News


Planning commissioners kick back Castilleja draft environmental impact report for additions

Underground parking garage and traffic impacts linger as main sticking points

Finding gaps in the draft environmental-impact report for Castilleja School's proposed expansion, Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission is seeking more specific details that might help answer many residents' questions.

The commission's Wednesday night meeting, which drew hundreds of people to City Hall, was the first public hearing about the proposed Castilleja School redevelopment project in light of the environmental analysis.

The school — located at 1310 Bryant St. in the Old Palo Alto neighborhood and bounded by Embarcadero Road, Kellogg Avenue, Emerson Street and Bryant — is proposing to demolish seven buildings, including two residences and 84,572 square feet of campus buildings, and construct one larger, three-story academic structure with 84,238 square feet above ground and 46,768 square feet below. The development would also include a 50,000-square-foot parking garage, new underground swimming pool with a sound wall, and underground delivery and trash and waste-pick-up enclosures.

The school is also seeking to expand its enrollment from 415 students to 540 students, with 27 new students added each year.

The draft environmental-impact report (DEIR), written by consulting firm Dudek, found the campus project would cause "significant and unavoidable" traffic problems, even with a new transportation-demand-management program aimed at encouraging students and staff to use alternative forms of transportation. The study also found that a section of Emerson between Melville Avenue and Embarcadero would be heavily used by cars exiting the new underground garage, which would require right-hand turns onto Emerson and Embarcadero.

Dudek considered alternatives that would spread the traffic over adjacent streets, but those did not reduce the problem; they only shifted traffic to other streets, the consultant found. The report recommended keeping the proposed project but stated that Castilleja must adopt all of its transportation-demand-management program proposals. It might also need to do more, including possibly staggering bell times and holding events to encourage biking, carpooling, walking and transit use, the consultant said.

Commissioner Doria Summa criticized Dudek's analysis of the traffic problems that the expansion could potentially create.

"The traffic issues need to be explained better. It's not clear that it was studied well enough. It would be especially helpful to understand how the right turn out of the garage would be enforced," Commissioner Doria Summa said.

She also wanted to see the consultant study an alternative plan without a parking garage.

"I was under the impression that a no-garage alternative was going to be considered. That would answer some of the public's questions," she said.

Commission Chairman William Riggs said he wanted more information regarding the exposure bicyclists would have from cars entering and exiting the garage.

During Wednesday's public-comment time, residents likewise said that the report has multiple deficiencies. Former planning commissioner Arthur Keller said on behalf of the Palo Alto Neighborhoods group that the document is insufficient because it doesn't factor in the impact of the Stanford University's proposed expansion, which would also add to the city's traffic woes.

Jeff Levinsky, chair of Palo Alto Neighborhoods' committee that oversees zoning compliance, said the group is also concerned about other development that will now be allowed following the city's recent removal of the limit on downtown commercial development. That growth, he said, would generate more Embarcadero traffic.

The report looked at projected 2030 conditions using a Santa Clara County model, but it needs to look 10 years out and factor in local trends and patterns, he said.

Levinsky also said the report is not consistent with a zoning rule that requires garages in single-family residential areas to be counted as floor area.

"The proposed underground garage is not being counted that way. The project description in the (draft) EIR should be corrected, and that part will need a variance to allow the excess 50,500 square feet of floor area in the garage.

On another zoning issue, he said: "We've heard that one or both of the two residential sites proposed to be merged into the larger Castilleja parcel are presently being used for school functions rather than as homes. If true, they need a conditional-use permit for that school use in the R-1 single-family home zone. I checked and didn't find any such permits, so there's a potential violation to the law there."

Rob Levitsky, whose home is adjacent to Castilleja, expressed concern that the analysis does not list the impact of the redevelopment on trees and offers no alternatives to their removal. The report's land-use chapter does, however, include the proposed mitigations for tree removals.

Commissioner Carolyn Templeton as well as Summa said they want to know more about the impact of removing mature oaks and redwoods, which are protected in the city. Templeton asked if the trees would be removed because of the underground garage and also said she'd like information on other properties in the community that have underground garages.

In addition to increased traffic, the project would also create a "significant and unavoidable" land-use impact, the report states. Being located in a residential neighborhood, it would "create land use incompatibility or physically divide an established community." The project would increase noise in the neighborhood during special events, increase traffic and add noise levels that could exceed the city's municipal code. The noise could be reduced to a less-than-significant impact by mindful placing of loudspeakers, for example, consultant Katherine Waugh of Dudek noted Wednesday night.

If the City Council wants to approve the project, it would need to adopt a "statement of overriding considerations," which would find the benefits of the school's modernization are so great they would compensate for the significant impacts.

Commissioner Ed Lauing said the public needs to see the benefits of the expansion, such as how many of the new students would be from Palo Alto. He also suggested the study should add more alternatives other than the current three so that there wouldn't be an "all or nothing" choice.

Mindie Romanowsky, a land-use attorney representing Castilleja, said the school will address the two significant traffic impacts cited in the draft study and will take them "very seriously." Regarding the third significant impact, which said the project physically divides the neighborhood, Romanowsky said it is a conclusion in the draft report that is not supported with sufficient data.

She plans to submit a detailed comment to the city in the next few weeks, she added.

