get rid of it to clear the street.

This is the part I found disappointing about this town. Everyone feels entitled, with some egos and self-righteousness larger than naturally granted. Even if they get their way in life simply because they can, would they be worried about anything at all, say, karma??




35 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 5:57 am

Good grief. It's a church which probably has been there longer than most of these complaining neighbors. It's a community resource. Instead of kicking out this music school and all the other tenants, just enforce the parking regulations. These parents would figure it out and wait somewhere else. It's not the music school that is the problem, it's the cars. Move the cars, not the music students.


27 people like this
Posted by oh really
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 7:21 am

Palo Alto has code-enforcement officials ??

Never would have been able to guess, by the number of times they've ignored reports of contractors storing material in the street.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

Use Palo Alto 311 to report a Code Enforcement issue:

Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by oh really
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:14 am

To Paly Grad:

I should have been more clear - by "ignored reports", I mean reports that were filed using the city's reporting system and acknowledged with receipts from the city, followed by no action whatsoever.

Many people have reported exactly the same experience over the years.


12 people like this
Posted by FactsforThoughts
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

Facts:
PACCC - 12 kids (4 infants and 8 toddlers), pick up time: 5:30pm Mon thru Fri
New Mozart - individual music lessons + a classroom for at most 10 kids (not 500 students all at the same time!), Classes are held in late afternoons on weekdays as well as Saturday mornings




10 people like this
Posted by Yes they are illegally parked
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:29 am

Ising causes just as much traffic as New Mozart

New Mozart School Spring Schedule
3-5 daily classes, Wednesday thru Saturday

Ising schedule 3 to 5 daily classes, Monday thru Thursday
20 girls per class
Web Link

As an FYI - The City paved and redid the bike lanes on N. California last summer. The bike lanes are now so wide that there is barely enough room for two cars to safely pass each other going opposites directions. There is no longer a center stripe dividing the lanes because it is so narrow. Just a few minutes ago, I had to pull into the bike lane to avoid the garbage truck.


26 people like this
Posted by Corrupt Priorities
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm

[Portion removed.]

We need spaces where such community assets can operate. We should have a fund where all the money from some of the new developments goes, to pay to buy up land to make it possible for us to be a real city in the future. Just as it does to have parkland and schools, the City needs to buy up the commercial zones and buy up other space to make new ones, so that we here can have services, retail, education, etc. Coming down on this church to get rid of a longrunning macrobiotic dinner, music school, etc, instead of talking with users to reduce impacts, seriously? [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:34 pm

@Corrupt Priorities and others who are supporting New Mozart-do you support Castilleja, too? And, if not, why not?


1 person likes this
Posted by Longtime PA family
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


32 people like this
Posted by Public Facility
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:38 pm

It sounds like we need more facilities for community oriented services. Perhaps a certain VTA parking lot zoned Public Facility on the corner of El Camino and Page Mill would be the perfect spot. Instead of making it RM-135 so the developer can build 60 micro units with 4 parking spots, keep it public facility and make it a building where music teachers, dance groups, psychologists and the like can rent out space BMR. And since Council determined that the building's magical location means no one who uses it will ever need a car, traffic and parking will obviously not be an issue.


18 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:27 pm

First I have to say this Palo Alto Online piece seems deliberately inflammatory since the headline Music School Faces Possible Shutdown isn't really true since the owner reveals in the article that she has already found a new location. As the parent of a former student i received an email from the New Mozart school stating that no classes will be disrupted and they have plenty of time (4-5 months) to get the new space ready. It seems this article was written to create a stir.

As a household that has lived near the school and church, I can honestly and truthfully say that things have changed over the last few years. It is louder and busier than most mixed-use neighborhoods from around 4:00 until 9:00. Windows are sometimes left open during lessons and it's louder and tougher to take than one would imagine. When we come home from work we can rarely park in front of our own house. Usually were talking half a block away, which is fun with groceries, or with kids and gear from after school activities.

