News

Fewer events, more enforcement: City proposes conditions for Castilleja expansion

Planning and Transportation Commission set to rule on conditional use permit for contentious project on Nov. 4

On Nov. 4, the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission is set to deliberate on Castilleja School's proposed growth plan. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Seeking to bridge the yawning gap between Castilleja School, which is looking to rebuild its Bryant Street campus, and a vocal group of neighbors who vehemently oppose the school's plan, Palo Alto city staff is proposing a compromise that would allow the project to advance while imposing stricter limits on school events and traffic impacts.

If approved by the Planning and Transportation Commission, which began its review of the proposed conditions on Wednesday night, Castilleja would be allowed to meet the main goals of its ambitious project: modernizing the campus, constructing an underground garage and gradually raising enrollment from the current level of 426 students to 540 students.

It would also require Castilleja to reduce the number of events it holds on its campus, a topic that has generated significant neighborhood concerns. The school has already lowered the number of annual events on its campus from more than 100 to about 90. Staff is proposing restricting the number to 70 events, despite Castilleja's assertion that it would need to hold at least 74 to accommodate its academic and social interest.

If approved by the commission and, ultimately, the City Council, the conditional use permit would also require regular monitoring of vehicle traffic around the school. If Castilleja exceeds the permitted trip level on two measured thresholds — average daily traffic and traffic during the morning peak hour — the school could be required to pay fines or institute more stringent rules. If Castilleja misses these targets and generates more than 1,296 daily trips and 440 morning peak trips to its campus over three consecutive reporting periods, it would have to reduce student enrollment in the following academic year. There would be two to three reporting periods a year, according to the conditions.

The list of conditions also includes a suite of transportation-demand-management (TDM) programs that Castilleja would have to adopt as part of its proposed expansion, including shuttle services, a carpool program, mandatory ride-sharing and events that encourage bicycling. Chief Planning Official Amy French called the proposal "one of the most comprehensive programs that the city has considered for TDM."

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To ensure that Castilleja complies with the enrollment limit, the city's proposed conditional use permit would require annual reviews by an independent auditor who would submit written reports to the city every year attesting to the number of students enrolled for that academic year.

The city's conditions aim to address many of the concerns that the project's opponents have cited over the past four years, while leaving others largely unresolved. Some of the project's opponents, including members of the neighborhood group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now (PNQLNow), have urged the city to limit Castilleja's enrollment increases, reject its proposal for an underground garage and require it to launch a robust shuttle program for students, obviating the need for additional parking.

Some indicated Wednesday that the city's proposed compromise is inadequate. Leila Moncharsh, an attorney representing PNQLNow, suggested that the conditional use permit drafted by city staff attempts to micromanage the school while not doing enough to address its impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. Some of the proposed conditions, she said, are too specific, while others are too vague or fail to actually account for impacts.

She challenged, for example, the city's decision to measure special events by the number of attendees, rather than the number of cars that these events bring to the neighborhood. The city's proposed permit allows up to 70 special events (which, by the city's definition, would have more than 50 attendees) and specifies that 37 of these events can have more than 100 attendees.

The city's proposed rules also limit Saturday events to five per year and ban Sunday events altogether.

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"This is about how the school and the neighborhood is going to coexist," Moncharsh told the commission. "And 'coexist' doesn't mean coming back to the city consistently with complaints and problems for the city to use its expensive process for solving."

The city released the conditions last Friday and Moncharsh was one of many speakers who supported delaying the decision to give residents more time to review the materials. The majority of the commission shared that view. Led by Commissioner William Riggs, the commission agreed by a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Bart Hechtman dissenting, to limit the Wednesday hearing to public comments and to defer most of its deliberations to Nov. 4.

In discussing the conditions, both the city and the project's critics pointed to the school's less-than-stellar history in following local regulations. In 2013, the city fined Castilleja $265,000 for exceeding its enrollment cap of 415 students. The school was also ordered to gradually reduce its enrollment from 448 students back to 415, which it has been doing since and has yet to achieve.