Despite criticism of the report, many neighbors and Castilleja students said the school has made great strides to reduce its traffic impacts and that the enlarged campus would have a negligible impact because the transportation-demand-management plan would be even more robust than it is now. That plan is working, they said.

Stephanie Norton, who supports the expansion, said she has checked out the traffic during bell times.

"There was not one backup," she said. More students were walking to school than cars were driving to the campus, she found.

But resident Monica Yeung-Arima submitted photos to the commissioners of accidents she has seen at various intersections near Castilleja in the past month. At Lincoln Avenue and Bryant, the number of accidents has increased, she said: On average, "there is one accident or more each week."

Former students said that Castilleja's efforts to reduce traffic have been successful. Anjali Jotwani, a 2008 graduate, said when she attended Castilleja only 2% of students took public transportation to school. Now 20% take buses or other public transportation.

David Fields, a principal at the firm Nelson\Nygaard, which consulted the school on its original transportation-demand-management program, said he believes Castilleja will continue to keep its traffic impacts at a less-than-significant level.

Castilleja should be able to implement a similar plan for the larger school population that would have at least a commensurate impact, he said.

Considering the many questions that still need to be answered, Summa said another public meeting should be held.

"My preference is to do some more work on this DEIR and get it out with more answers to the questions," she said.

Related content:

Castilleja's ambitious development plan would create significant traffic woes

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Comments

52 people like this
Posted by Better Solution Needed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:24 am

We've got gridlock all over town already. Making traffic worse is not acceptable.

Instead of spending millions to build a 50,000 sq. ft. giant garage (in a residential neighborhood, no less), why not invest in smart bus service to transport students? That would be better for the environment, better for residents and other workers in Palo Alto, and likely save the school money.

Come on, Castilleja, you have lots of motivated parents and bright students. Come up with a better solution.


7 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:35 am

JCP is a registered user.

[Post removed at poster's request.]


26 people like this
Posted by Done
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

@BetterSolutionNeeded - Castilleja already did invest in a bus service for out of town students. They also have quiet-running electrically powered vans that shuttle students to and from the CalTrain station. These efforts have significantly reduced traffic around the school.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:07 am

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Michelle
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:28 am

Good morning! I was one of the Many Castilleja supporters who spoke last night and I had an entirely different impression of the report and the meeting. The report showed mostly minimal impacts in most areas (maybe 6-7 - I don't have report in from of me). There was a traffic impact at Kinglsey and Alma that may need a traffic light (this will be studied). The unmitigated impact was not a huge factor and seemed surmountable. The people speaking against the plan seemed to be re-opening areas that had already been extensively studied by experts and deemed not to have impact (the garage, geological issues etc.).

I thought the meeting was very positive in its finding for the Castilleja plan and many people discussed why the expansion and remodel are beneficial and important. I am hoping Palo Alto can move forward in a positive manner from here.


46 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:42 am

cmarg is a registered user.

Has there been any consideration of moving Castilleja to another location like was done with PAMF? It seems no one is disputing that education to ALL students is very important. Why have a private school in a neighborhood that is located on a busy street (Embarcadero) and on the main bike boulevard (Bryant). Adding more traffic will cause significant challenges on Embarcadero and impact the safety of bike riders on Bryant.

If moving is not an option, Castilleja needs to consider shuttle buses and e-bikes. A garage has serious impacts on the environment - water table, removing trees which we need even more with increase pollution due to car trips, and cars idling as they wait to enter and exit the garage.

I found it interesting to watch the reaction of some neighbors as they realized that the plans for the pool will include a speaker for events. If I got it correctly, the pool is planned for Emerson Street. So, in addition to noise from events, there will be speakers for swim meets.

Good neighbors do good things. It is thinking outside the box and realizing that if expansion only benefits one, then it is time to look for alternatives, like a new larger location that is closer to highways for the quantity of non-Palo Alto students.


49 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Increasing the student enrollment by 30% will add that much more congestion. How many extra teachers will be needed for those 125 extra students? We have no guarantee that Castilleja won't exceed its allowed student enrollment anyway, based on its previous history of violations. The school concealed its violations before & it can happen again.
Palo Alto HS students & staff also use Embarcadero to get to that campus. Nothing that adds to the already too-heavy traffic should be considered. have you even though about the neighborhood disruption that the construction project proposed will cause? Demolition, debris removal, construction supply delivery, work crews, etc? Frightening.

Older students will continue to drive to school (unless Casti bans any student parking.) The negative effects of increased traffic began years ago when Casti became a day school & no longer had boarders in dorms.

It's time for Castilleja to move to another location rather than impose more hardships & significant inconveniences on the surrounding residential neighborhoods. With its in-place shuttle system, why not go to the other end of Embarcadero, near the airport? It certainly is no enhancement to the immediate residential neighborhood where it's currently located.



46 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 15, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard is the absolute worst place that a parking garage entrance could be placed. Even proposing such a thing shows disregard for the biking community and many city residents who have worked hard to create a world-class bike route through Palo Alto.

Castilleja needs to go back to the drawing board.


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Great solutions for modern times:

Let’s find environmentally friendly solutions. Sure you can create an LEED building but those will be offset with the pollutants spewing into the lungs of students as they breathe in the fumes of exhaust from the “drop off” zone in the garage and walk up under the sewer lines into the campus and the emissions into the neighborhood of cars queuing up into and out of the garage.