We were all surprised to find the school had been operating without a permit. I understand church activities not requiring one but this really is a large business. I have owned two separate small businesses in the past and both needed C.U.P.s . It meant a lengthy application process and meetings with neighbors and city officials. No way around it. It's the law. Unless it changes, all have to adhere to it, right?

I agree that music and the arts are important, and I'm happy that the school has already found another location. It would also be great if the church became more of a church again and less of an unmanaged community center. There must be options that can fit into the non- profit R-1 category.


26 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2017 at 5:43 pm

@Corrupt priorities, yes, Eric Rosenblum will always find justification for why massive urbanization and commercial development are good, and trying to shelter Palo Alto from hyper development and urban blight is bad and immoral. [Portion removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Gawker & Palantir
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2017 at 7:20 pm

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Gawker & Palantir
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2017 at 7:33 pm

[Post removed.]


32 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Claiming that Palantir has nothing to do with Palo Alto politics is like claiming that getting hit in the head thousands of times while playing American football has nothing to do with brain disease in football players. It's a fat and immoral lie. Palantir is behind the unprecedented push for the hyper development of Palo Alto and its transformation into a sad version of Manhatten. PAF is for all intent and purposes is a subsidiary of Palantir. How long before that Babtist church hosting the music school, located in a prime old PA neighborhood, would be forced to sell their property and what would it be replaced with? Palantir and its offspring, namely PAF, actually represents everything that has gone terribly wrong with Palo Alto.


12 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2017 at 10:04 am

If they are going to force the music school to close, why isn't the city forcing Castilleja to close? If the city is going to enforce the rules, then they should not play favorites.

/marc


5 people like this
Posted by AnotherFact
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 24, 2017 at 10:19 am

Parents are actually required to stay with their kids in the group music lessons, so the majority of the parents don't get to stay in the car and read.


9 people like this
Posted by Arthi B.
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Parking the car a little away from the music school and walking the child to the music studio or having a permit parking regulated fr this purpose so parents could purchase permits to use the parking space in and around the church or making it a music school policy to require parents to sign in - out their kid or kids would all be great solutions to this issue. As a Mom , whose Son gets piano lessons in this music studio, I sure hope that the studio does not have to move or if it has to , I sure hope the new location is close enough fr me to get to for his music lessons.

Thanks!


1 person likes this
Posted by Ralph nasker
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Not sure why this thread is being used to bash palantir. Poor editing by the weekly staff.


29 people like this
Posted by FYI
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Ralph,
Sorry you are not aware of Palantir's influence on the over-development and underparking all over town. And their office domination downtown.
For starters, their employees are on at least 5 city boards. The mention of Eric Rosenblum is relevant because he is on the Planning Commission and influences development (and parking) projects in ways that Palantir wants.

Palantir is on the Chamber of Commerce.

Now that Palo Alto Forward joined the Chamber their Palantir leaders have another point of influence on our city. With the help of former Councilmember Judy Kleinberg, CEO of the Chamber, (don't get hit by the revolving door) it bodes ill for residents who are not in the development business. (Which many PAForward leaders are.)


15 people like this
Posted by Corrupt Priorities
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2017 at 8:30 am

@Marc,
That's just offensive. I don't like the way Castilleja has handled their expansion proposal, but they have a conditional use permit and are operating legally.

In this case, the rules are being used in a hypocritical manner, since our former mayor is even in the national news pointing out that Palantir has been violating the rules, with significant negative inoacts to our entire town, yet it has never faced anything like this. This was a heavyhanded use of the rules to thwart the intent of the rules, while big offenders like Palantir break the rules with impunity.


23 people like this
Posted by Why, why, why...
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2017 at 10:33 am

So why isn't the city forcing Palantir to move, or close down!

Obviously, both Palantir and Castilleja have far too much influence with the City Council, the Pla Ning Commission, the ARB, etc!

Just perverse and warped!


5 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

Why have editors allowed of topic comments about palantir? Oh. Wait.