That violation continues to cast a shadow over the protracted and highly polarizing approval process. French noted Wednesday that a lack of trust and the city's history of enforcement against Castilleja have prompted more involvement by community members in suggesting conditions of approval, leading to a more stringent proposal.

Nanci Kauffman, Castilleja's head of school, also acknowledged that trust between the school and neighbors remains an outstanding issue and pointed to the school's recent efforts to mitigate the impacts of its operations.

"Actions speak louder than words and I'm keenly aware that trust is not quickly re-established," Kauffman said. "As such we have gone beyond the requirements of our current CUP by reducing events each year and by decreasing traffic by 31% as a way to prove our ability to succeed with trip reduction.

"Yet despite these efforts, we know that trust is not enough. Going forward, we will be an under ever-present microscope, including electronic monitoring, to make sure we comply with stringent trip thresholds and to ensure compliance by a third party."

Many attendees to the virtual meeting said they support Castilleja's expansion and urged the commission to advance the project. Some praised Castilleja as a responsible neighbor, others emphasized the high quality of its education, while others spoke more broadly about the need to support STEM education for women.

Glowe Chang, a Bryant Street resident who lives across the street from Castilleja, called the school an "incredible neighbor" that has "succeeded in running the school without disrupting a residential neighborhood." Jason Stinson, who lives near Palo Alto High, also said he supports Castilleja's project and suggested that some of the city's conditions — including its demand that the school reduce its special events by 22% —go too far (Kauffman said the list of events includes parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals and showcases of student projects).

"This seems like an undue burden to place on a well-established school that's already done so much to reduce neighborhood impacts," Stinson said.

But other residents suggested that the proposed enrollment numbers are too high and urged the city to take a harder line with the school. Under Castilleja's phased plan, the number of students would go up to 490 once it completes building its garage. It would then steadily increase to 540 once its new academic buildings are in place.

Hank Sousa, a neighbor who is involved with PNQLNow, said most members of his group wouldn't object to a more modest enrollment increase. The school's existing conditional use permit, which dates back to 2000, allowed an 8% increase in enrollment, bringing enrollment from 385 to 415. A similar increase today would bring enrollment up to 448 students, he noted.

"We lived with that before, we can live with that again," Sousa said.

Sousa pointed out that with the more modest enrollment increase, Castilleja would have enough parking spots to accommodate the entire student population without a need for the garage. He and other neighbors also suggested that Castilleja consider a program in which parents drop off students at satellite parking lots and allow shuttles to bring them to school.

"It would knock off 600 to 800 car trips daily so it would really make the neighbors happy and reduce the whole environmental impact," he said.

Approval of the conditional use permit is a critical step in both facilitating Castilleja's plan to modernize its campus, which kicked off more than four years ago, and in reassuring residents about the potential impacts of the school's expansion. Castilleja has already made numerous revisions to its project, including reducing the size of the proposed garage and adopting and agreeing to preserve two homes that were previously slated for demolition. And it scored a victory last month, when the Planning and Transportation Commission approved the final environmental impact report for the proposed expansion.

Even with these revisions, the project continues to split the neighborhood. Resident Bill Schmarzo, who spoke against the proposed permit on Wednesday, alluded to the high number signs in his neighborhood in support of Castilleja.

"We see lots of signs in the neighborhood supporting women's education. That's good. But not a single sign supporting Castilleja's proposed expansion and impact on traffic," Schmarzo told the commission.

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Fewer events, more enforcement: City proposes conditions for Castilleja expansion

Planning and Transportation Commission set to rule on conditional use permit for contentious project on Nov. 4

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 29, 2020, 12:52 am

Seeking to bridge the yawning gap between Castilleja School, which is looking to rebuild its Bryant Street campus, and a vocal group of neighbors who vehemently oppose the school's plan, Palo Alto city staff is proposing a compromise that would allow the project to advance while imposing stricter limits on school events and traffic impacts.