Harker and other schools have created rideshare lots to bus students to and from school which can cut driving in many fold. Why aren’t satellite parking lots presented as an alternative?

If anyone else has great ideas, the planning commission would like to hear from you. Write to Planning.commission@cityofpaloalto.org is accepting suggestions and comments by September 16.


53 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto HS Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:47 pm

This is a complete disaster for Palo Alto public school students and neighborhood residents. It will lead to years of unbearable construction, traffic, noise pollution, congestion, and environmental destruction. It's also disgraceful to cloak this self-serving project as an effort to "educate girls." Really? What if this were a boys school - would you not support it? I agree a relocation is in order. Find a site that can accommodate the needs of the school and one that is not in a historic, residential neighborhood. I cannot believe the Palo Alto council would even consider this proposal. Someone needs to start looking into the relationships there. Utilitarianism should be your guiding principle. You represent the entire town.


13 people like this
Posted by Eduardo F Llach - Churchill Ave, Palo Alto
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm

I was at the meeting and spoke in favor of Castilleja's expansion. The presentation only had 2 out of 7 Significant issues which were addressed by the Castilleja plans. The Council asked a couple of technical questions that the presenters said would be provided to them. The room was full of Castilleja supporters, which was not brought up in the article above.

My grandmother graduated from Castilleja 102 years ago, it is a great school. I live next to Paly, my 4 kids went to Paly. Palo Alto High has grown by 500 kids since I moved to Churchill across the street from Paly's Baseball fields. That is growing by the size of Castilleja in just over 15 years. There has been no traffic mitigation and we have NOT seen an increase in traffic, why? because commuting in and out of a school takes only 2 to 4% of the time in a year. 180 to 360 hrs out of 8760 hours in a year. The majority of time Churchill Ave is fine, if there is a traffic issue is around commuting, not kids getting out of school. Again, 500 more kids and 6 new buildings + Friday nigh football games, and Churchill Ave is fine. Castilleja's mitigation plans address the 2 Significant issues brought up the Impact Report.

Castilleja has been here for over 102 years, providing great education and growing the community, let's support it just like we support Paly and all the other amazing schools in the area.

Thank you, Eduardo


17 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 15, 2019 at 3:21 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

Eduardo,
Thank you for your insights. In case you and others do not realize, the Paly students are given this directive:

"Please avoid driving on Bryant St. and Castilleja Ave. (official bike routes). Cars on Churchill Avenue may not drive straight over the train tracks (towards El Camino) during 7:45-8:30 am on weekdays (left turn only).

Do not park in the Southgate neighborhood (houses near Churchill Ave.) for more than 2 hours without a Southgate permit (exclusive to the neighborhood)."

You can find more details about the commuting guidelines at Paly at the url:
Web Link


37 people like this
Posted by South Palo Altan Here
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2019 at 3:33 pm

I live in South Palo Alto and so some might say I don't have a dog in this fight. Additionally, I find the incessant complaining about traffic around here really boring. And finally, I tend to be someone who feels that more development - coupled with more affordable housing and comprehensive public transportation - is this region's only viable option.

Even given where I live, though, and even given my feelings about development, I am strongly opposed to Castelleja's proposals. Here's why:

-- Our public schools are incredibly important in so many ways to this community. I don't think an exclusive private school should be given special treatment. I want to see the time and energy of our public officials focused on the needs of the public schools in our town, and the thousands of students that attend those schools. It bugs me that this issue has overtaken our community instead of, say, fundraising for PiE, which affects far more students.

-- If Castelleja wants to increase enrollment, the school should split into an upper and lower campus as other schools have done. I'm sure they could raise the money to purchase a second site from some of the incredibly wealthy parents whose daughters attend the school. I'm sure Castelleja has reasons for why this isn't optimal - I can guess what they might be (cohesive student body mentoring opportunities etc etc). Those reasons, in my view, should not pull focus away from the needs and priorities and the thousands of students attending PAUSD schools.

-- Finally - Castelleja is in a very, very residential location. If the school wants to increase enrollment then it should move to another site. Another location might not be as pretty. But life comes with trade-offs. Even for the very wealthy.

PS - I'm sure Castelleja has stats they use to illustrate the degree to which they provide scholarships to deserving students. Those sorts of stats are very manipulable, though. And they don't change the fact that it's the public schools that deserve this community's obsessive focus.


30 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:34 pm

[Portion removed.]

The answer is "No." The site and the community can't reasonably sustain that number. Their donor network is deep indeed, but council members (or committee members) who support it know they'll be massacred politically.


14 people like this
Posted by Supporter of Great Schools
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Castilleja is an excellent neighbor. I know as I have lived near it for 40 years. The school has a robust transportation management plan which is measured by independent audit. They have reduced traffic by 25% over the last few years. Their plans to further enhance the traffic program are well documented in the DEIR which includes building under-ground parking. The underground parking is in direct response to neighbors' requests to mitigate street parking and traffic noise. Why some are flip-flopping now is stupefying. The truth of the matter is that there are a handful of neighbors who are resistant to any change. They want Palo Alto to return to its 1960s self. That's not going to happen. The notion that the school has no business being in an R-1 neighborhood is ludicrous. The school pre-dates all of the neighbors, having been at this location since 1910. Castilleja should have the opportunity to modernize as have Ohlone, Paly, Addison Elementary and Stanford.