17 people like this
Posted by Gawker & Palantir
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2017 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Hawker- well this topic is about the music school. There are plenty of threads involving palantir. But I understand the agenda of the Weekly. I previously made a posting about the people that constantly bring palantir in to unrelated conversations and that was deleted. Not hard to do the math.
Also seems that many of the palantir posters are against people taking part in the Democratic process


8 people like this
Posted by Gawker & Palantir
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Bikes Don't Stop
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2017 at 5:07 pm

@Hugo - You are so right about the bike riders not stopping at stop signs. I stopped yesterday at a 4-way stop in downtown. I started to turn left when it was my turn to go, and a bike rider flew through the intersection without stopping. I raised my hand at her, like what the heck?, and she gave me a dirty look and flipped me off. Until the me-first attitudes of bike riders change and enforcement increases, there will always be issues with safety at intersections. Add a lot of cars congregating at a single time, and it's an accident waiting to happen.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Music Teacher and Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2017 at 4:19 am

I'm a full time music teacher at New Mozart, and a 50+ year Palo Alto resident, and know exactly what's happening at this "corner". The music school is just some private one on one lessons in 6-8 (at max times) small rooms where we keep the windows closed M-F typically 3:30-8pm + Sat ams. There are only 1 hour group (10 little kids) lessons 3 times a week. Many students walk to the school. The church only has 5 parking stalls, so any other parking has to be on the streets. We are a private very low profit (but not non profit) music school, but not a "personal service". There are various other groups and individuals that rent out the large church buildings who also create traffic/parking including the day care center and most notably the iSing choral group. iSing holds multiple large group classes (often outside) every day; their student numbers (and parent drivers) far exceeding New Mozart's at a time. Come check out the "noise" now over the summer: we're still operating at almost full capacity, but iSing is closed; it's noticeably quieter now. Parking and driving habits are the responsibility of the individuals and enforcement with the city. Neighbors do not own the public curb in front of their homes for their garbage cans or cars even, and acoustic classical individual instrumental music played indoors well before 9 pm isn't noise.


4 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2017 at 7:57 am

@Neighbor and Music Teacher,

This seems to be the question we are asking all too often now, whom do we believe? You (only a few students, they mostly walk) or the website "hundreds of children from all over the bay area".

And, I must say, the school has apparently rented a new location and is planning to move. Why continue to vilify the neighbors? As I understand it, the school would like to continue to operate at the old location while the new location is being finished. You seem to be saying that the school should take no responsibility for being a good neighbor during this transition, but, rather, the neighbors should call the police to report parking violations and vandalism (garbage can dumping).


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2017 at 8:25 am

Once again, I see nothing wrong with the practice of the school, but my concerns would be with the church who appear to be renting out their facilities in a way that is not what would be expected in their role as church.

Now if the church was teaching their own members to play music for their own purposes or if the church had a children's choir and it was called blank church childrens choir or blank church orchestra, they would be doing what would be expected of a church. When they rent out space (and I fully understand the need of a church to raise funds to pay their own bills) then that to me is the church is going against what is expected of a church. Why blame the music school when I believe it is the church that is in the wrong.

Perhaps someone with more legal knowledge would like to explain why it is not the church that is getting blamed and cited?


17 people like this
Posted by Corrupt Priorities
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2017 at 11:51 am

@Resident,
Churches have always been places with ecumenical and community activities, activities that support everyone, they have always been thus as long as I can remember. Some churches even become sanctuaries and homeless shelters as needed. It's completely consistent with their mission. Many churches now are the only place community groups can turn to for reasonably priced space. Also completely consistent with their mission. It's the height of hypocrisy for the City to become so persecutorial in this instance, perhaps next it will be girl scouts and their sale of cookies. Anything to make clear that it's open season on resident quality of life [portion removed.] There is nothing about this that couldn't have been solved through ordinary discussion.