If approved by the Planning and Transportation Commission, which began its review of the proposed conditions on Wednesday night, Castilleja would be allowed to meet the main goals of its ambitious project: modernizing the campus, constructing an underground garage and gradually raising enrollment from the current level of 426 students to 540 students.

It would also require Castilleja to reduce the number of events it holds on its campus, a topic that has generated significant neighborhood concerns. The school has already lowered the number of annual events on its campus from more than 100 to about 90. Staff is proposing restricting the number to 70 events, despite Castilleja's assertion that it would need to hold at least 74 to accommodate its academic and social interest.

If approved by the commission and, ultimately, the City Council, the conditional use permit would also require regular monitoring of vehicle traffic around the school. If Castilleja exceeds the permitted trip level on two measured thresholds — average daily traffic and traffic during the morning peak hour — the school could be required to pay fines or institute more stringent rules. If Castilleja misses these targets and generates more than 1,296 daily trips and 440 morning peak trips to its campus over three consecutive reporting periods, it would have to reduce student enrollment in the following academic year. There would be two to three reporting periods a year, according to the conditions.

The list of conditions also includes a suite of transportation-demand-management (TDM) programs that Castilleja would have to adopt as part of its proposed expansion, including shuttle services, a carpool program, mandatory ride-sharing and events that encourage bicycling. Chief Planning Official Amy French called the proposal "one of the most comprehensive programs that the city has considered for TDM."

To ensure that Castilleja complies with the enrollment limit, the city's proposed conditional use permit would require annual reviews by an independent auditor who would submit written reports to the city every year attesting to the number of students enrolled for that academic year.

The city's conditions aim to address many of the concerns that the project's opponents have cited over the past four years, while leaving others largely unresolved. Some of the project's opponents, including members of the neighborhood group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now (PNQLNow), have urged the city to limit Castilleja's enrollment increases, reject its proposal for an underground garage and require it to launch a robust shuttle program for students, obviating the need for additional parking.

Some indicated Wednesday that the city's proposed compromise is inadequate. Leila Moncharsh, an attorney representing PNQLNow, suggested that the conditional use permit drafted by city staff attempts to micromanage the school while not doing enough to address its impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. Some of the proposed conditions, she said, are too specific, while others are too vague or fail to actually account for impacts.

She challenged, for example, the city's decision to measure special events by the number of attendees, rather than the number of cars that these events bring to the neighborhood. The city's proposed permit allows up to 70 special events (which, by the city's definition, would have more than 50 attendees) and specifies that 37 of these events can have more than 100 attendees.

The city's proposed rules also limit Saturday events to five per year and ban Sunday events altogether.

"This is about how the school and the neighborhood is going to coexist," Moncharsh told the commission. "And 'coexist' doesn't mean coming back to the city consistently with complaints and problems for the city to use its expensive process for solving."

The city released the conditions last Friday and Moncharsh was one of many speakers who supported delaying the decision to give residents more time to review the materials. The majority of the commission shared that view. Led by Commissioner William Riggs, the commission agreed by a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Bart Hechtman dissenting, to limit the Wednesday hearing to public comments and to defer most of its deliberations to Nov. 4.

In discussing the conditions, both the city and the project's critics pointed to the school's less-than-stellar history in following local regulations. In 2013, the city fined Castilleja $265,000 for exceeding its enrollment cap of 415 students. The school was also ordered to gradually reduce its enrollment from 448 students back to 415, which it has been doing since and has yet to achieve.

That violation continues to cast a shadow over the protracted and highly polarizing approval process. French noted Wednesday that a lack of trust and the city's history of enforcement against Castilleja have prompted more involvement by community members in suggesting conditions of approval, leading to a more stringent proposal.

Nanci Kauffman, Castilleja's head of school, also acknowledged that trust between the school and neighbors remains an outstanding issue and pointed to the school's recent efforts to mitigate the impacts of its operations.