The vast majority of people at the meeting were in support of Castilleja's application. The media should be writing a balanced article. This is typical of today's media which exaggerates the negative to promote divisiveness. The PTC and City Council should enthusiastically support the school's application to ensure that exceptional education continues as a foundational and timeless value in Palo Alto.


19 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 7:13 pm

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 15, 2019 at 7:20 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

Dear Supporter of Great Schools,

Please remember that Castilleja was a boarding school. I do not think anyone against the expansion and garage are in disagreement that it is a great school.

Given it is not a boarding school now, realize that there are neighborhood restrictions.

Also, I would really appreciate if the board and Castilleja took a closer look at what happened with Harker School. It was on Harker Avenue, if you are not aware. It is now in San Jose. They grew to be to large for Harker Avenue and a very residential neighborhood. And now, as I am sure you are aware, they had to build a second campus to accommodate their size requirements.

The key is to learn from Harker, and as I mentioned, PAMF. Both these institutions had larger plans that did not allow them to remain within a residential neighborhood.

Castilleja needs to look long term regarding their goals and mission. I hope you can learn from prior institutions on how to grow without impacting a very residential neighborhood.


11 people like this
Posted by NPAresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 7:52 pm

NPAresident is a registered user.

"The vast majority of people at the meeting were in support of Castilleja's application. The media should be writing a balanced article. This is typical of today's media which exaggerates the negative to promote divisiveness. The PTC and City Council should enthusiastically support the school's application to ensure that exceptional education continues as a foundational and timeless value in Palo Alto."

I enthusiastically support this last comment.

Although I was unable to attend last night's meeting, our family has lived three blocks away from Castilleja for over 40 years. My husband and I are grateful for the abundance of Palo Alto's fine educational institutions and traditions, both private and public. Our three sons attended all levels of PAUSD including Paly and our daughter graduated from Castilleja after attending PAUSD elementary school. All were well prepared for careers and adult life. And now, our granddaughter is a student at Paly! Both PAUSD and Castilleja have always been Crown Jewels of this community, and I believe that we all have a stake in the success of both.

For years now, I have been following the ongoing controversy about Castilleja's proposed expansion. I am well aware of Castilleja's violation of its use permit under a former administration. After Castilleja's apologies, many efforts to reduce traffic (with notable success), communications with neighbors, meetings, and multiple revisions of plans in response to neighbor demands/concerns (undoubtedly spending thousands of dollars or more in the process), I find myself baffled by many of the comments above. Obviously, some folks haven't been paying attention, suggesting solutions that are either infeasible or are already adopted. Or perhaps some people will never be satisfied unless they can get rid of Castilleja ("Why don't you just move away?"). Do we have some citizens who resent private schools? Do we have some citizens who resent "the rich?" (Castilleja students are diverse and many students receive financial aid)

To add insult to injury, the reporting in this article is clearly unbalanced, with most emphasis on questions and comments from some commissioners and members of the public raising redundant, unreasonable, or inaccurate concerns, in spite of the years-long process that has already taken place and the contents of the DEIR.

I encourage the PTC and the City Council to support Castilleja's proposed plans. As a community member and a close neighbor, I look forward to Castilleja's modernization.


13 people like this
Posted by Schools belong in Neighborhoods
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:16 pm

I too was at the meeting last night as a Castilleja supporter. I understand that neighbors are not against women’s education and this is not what the debate is about. However, I am finding a lot of presumptions in opposers comments that are implying every girl/family of Castilleja is “elite,” “selfish,” “spoiled,” “privileged,” and “wealthy”. I am certain you don’t mean to bring this into the debate because it has no bearing on the issues nor are you aware of every student’s financial background. I find those comments to be hurtful and unnecessary to your arguments. Name calling has no place in this debate. Just because we choose to send our daughter’s to Castilleja, does not mean we find PAUSD is lacking. What makes our country strong is that we have choices. If I choose to send my daughter to a private school AND pay my taxes that go to public schools, that is my choice. That does not make me spoiled or selfish. I support all schools and will gladly put my tax dollars towards our great public schools as well. I have been both a public and a private school teacher, and I support both. Each family has a right to decide for themselves where they think the best fit school is for their child. I believe if Castilleja was an all boy’s school or if it was a public school, the same arguments about traffic and modernizing the buildings would occur due to the school’s location.

I have a few comments to those who say Castilleja should move locations: 1. Castilleja’s home has been on Bryant street for more years than the houses surrounding it. If you bought your home near an airport, would you complain about the noise? Certainly there has been an increase in air travel over the past 50 years with new flight patterns, more planes, and airport expansions. You can’t fight the changing times. 2. If you had your way and the school moved locations, would you complain about the MANY years it would take to condemn, excavate the land and REBUILD housing? I’m pretty sure that would take longer than the 3 years to re- build the school and would involve more construction equipment noise. With Castilleja doing this renovation, careful consideration is being given to neighbors and I am doubtful that would happen if turned over to the city. Having Castilleja in your neighborhood only increases the value of your homes. 3. Schools belong in residential neighborhoods! It shouldn’t matter if they are public or private! Castilleja was on Bryant street long before it was zoned residential. 4. The school’s unique mission and teaching values derive from having a campus with middle and high school girls together. Splitting them as other schools have done doesn’t fit Castilleja’s mission. You cannot lump all private schools together and assume they are all the same. What works for one, may not work for another. Using Harker School in San Jose as an example does not apply to Castilleja. Harker is a school that serves preschool through grade 12, thus a much larger student population. They re-located in 1972 because they merged two schools together, PA Military Academy and Harker Day school.