22 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Why is the music school being singled out? They have one group class with 10 or less kids and the rest private lessons. The Choir has just as many. I've been there in the stated busiest times often and traffic has never been a problem. I understand that parking is being used. If parents are parking illegally then ticket them - don't shut down a music school. It seems like residents just don't like people parking on 'their' streets. As for noise - really? Any noise is rarely coming from the music classes. Windows are nearly always kept closed. Seems like a few residents have to find something to complain about and rather than working with the church on ways to limit noise and work as a community they go the other route. So the likely outcome - no music school - then the other businesses such as the choir shut down - then the church has to close down and you won't have a church either. Great community! At least a few residents will be happy then until the next thing goes in there and they find something else to complain about.


17 people like this
Posted by CJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

My son took piano lessons there, and it was such a gift to have this in Palo Alto. The lessons were reasonably priced and the instructor was excellent. I understand that California Avenue is a bike route from Jordan (I also had kids there) and wonder why we couldn't just ask parents to use the cross streets and not Cal Ave if they need to pick up their kids. Solutions don't have to be so extreme -- it is terrible or it is just fine. Tweeks could help -- let's not through the whole thing oug.


6 people like this
Posted by Music Teacher and Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2017 at 3:23 am

@HMMM~ I didn't say "only a few students who mostly walk". Are you complaining of the website (listing 500 students), or the actual situation on Cal Ave? This total student population (maybe listed too high?) is shared at 2 locations (the other downtown on University Ave.) over 6 days/week, again almost all private one on one lessons. If there are any illegal driving/parking/vandalism problems at your home, please do of course call 511; obviously a private organization can't/shouldn't take on those duties. Our school is indeed being forced to move to a more friendly neighborhood (at a great expense to we pro musicians who already make so little); hope your neighborhood church will be ok.


34 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 27, 2017 at 10:09 am

Let's be realistic, religion is changing in the USA. Even among Protestants, a lot of new smaller churches are appearing and taking members from the big old churches like this. Many of the big old churches are shutting down because they cannot afford to maintain the building. Most others helping to raise funds by renting out rooms to community groups and small businesses during off-hours. This is happening all over the USA, not just Palo Alto. If NIMBYs cut off this source of revenue for the church, they may be forced to sell the building and downsize. Then what will you have at that location? I assume the land is zoned for residential use, so maybe a condo complex?

If illegal driving or illegal parking is the problem, then call the police and ask for better enforcement. They police has a responsibility to respond.

Hopefully the city can find a compromise and look for ways to add more off-street parking on the church property.


3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2017 at 10:38 am

Why are you setting the threshold at "Illegal driving?"

If the response to "drive safe and park somewhere else," was "I'm really sorry and I'll move," rather than "I have a right to park here," the school wouldn't be moving. By analogy I probably have the right to march up and down your block all afternoon practicing the tuba, but it would still be rude.

According to city data the church is on one of the heaviest parked blocks in Old Palo Alto. A little courtesy might have helped.


8 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2017 at 11:33 am

As a cyclist I'm glad to see the city enforcing code and requiring this business that has been operating illegally to move. I commute home on Bryant and N. California and often have to dodge cards parked illegally in the bike lane on the south side of N. California.

Also, I assume the church is operating as a non profit and doesn't have to pay taxes. If the church is renting out space to multiple for profit entities because it can't support itself otherwise, isn't it really in the real estate leasing business and shouldn't it have to pay taxes?

I heartily agree with those who object to parents driving their kids everywhere. Let them walk or ride a bike!


8 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm

The City allowed the church to build all those classrooms and offices so one would think the church would have a grandfathered right to run a full time, year-round activities at the location including full use of the school gym/theater where we neighbohors vote most years.

The church has lost so many members it sold off the house in its back corner to a daycare operator about ten years ago to make ends meet. Force it to stop earning income from classroom rentals and that church will close. For those who want the church on its financial knees to have less cars in our neighbohood: watch out. The church could sell all its buildings to another religious group like Ananda which bought the old Catholic church on El Camino near California Avenue and such a more successful church would create more traffic as the Baptist church had when it was brand new and expanding.