"Actions speak louder than words and I'm keenly aware that trust is not quickly re-established," Kauffman said. "As such we have gone beyond the requirements of our current CUP by reducing events each year and by decreasing traffic by 31% as a way to prove our ability to succeed with trip reduction.

"Yet despite these efforts, we know that trust is not enough. Going forward, we will be an under ever-present microscope, including electronic monitoring, to make sure we comply with stringent trip thresholds and to ensure compliance by a third party."

Many attendees to the virtual meeting said they support Castilleja's expansion and urged the commission to advance the project. Some praised Castilleja as a responsible neighbor, others emphasized the high quality of its education, while others spoke more broadly about the need to support STEM education for women.

Glowe Chang, a Bryant Street resident who lives across the street from Castilleja, called the school an "incredible neighbor" that has "succeeded in running the school without disrupting a residential neighborhood." Jason Stinson, who lives near Palo Alto High, also said he supports Castilleja's project and suggested that some of the city's conditions — including its demand that the school reduce its special events by 22% —go too far (Kauffman said the list of events includes parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals and showcases of student projects).

"This seems like an undue burden to place on a well-established school that's already done so much to reduce neighborhood impacts," Stinson said.

But other residents suggested that the proposed enrollment numbers are too high and urged the city to take a harder line with the school. Under Castilleja's phased plan, the number of students would go up to 490 once it completes building its garage. It would then steadily increase to 540 once its new academic buildings are in place.

Hank Sousa, a neighbor who is involved with PNQLNow, said most members of his group wouldn't object to a more modest enrollment increase. The school's existing conditional use permit, which dates back to 2000, allowed an 8% increase in enrollment, bringing enrollment from 385 to 415. A similar increase today would bring enrollment up to 448 students, he noted.

"We lived with that before, we can live with that again," Sousa said.

Sousa pointed out that with the more modest enrollment increase, Castilleja would have enough parking spots to accommodate the entire student population without a need for the garage. He and other neighbors also suggested that Castilleja consider a program in which parents drop off students at satellite parking lots and allow shuttles to bring them to school.

"It would knock off 600 to 800 car trips daily so it would really make the neighbors happy and reduce the whole environmental impact," he said.

Approval of the conditional use permit is a critical step in both facilitating Castilleja's plan to modernize its campus, which kicked off more than four years ago, and in reassuring residents about the potential impacts of the school's expansion. Castilleja has already made numerous revisions to its project, including reducing the size of the proposed garage and adopting and agreeing to preserve two homes that were previously slated for demolition. And it scored a victory last month, when the Planning and Transportation Commission approved the final environmental impact report for the proposed expansion.

Even with these revisions, the project continues to split the neighborhood. Resident Bill Schmarzo, who spoke against the proposed permit on Wednesday, alluded to the high number signs in his neighborhood in support of Castilleja.

"We see lots of signs in the neighborhood supporting women's education. That's good. But not a single sign supporting Castilleja's proposed expansion and impact on traffic," Schmarzo told the commission.

Comments

sfvalley
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2020 at 8:10 am
sfvalley, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 8:10 am
57 people like this

Interestingly, after seemingly hours of discussion about TDMs and whether there should be 70 events or 74, the extremely problematic issue of an enrollment increase got little attention. Thanks to Lauing for bringing up "what is it based on"? The school said something about working backwards from the potential TDM, that's what they can control. Nonsense! Bringing more traffic into the neighborhood is thoughtless and against all the claims the school makes of being a wonderful neighbor. Ditch the underground garage (net new parking spaces is 22! why keep such a controversial and expensive facility on the table for 22 net new parking spaces?), rebuild the school and establish shuttling and get a reasonable enrollment increase. Moncharsh said the obvious; the school wants more students like any private school wants more students, more revenue, more prestige. Which the City appears to value more than the neighbors' interests. As though creating a satellite campus can't even be considered, the school demands 30% more students and 40% increase in building out the school - on the same six acres in an R-1 neighborhood surrounded by Embarcadero and Alma. Why is the City supporting this project after 4 years of neighbors appealing to them to reduce the size and scope of the re-build? The residents support girls education, they even support Castilleja, and support the school rebuilding its campus. The scripted speeches by parents, one after another, were all about the neighbors trying to stop girls from being educated. Can anyone take control of this project? Who is representing the neighbors?