The traffic issues raised last night are not because of Castilleja. With many students taking the electric shuttles and being bussed from the train station, that has significantly reduced traffic around our school. Again, enrollment will NOT increase unless the traffic can be managed. We are committed to respecting our neighborhood. I completely trust that Castilleja will continue with their strict traffic management plan, regardless of how many students are enrolled.

It is not a fair argument to say that because Castilleja was over enrollment in the past, they cannot be trusted because they will do it again. I don’t feel this is a refined argument when the past continues to be brought up. How many times must the head of school pay for this and apologize when it wasn’t even her doing? I’m trying to teach my own tween daughter to take responsibility for her actions when she does something wrong. I want her to own her mistake, figure out how to remedy the situation, but then life goes on. I don’t wish to teach her that every mistake she makes in life will follow her and be held against her as long as she lives. Let’s look to the future and where we are in this very moment, not 10 years ago.

I agree with another users comment about these petty arguments, although they were against Castilleja, but I too would rather spend my time fighting more serious issues such as gun control rather than with neighbors. You cannot simply say “NO” to the project altogether, because how would that be fair that public schools can grow and modernize but a private school cannot? Castilleja is committed to working through the few minor issues in the DEIR report to meet the needs of all. Saying “NO” to the entire project is not working towards a helpful solution. I understand you are frustrated at the city’s growth and traffic problems, but you can’t take it out on Castilleja.


4 people like this
Posted by NPAresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:23 pm

NPAresident is a registered user.

btw, I notice that "JR" posted a comment that concludes, "Castilleja needs to go back to the drawing board," because of the entrance to its new underground garage being (supposedly) located on the Bryant Street bike boulevard.

If this person had even bothered to study the proposed plans, he/she would notice that the garage entrance and exit are located on Emerson Street, NOT on Bryant Street.

And 26 people "liked" this comment!


31 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2019 at 4:58 am

@ Schools belong in Neighborhoods
it's wonderful that you can send your daughter to the private school of your choice. My great aunt was an early Castilleja grade as are several of my other relatives.

Castilleja began as primarily a boarding school. Daily transportation for students was a non-issue. The enrollment was also significantly smaller, even 20 years ago. Nobody living in the 'hood now bought their houses next to an expanding school which will requires well over an acre of parking lot. Takes a lot of cars to fill 50,000sf.

How can you say that it is not a school for the "elite?" The web site says financial aid is available to those with incomes up to $300,000 per year. $49,500 annual tuition certainly puts Castilleja into the realm of what can only be considered a place for privileged students.

Claiming that Castilleja adds value to the nearby houses is incorrect. Home values are higher in exclusively residential neighborhoods as the inevitable noises from events and, dare I say it, increased
traffic never add value. I'm a certified appraiser. Don't argue. Vans? Shuttles? Faculty transport? It's still additional traffic and there will always be people who must drive their daughters to/from school or pick them up in the middle of the day for dental or medical appointments. There will always be parents driving the kids to school in bad weather.
You're glossing over what is a very legitimate concern about the safety of pedestrian children & cyclists in the neighborhood. Yes, Harker Academy moved because it got too big for its site. Castilleja is also getting too big for the site.


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2019 at 6:56 am

Annette is a registered user.

Perhaps someone who has studied the architectural plans for expansion can comment on the efficiency of the design. Tech companies successfully accommodate more employees into working spaces than was typical of commercial occupancy in the past. Could Casti do something similar? Is there some "graciousness" in the Casti plan that could be eliminated and replaced with a more dense design that would allow the school to achieve at least some of the desired enrollment increase and eliminate the addition of the garage which is a significant sticking point for all sorts of reasons?

I watched the proceedings from home. I hope future rounds of discussion are free of the "because Casti is a great school with a wonderful mission this project should be approved" argument. That is conflation. This is a multi-faceted development proposal, not a debate about the value of a Castilleja education.


28 people like this
Posted by Monica Yeung Arima
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2019 at 9:57 am

I went to speak up about our traffic at our intersection on Bryant and Lincoln and I was named in the article. I wasn’t joking, it’s really bad, at least once or more accident a week whether it’s bike or car. That’s only the ones that I observed. This is purely a residential area and not a commercial area. This area was not designed for the amount of traffic now. Let alone to increase the capacity of the school up to 35%. It means more staff, teachers, students and more school activities.

I attended all girls’ schools from K-12, I respect and support girls’ education. Mine is from Sacred Heart to Ying Wa Girls’ School but I’m sorry I cannot support the current Castelleja expansion proposition. Perhaps they need to be considerate to the health and safety of our neighbors and find an expansion elsewhere like Harker and International School of the Peninsula did. It’s a win win solution.