Alternatively, the chuch fails and sells to a property developer who will build maybe 6 houses or someone buys the whole parcel and builds a big house with a big yard, maybe with some land reserved for a smaller church like the Luce church at the Norris House and a daycare building, too.

Given the new and more flexible Supreme Court views yesterday on religious property use, I'd not be surprised if the City re-thinks what control it really has over use of that church's property.



3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

@Anne, I asked the tax question much earlier in the thread. Normally it's the renter who pays county property tax on the "possessory interest". I've since discovered that's only applicable for renters of property owned by a tax-exempt PUBLIC agency. I assume the private tenants of Cubberley pay it, for example, or of Moffett Field perhaps. I haven't found any tax implications for private use of church real estate. This church parcel does pay some tax and district assessments, which can be looked up at the county tax assessor website along with everyone else's detailed tax bills. Many are not aware how much public info about ourselves is at everyone's fingertips.


7 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2017 at 4:21 pm

@ musical--

If a church rents part of its property to a commercial enterprise, such as a for-profit music school, the county will impose a property tax based on some formula of the percentage of space used and the percentage of time it is used commercially.


7 people like this
Posted by Sounds like iSing is the problem
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm

From the above post, it sounds like the students involved in iSing are the problem, not the music school.


1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2017 at 10:55 pm

So the music school is given 4+ months notice, but psychotherapists who work with children and teens are only given 2.5 months notice, and can't find an office. Is continuity of mental health treatment/medical care less important than music lessons? Or do we just not care about children anymore? Ask any parent about the wait lists and difficulties in finding clinicians to treat kids/teens. I'm disgusted with Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by fun
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:38 pm

This is not a school. They have no accreditation, only random teachers who participate as vendors with low overhead. I would worry that some may think it was a school and all teachers had fingerprinting and clearances.


6 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2017 at 1:32 am

And a ballet, karate, etc school are any different? Private tutors/teachers coming to your home, or you going to their homes; do you fingerprint them?

And btw, a private practitioner (psychiatrist, etc) only needs to find one room to rent (that can happen with their high fees); the music school needs a group of rooms together at a lower cost, so much more difficult to find around here.

I smell some entitled, elitist neighbors wanting to "clean out" their neighborhood, including their own church which is ultimately the one to suffer (and close) the most, but I suppose this is intended. No beneficial and pleasant community activities in their backyard. Gotta love that Palo Alto attitude.


1 person likes this
Posted by worry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm

@neighbor,

Read the School of Rock article.... The answer to your question is yes, you and the community needs to make sure people in churches have proper clearance before trusting them with children and giving them money. If you come across a ballet, dance, music soccer coach that will not let you tape your kid or pop into a private lesson, that should be red flag for every socio economic group of parents if you are into labeling. This is not a "school" and should not be getting any breaks any other business does not have.


8 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 26, 2017 at 12:19 am

Rainer is a registered user.

The artificially created Profound Problems of the First Baptist Church on North California Ave as a Community Center in Mighty Palo Alto will not easily go away is my prediction. Money and forces are being collected.

The Church as Community Center is a cherished American Tradition, still alive and well in New England. High handed, rich, McMansion loving Palo Alto: not so much. Even so, there must be a better way to keep Palo Alto a human enterprise, a Community, as through the presently practiced punitive Palo Alto Code Enforcement?

The spectacle the city's “Lead Code Enforcement Officer” James Stephens is producing let’s you doubt this. Obviously Stephens does not have much common sense, nor is he able to be proactively creative. Common sense you must have to enforce code with a human face in a real community. I think he should be reprimanded, send to Common Sense School, fired for violating community sentiments. Just bring this affair in front of the City Council and see what Code Enforcement and the Public has to say!