What?
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:19 am
What?, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:19 am
63 people like this

This makes zero sense and doesn’t address traffic concerns in a residential area. Castelleja has shown bad faith in the past; what is to prevent them from doing it again? The city is just trying to shove this project that none of the neighbors want down our throats. I am disappointed in this sham “compromise” and wish the city had more backbone.


Old Palo Alto resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:26 am
Old Palo Alto resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:26 am
50 people like this

Very interesting how the number 8 years was brought up by a commissioner and supportive resident... Really? We only learned of plans to rebuild the school in 2016. So Castilleja was hiding their plans since 2012? Which is when they were found out of compliance? I was interested to hear about the letter that Nanci K, school headmistress about being compliantby 2018?

Very interesting how this project is being pushed so blatantly to come before PTC as quick as possible... Let's give the public more time to think about the submissions... Then all of a sudden, let's meet as soon as we can again! Seriously... we are deciding on conditions that the city will need to live with for the next 20 years!


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:57 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 9:57 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Why Such Large Enrollment?
Registered user
Community Center
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:29 am
Why Such Large Enrollment?, Community Center
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:29 am
55 people like this

Why is it so critical the enrollment be increased to 540? 75% of the students will be from out of town. Why not just cap it at 450 and no garage and be done. Any solution that centers on enforcement will be a constant problem. Is the city staff creating a jobs program for themselves?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:43 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:43 am
49 people like this

Shame on the city for caving to the law-breaker. Are they also planning on fining them until they reduce the enrollment back to where it should be? If not, why not?


BobH
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:45 am
BobH, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:45 am
55 people like this

Two comments on this. I have been riding my bike on the Bryant bike boulevard that goes right by Castilleja, I see a lot of signs against the proposed expansion.

The article says:

"In discussing the conditions, both the city and the project's critics pointed to the school's less-than-stellar history in following local regulations. In 2013, the city fined Castilleja $265,000 for exceeding its enrollment cap of 415 students. The school was also ordered to gradually reduce its enrollment from 448 students back to 415, which it has been doing since and has yet to achieve."

Did Castilleja actually pay the fine?

I don't think any expansion should be considered until Castilleja meets it's agreement with the City, that is, reduce it's enrollment to to 415 students. Otherwise we are just rewarding them for not following local regulations and there is little reason to think the will follow any new rules.


Duveneck
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2020 at 11:25 am
Duveneck, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 11:25 am
30 people like this

I understand that Castilleja pays no property taxes. Is that correct? If so, why not? The amount of city services used by the school is considerable.


jc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:07 pm
jc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:07 pm
19 people like this

Does anyone know if there has been a calculation of what the school costs the city above that recovered from utilities and if Palo Alto residents are subsidising the school?


Just Sayin'
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm
Just Sayin', another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm
34 people like this

Six days a week of construction noise, dirt, & traffic become irritating and tiring pretty quickly. Be prepared for the timeline to be extended and for construction hours to be transgressed often. By the time you reach someone in the City to report, it's too late. Even if construction "begins" @ 8am, trucks and workers arrive before that, and trust me, it's noisy. The disruption to people's lives is significant. Is there any remediation for that?


jc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:12 pm
jc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:12 pm
26 people like this

"events that encourage bicycling."

That's rather cynical statement when 75% of their students reside outside Palo Alto. And of those that live in Palo Alto, is the school going to encourage them,
especially the younger ones, who don't live close to the school to bike home after night-time events?


jc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:14 pm
jc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:14 pm
35 people like this

The city couldn't even enforce the enrollment cap, and has a dismal record of enforcing any codes, and the plan Amy French has negotiated is meaningless.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:45 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:45 pm
39 people like this

There are many problems with this, but let me discuss one.