24 people like this
Posted by Girl School Graduate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 10:48 am

Two simple questions:

1. Are there any supporters who does not have a tie with Casti? (Meaning none in your family, aunts, grandmas, great grand aunts attending Casti).

2. If Casti will really do such a great job in traffic mitigation (ie students and staffs will walk, bike, take public transportation and use the e-shuttle) that the expansion will not increase traffic, then why is there a need to have a bigger underground garage?

The need to push for the underground garage already indicates that Casti foresees there will be more traffic!!!


16 people like this
Posted by Another neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm

Good question by Graduate:
If Casti will really do such a great job in traffic mitigation (ie students and staffs will walk, bike, take public transportation and use the e-shuttle) that the expansion will not increase traffic, then why is there a need to have a bigger underground garage?

Possible answer:

So they can have lots of money-making events with parking for visitors.
They're already prepared for about 100 events/yr.


7 people like this
Posted by Why don't they respect the neighborhood?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2019 at 2:18 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 2:58 pm

@NPAresident, you obviously didn't look at the plans. The entrance to the garage is on Bryant, not Emerson.


18 people like this
Posted by Brian Hamachek
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Why does it feel like this project is inevitable? The school wants to reduce the daily quality of life of hundreds of Palo Alto residents so that it can accept a few dozen more students, most of which aren’t even residents of the city. Why isn’t leaving things as they already are an acceptable outcome? We all agree that things are more or less fine currently: hundreds of students are being taught, residents are happy. Why change that?


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Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

Ignoring the subject of construction altogether, Castilleja should consider an alteration of their Conditional Use Permit to list a maximum number of families enrolled instead of maximum number of students.

If 2 children from the same family attend the school (which happens often), it's most likely they would carpool and reduce traffic.

By encouraging sibling enrollment the school could increase enrollment and reduce traffic.

There are other CUP businesses across the area with similar covenants and the restrictions seem to work.


40 people like this
Posted by Gordon Liddy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2019 at 7:52 pm

There are nearly 30,000 households in Palo Alto; less than 1% of them have a child in Castilleja- why is the city even considering plans that benefit only this exclusive school, and a very, very tiny fraction of the city population?

The school doesn't pay any taxes. They have systematically lied for many years to both the city and the neighborhood about enrollment. Any increase in enrollment should be denied. Any renovation should not destroy trees, water tables or significantly affect neighbors. What possible benefit does the city and the neighborhood get from any renovation in the first place?

Hey City Council, are you tone def to your constituents? Let Trump be the one that only focuses on the top 1%; your job is to focus on the 100%.










24 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 17, 2019 at 11:01 am

Castilleja has proposed to disrupt the entire community, including Stanford, for years via constraining Embarcadero Road due to its proposed underground garage. No.

Castilleja has proposed removing two homes and those parcels from the property tax paying tax rolls, leaving the rest of us to finance the infrastructure these taxes support and it benefits from, to construct its underground garage. No.

Castilleja is spreading much misinformation. No.

Castilleja is a scofflaw, use permit violator for many, many years. Yes.

Castilleja is a fine institution, providing a fine education for young women, which they pay for, and which it can continue to do, without disrupting the whole community, and without expanding its student base. Yes.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2019 at 1:49 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

If a privileged private school smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, a school that for years violated its user permit and [portion removed] threatens to diminish the safety and quality of life of an entire community, the only response should be to deny their application and put pressure on them to leave town and relocate in a non residential area that would enable them to expand without effecting local residents. Any discussion of their demands is nothing but caving in to the privileged and well connected [portion removed.]

Catilleja must either reduce their enrollment or relocate. They already have too many students.


18 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2019 at 8:36 pm

[Portion removed.] Is it that hard to grasp that things will change dramatically with 135 more students, an underground garage that dumps into the neighborhood, and 440 more car trips per day? Yet she insists on regurgitating the party line from Castilleja [portion removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2019 at 9:56 am

Bravo to the planning commissioners for pushing back on this project.

For anyone who has attended city meetings, it's clear that large projects have proliferated across Palo Alto for many years.

These projects have a combined impact that has to be considered, as we can all see from the increasing congestion.

Clearly, each project applies pressure to the surrounding area, so if Casti is expanding and Stanford is expanding, then the combined expansion is what's meaningful.

That combination with Stanford (and any other planned or approved expansions) appears to be under-considered in the report, which already suggests that Casti's expansion will place a massive burden on the surrounding area.

Of course, those with vested interests attempt to cast the issue as being about education, busing/shuttles/bike adoption, or "we were here first." They point to what's been done, suggesting that we should all just hope that things might keep getting better (if indeed they truly have, but the "evidence" seems mixed at best).

Maybe they will, but Casti's track record for enrollment violations is not impressive to anyone who has checked the numbers. Coupling this pattern with what appears to be zoning violations identified by Jeff Levinsky, and it's even less impressive.

That's all from an obvious impact vantage point, but the other elephant in the room is the loss of trees. Vested interests may not care, but losing that number of very mature arbor may have an impact on wildlife that we have not fully considered.

For the "it's about education" crowd, if any educational institution in that area should expand, then it's Stanford. Stanford's worldwide positive impact is unquestionable and incomparable in the area. Even if the expansion is tangentially related to education, Stanford wins by light-years.