Common sense was what the PA Police Officer had many years ago when my family complained at 6AM one day about somebody taken bottles out of our recycling. He found the ”perpetrators”, came back, and said you want to drop the complaint: It is a Hispanic young couple, one 2 year old in the back seat, the wife pregnant, most probable undocumented.

This is type of considered police action we like. And we felt bad, because we had not thought through the phone call.

The present uncreative, brutal, Trump Administration-like punitive approach to the First Baptist Church is just one more blemish on the Palo Alto of the rich. Thinking about unintended consequences is not very valued in Palo Alto. As an example: spending $7Million on redoing 3 blocks of California Avenue, but not thinking what happen to the business scape. Producing a windfall for the property owners, but not putting rent stabilizing ordinances in effect to protect the small business owner, even so citizens brought up the foreseeable problem

For the Baptist Church’s Community Center the City (its Planning Commission, its Planning Department) could have proposed to have a parking lot built on the space available as a quid-pro-quo, encouraging private fund raising. For example.

If zoning does not allow counseling for suicidal teenagers and music lessons by a low-profit in what effectively is a Community Center, the zoning has to be changed. There is no real for-profit entity among the tenants, there are a few low-profit activities, probably because they have so little money that they have not been able to hire a lawyer, and become a 501( c)4,5,6 corporation and pay its teachers whatever. Just like the Tea Party did on the taxpayers dime.

If as a neighborhood -NIMBY opponent you should think “aha” rezoning: here is the easily attackable “spot zoning”, don’t get your hopes too high. The courts are way ahead of your self-centered thinking.
For example, in a recent Church related case, Foothill Communities Coalition v County of Orange (2014) 222 CA4th 1302, the court determined that the changing of the zoning of one parcel was indeed spot zoning, but without leaping to the conclusion that it was therefore automatically bad. Once the spot zoning label was not allowed by itself to decide the case, it was easy for the court to go on to decide that the zoning changes were not “arbitrary or capricious”, even though only one spot was involved.

Why is this important? In California rezoning is “quasi-legislative” (as we all have learned from Buena Vista), which gives it the benefit of subjecting it to review by ordinary mandamus, with its loose “arbitrary and capricious” standard, rather than by administrative mandate and the more stringent “substantial evidence” test. So the Foothill Communities Coalition lost big in the rezoning case. Bigly! And so will potential First Baptist Church rezoning opponents if the City Council comes to it senses and rezones the Church Property appropriately.

In a well-functioning community (Palo Alto?) the City Council should have both complainants (how many and about what?), and Church tenants together before a Mediator, before the Planning Commission, and then in Chambers, to give the public a chance to weigh in.

Churches as community meeting houses are one of the best and most beloved American Colonial Tradition, going back 300 years. For a long time Churches were actually built from tax money and doubled as town meeting houses. When separation of State and Church was taken more serious (about 1820), communities made an end run about the problem by using the upper floor for church business, and the lower floor for community business. Google for example, “Robinhood Meeting House”, whose present day product you can buy at COSTCO.

One wishes Palo Alto Enforcement Officer Stephens would have gotten guidance from his Department, to be a little more creative and sensitive, if he does not have those facilities by himself! Is he new in town? A punitive rigid paragraph enforcer who likes to levy unreasonable fines on non-profits is what we do not need!

The public has an interest for this to be in the open: effectively Community Centers are what many Churches have become, because Cities don’t build and maintain CCs. To build a Community Center to support all the wonderful, no-profit or low-profit community activities the First Baptist Church allows to happen, Palo Alto would have to spend several $-Millions upfront, and to manage it, judging by the prevailing City Salaries, probably another Million per year.

So City Council: hop to it!



3 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2017 at 1:20 am

@worry:

The music school does allow, and actually encourages, parents to attend and video music lessons. Gosh; please get your facts straight as you are very guilty of malicious slander. This is simply a low profit music SCHOOL (yes a group of private teachers and students offering lessons and recitals open to the public) renting space from the neighborhood church; give it a break!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 5,130 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 705 views

 

Race is tonight!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More