Enforcement:

The plan depends on Castilleja obeying the rules, and the city enforcing them. Since these things have not happened in the past and are not happening today, why should we believe they will happen in the future.

Castilleja will agree to anything then disobey, and the city will not enforce.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:59 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:59 pm
8 people like this

If this goes to court or to a citywide vote, who thinks the neighbors will win? If they are so confident in their position why not go to court or the ballot box?


Trust. Looking in from the outside.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2020 at 1:18 pm
Trust. Looking in from the outside., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 1:18 pm
21 people like this

If Castilleja had built trust by working with neighbors before they grew their enrollment, they might built a relationship founded on trust that would have enabled residents to receive their proposals with trust. If the city had a track record of enforcing CUPs, the neighborhood might be in a position to take a risk and trust the city to make sure an agreement is followed through. Sadly, neither is the case.

Another private school example: See the car trip reduction components of the Challenger School CUP that have never been enforced. This CUP was related to their expansion plan and 40-year lease (1999, I think)--negotiated with neighbors. This is a game the city and developers play when they are manipulating residents and Council Members through the decision-making process. It erodes trust, and that creates political problems for every project that comes after it.

What a shame. If these parties could trust each other, an entirely different outcome might have been possible. This is such an old human problem, every major religion speaks to it.


jc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm
jc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm
11 people like this

Dear Chris,
You know those two alternatives are expensive, right?


eyeswideopen
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 29, 2020 at 3:33 pm
eyeswideopen, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 3:33 pm
22 people like this

I feel the city council in most part doesn't care about people who live in this city and doesn't listen to the folks living near the school.
Why doesn't Castilleja want another campus? Because the address would not hold the prestige of a Palo Alto address. Plain and simple. These 75% out-of-town families pay big bucks for the address.
Castilleja has been untruthful (exceeding enrollment for so many years) and got only a slap on the wrist from city council. They expect everyone to cave. They are arrogant, self-serving and offer mix-messages in their so-called "superior" education: moral behavior --why bother ; math--fine. This doesn't "add up" to a good institution. I'd like to see them go. Now.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Oct 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm
30 people like this

"The school was also ordered to gradually reduce its enrollment from 448 students back to 415, which it has been doing since and has yet to achieve."

This is why there is no trust and there is no consequences at all. I cannot understand why this is even on the table. If 75% of the students are outside of Palo Alto, there is absolutely no reason this school needs to be in Palo Alto. If they want Palo Alto, why not look at the Fry's space. That is much larger and they would still have a Palo Alto address.


Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2020 at 4:42 pm
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 4:42 pm
11 people like this

Mar mur marrmur mur marrmur mur marrmur mur marrmur. Mar Mar mur marrmur mur marrmur mur Mar mur marrmur mur marrmur mur mar.
(I feel a little bit like the tinnman in the Wizard of Oz...)
Enforce the CUP thank you.
Mark
Aka Mar mur marrmur mur marrmur mur


Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2020 at 4:46 pm
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 4:46 pm
18 people like this

Microphone check one two what is:
I'd like some reporting on the veracity of the claim that the billionaire Stanford supporter whose illicit dealings with leadership and City Hall in 2012 triggered a Grand Jury Report is also the one pushing this expansion and major capital project here.
If so, why doesn't he less contentiously donate a parcel of land in San Jose -- that, according to another news source he is trying to donate and build for a firing range for San Jose Police -- for Casti to expand down there? And maybe that would also free up the residential Palo Alto parcel for development of homes, both market rate and BMR, like for teachers.

I see this deal as a pattern of leadership kowtowing to power and not being representative of Palo Altans.
My opposition to this is anti-elitist, not anti co-education.
These girls are being used seemingly to help this powerful man satisfy his colossal ego. What a man, what a man, as the song goes.
But not in my back yard, please.
It's ironic.
I would think Castilleja alumnae would be offended by this project, if my sense of it is true.
This.
Thank you


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:39 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:39 pm
22 people like this

The City, including both the City Council and the Planning Commission are acting irresponsibly and caving to the wealthiest few. This is unacceptable.