And, finally, for the "we were here first" crowd, PAMF provided critical, life-saving healthcare services, but PAMF was moved when it outgrew its site. Casti should take a look at PAMF's more mature leadership path for some needed guidance.


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The old Sun Micro Systems site was available before the JCC purchased it. It would have been perfect for Catillejas's ambitious expansion plans. They would have even been able to maintain a Palo Alto address which seems so important to them. Why didn't they purchase it? This failure is an example of how a privileged private school shoehorned into a residential neighborhood it does not belong in anymore, is using its clout to reduce safety and quality of life for many, when they had, and still have, other options.


5 people like this
Posted by Facts and Marucio--not even close
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2019 at 3:04 pm

As usual the facts and Maurucio have nothing common. Why didn't they buy the old Sun facility 15 years ago? are you seriously asking that?? Maybe they were not planning to expand 15 years ago. Do you know how much the Sun facility cost? Would the school have had the financial resources to bid on it. Claiming it is a failure on their part is ridiculous, Maurucio.
The school is not shoehorned into the neighborhood. The school was there first and the homes were built around it. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2019 at 5:25 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

I think (maybe wrong here) the history of the school is quite linked to Harker Academy, now located in San Jose.. Harker, was previously in Palo Alto, starting at Castilleja Hall (1121 Bryant Street), then moved to Greenwood Ave in Palo Alto, then to San Jose to expand. Here are some details ... wondering why Castilleja is not following suit with what Harker Academy did years ago. Move to create an even larger campus. They can still do that now!

Some history -- took bits and pieces:
In September 1902, Catherine Harker opened The Thoburn School, a boarding school for young ladies. Initially a high school, The Thoburn School enrolled 80 students in its first year and graduated seven. In the second year, the school’s name was changed to the Harker-Hughes School when Miss Elizabeth Hughes came in as principal. Hughes stayed only one year, and to fill her position, Sara D. Harker, Catherine’s middle sister, became a silent business associate. The school came to be known simply as Miss Harker’s School in honor of Catherine Harker, whose scholarly achievements began a tradition of academic excellence. Catherine Harker taught Latin and mathematics in addition to performing administrative duties. She has been described in a variety of sources as a dignified woman with a strong sense of the importance of academics, who often laced her lessons with humor.

Miss Harker's School was originally housed in Palo Alto at the corners of Kingsley and Bryant in Castilleja Hall, a building that had been vacated and was remodeled for the use as a school. By 1906, the school occupied three rented buildings: two on Bryant and one on Ramona, and they began looking for a permanent site for the school. In 1907 the school purchased 6.25 acres of pasture in the Alba Park section of Palo Alto and the main building was constructed at 1050 Greenwood Ave. One 35-room main building was initially erected, and three more went up before 1921.
.... from Web Link

Regarding Mary Ishbel Lockey
Her early teaching jobs included the Miss Harker– Miss Hughes School in Palo Alto and Palo Alto High School. After a few years of teaching at other institutions, Lockey decided to establish her own school and serve as principal.

“Castilleja,” the chosen name for the school, comes from the botanical name for a native flower to Santa Clara County, the Indian paintbrush (SJEN 1919). The original school (Castilleja Hall) was founded in 1907 at 1121 Bryant Street. This building has been determined eligible as a contributor to the NRHP-listed Professorville Historic District. The school was scheduled to open on August 19, 1907 (PAT 1907). In its first year, the school had 14 teachers and 68 students and included kindergarten to 12th grade. While the school had been founded as a girls’ school, Lockey also opened enrollment in the lower grades for male day students. The bulk of the student body was female, and there was a mix of boarding students and day students, including some out-of-state students (Croll and Pang 2007).
....
Shortly after the founding in 1907, the school moved to its current location at 1310 Bryant Street in 1910. At that time, Lockey purchased 4.5 acres of land from Alfred Seale, who had two daughters who would eventually graduate from Lockey’s school. The site of the new school offered an unobstructed view of the surrounding meadows, all the way to the foothills. Much of the surrounding area consisted of open space and orchards, with sparse residential development.

from ..... Web Link

Just in case anyone wants to know about why it is where it is... was within a sparse residential neighborhood -- open space and orchards.


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 19, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Annette is a registered user.

In February the PACC voted against the downtown garage. This was a reversal and a surprise given that the garage had been on the expected projects list for years and was part of the validation for the increase in TOT. Nonetheless, it was voted down. Kniss cited climate change and the fact that garages encourage driving.

Doesn't that same logic apply to the Castilleja garage? If not, shouldn't it, especially since the school is in a transit-rich area?


21 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2019 at 5:04 pm

I oppose the Castilleja expansion for the simple reason that it will increase traffic on Bryant, our BICYCLE BOULEVARD! Do we care about keeping cyclists safe or not?

I find the "Support Women's Education" argument insulting to our intelligence.


22 people like this
Posted by 2 blks from Casti
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:48 am

Today is first day of school in Casti. Traffic is very heavy on Embarcadero, Bryant and Churchill St. Bike accident happened at Bryant and Churchill around 8am. Cops, fire department was there. Luckily the cyclist is okay. This is the heavy traffic we are talking about.

Plus most of the street parkings are occupied......


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Posted by The poor
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Aug 22, 2019 at 2:57 pm

R1, segregation written in code.


7 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

This is not complicated. The law provides that Castilleja's expansion ONLY can be approved if the City Council concludes -- based on direct evidence presumably, not conjecture -- that the BENEFITS provided by hosting Castilleja on these 42 RH-1 lots outweighs the "SIGNIFICANT" negative impacts that all reports show.

Right now, the only arguments pro-development are that the harm won't be "so bad." Not ONE person or report was able to article any DIRECT advantage of Castilleja's expansion.

Let's summarize the harm:
1. Significant traffic impact.
2. Significant danger presented to pedestrians and bicyclists.
3. Significant impact on parking.
4. Significant impact on noise.
5. Unavoidable decrease in quality of life due to 1-4.
6. Virtually guaranteed negative impact on property values due to 1-4.
7. Continued loss of tax revenues due to Castilleja's tax-exempt status of (conservatively) $3,000,000/year (three million dollars a year) -- when contrasted with (conservative) tax revenue that would be generated in the 42 lots were used for what they are zoned for: single family housing.
8. Unavoidable negative impact on the public schools due to lack of funding caused by #7.

What benefits outweigh these harms?
1. Prestige of having world-reknown private school nearby?
2. Convenience to the very few families whose daughters attend the school?
3. Proximity to a top-of-the-line-campus whose doors, facilities, and resources are NOT open to the public?

It's not a close call. Why are we spending so much time on this? Unless Castilleja offers SIGNIFICANT mitigation programs -- as in, improvements that benefit the ENTIRE city, not just its own private school community -- then the answer clearly is no.

Listen, I'm as big a fan of women's education as anyone at Casti. While at Stanford, I was awarded a Boothe Prize (the only academic award given to undergraduates at the time) for a research paper I wrote regarding the benefits of single-sex education for women and girls. I get it.

That said, single-sex private school education does NOT need to take place on 42 RH-1 lots during the biggest housing crisis our state has experienced in history. And it does NOT need to happen at the expense of public school education for both females and males, which Casti's continued tax-free occupation on 42 otherwise-tax-paying lots causes the public school kids in our community.

There are AMPLE other locations that serve Castilleja's needs better than its current location on 42 RH-1 lots. There are AMPLE financial resources in Castilleja's endowment and parent/alumnae community. The City of Palo Alto has been paying (in lost tax revenues) for Castilleja for many years, which was nice of us. But it is time to prioritize our residents, who are faced with more than enough traffic issues, and our public school students, who have a right to reclaim the millions of dollars of tax revenue annually that Casti's location has cost them.

It's time to prioritize our residents and our public school kids -- and there is no compelling reason not to do so.


2 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:25 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

This is not complicated. The law provides that Castilleja's expansion ONLY can be approved if the City Council concludes -- based on direct evidence presumably, not conjecture -- that the BENEFITS provided by hosting Castilleja on these 42 RH-1 lots outweighs the "SIGNIFICANT" negative impacts that all reports show.

Right now, the only arguments pro-development are that the harm won't be "so bad." Not ONE person or report was able to article any DIRECT advantage of Castilleja's expansion.

Let's summarize the harm:
1. Significant traffic impact.
2. Significant danger presented to pedestrians and bicyclists.
3. Significant impact on parking.
4. Significant impact on noise.
5. Unavoidable decrease in quality of life due to 1-4.
6. Virtually guaranteed negative impact on property values due to 1-4.
7. Continued loss of tax revenues due to Castilleja's tax-exempt status of (conservatively) $3,000,000/year (three million dollars a year) -- when contrasted with (conservative) tax revenue that would be generated in the 42 lots were used for what they are zoned for: single family housing.
8. Unavoidable negative impact on the public schools due to lack of funding caused by #7.

What benefits outweigh these harms?
1. Prestige of having world-reknown private school nearby?
2. Convenience to the very few families whose daughters attend the school?
3. Proximity to a top-of-the-line-campus whose doors, facilities, and resources are NOT open to the public?

It's not a close call. Why are we spending so much time on this? Unless Castilleja offers SIGNIFICANT mitigation programs -- as in, improvements that benefit the ENTIRE city, not just its own private school community -- then the answer clearly is no.

Listen, I'm as big a fan of women's education as anyone at Casti. While at Stanford, I was awarded a Boothe Prize (the only academic award given to undergraduates at the time) for a research paper I wrote regarding the benefits of single-sex education for women and girls. I get it.

That said, single-sex private school education does NOT need to take place on 42 RH-1 lots during the biggest housing crisis our state has experienced in history. And it does NOT need to happen at the expense of public school education for both females and males, which Casti's continued tax-free occupation on 42 otherwise-tax-paying lots causes the public school kids in our community.

There are AMPLE other locations that serve Castilleja's needs better than its current location on 42 RH-1 lots. There are AMPLE financial resources in Castilleja's endowment and parent/alumnae community. The City of Palo Alto has been paying (in lost tax revenues) for Castilleja for many years, which was nice of us. But it is time to prioritize our residents, who are faced with more than enough traffic issues, and our public school students, who have a right to reclaim the millions of dollars of tax revenue annually that Casti's location has cost them.

We need to say no, and move forward (apart).


Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

(sorry for the double post; hopefully the moderators will remove one of them - thank you!)


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