As a reminder, Castilleja has no legal right to exist on the 55 residential lots it occupies. Although a non-taxed entity, Castilleja is a *commercial* operation and has no place in a RH-1 neighborhood. The City made an exception for Castilleja decades ago by allowing it to operate its girls school in a residential neighborhood because Castilleja was a boarding school then. Now it is entirely a commuter school. Additionally, there was ample real estate available then. Now we are experiencing the biggest housing crisis in history, where virtually no first responders, teachers, or essential workers who save our lives and teach our children can afford to live here.

Because Castilleja does not pay tax (due to a loophole in the tax law that allows non-charitable but exclusionary schools to be exempt from taxes even though they are not charitable entities), every way that it uses our town costs taxpayers money. That means every car that uses our roads, each piece of mail it receives, utilities that are delivered to it, tree trimming, and the potentially limitless first responder calls that usually accompany huge commercial development projects like the one that Castilleja is demanding, all will be paid for by residents. All the resources that Castilleja drains from our budget -- during a climate where we already are $80 million under budget -- will result in further cuts to seniors, disabled children, and public education. This already has happened and will happen more if we continue to allow our city's budget to subsidize this private school.

The entire context of this analysis has been flawed from day one. The EIR never should have been approved - as it is legally flawed, egregiously so - and most importantly, the City had a legal obligation under an agreement it signed with Castilleja in 2012 to reject the amended CUP without allowing it to be filed.

That is because in 2012, the City started CUP Revocation Hearings, but Castilleja negotiated for a "One Last Chance" to get its act together and comply. In the 2012 Agreement, Nancy Kaufman agreed in writing that if Castilleja would not lower its enrollment to 415 and its traffic to the equivalent of 365 by 2018, Castilleja would LEAVE. In the letter agreement, Nancy Kaufman also promised not to file an amended CUP unless and until Castilleja came into compliance with the 2000 CUP.

(I tracked down the people who signed that letter agreement on behalf of Palo Alto, but most could not talk to me, because they now work for a firm that represents .... Castilleja.)

Now, confoundingly, the City concluded -- against all available evidence, including tax returns showing annual revenues of $140 million, and including estimates of the valuation of the land it owns ranging from $500 M to $1 billion -- that Castilleja cannot *afford* to move to a more suitable location. Cannot afford to move to a more suitable location, even though Castilleja allegedly has a billionaire commercial developer on standby to fund its new high tech campus once the city approves? Cannot afford to move even though Nancy Kaufman signed in writing that they WOULD move if they don't comply?

Castilleja's CUP should not be in "quasi-judicial status" (which BTW violates the Brown Act the way that the City handles these proceedings). Rather, according to its own municipal code and its own signed contracts, the only hearings that should be taking place regarding Castilleja are, as Nancy Kaufman agreed, Revocation Hearings.

Some of the background facts and analysis behind these statements can be found here:
Web Link


MB Parent
Registered user
Ohlone School
on Oct 30, 2020 at 12:48 pm
MB Parent, Ohlone School
Registered user
on Oct 30, 2020 at 12:48 pm
13 people like this

Rebecca,

I have a question on your math.

How did you calculate fitting 55 residential lots into the current school footprint and how did you calculate the value of that land at $500M-1000M?

Doing some back of the napkin calculations, when I look at google maps at the school's footprint and compare it to the house lots on adjacent blocks, I can't get to more than 30, maybe 32 houses to fit into this space (and would the neighbors near the school really want a developer to cram 55 houses into the same space?).

Also, looking at redfin, most of the houses near the school have values of $2-4M. That would mean the land is worth more like $60M-120M. Even using your 55 housing unit number, it's pretty far from your $500-1000M estimate. So, I'm curious how you got to your numbers.

What I also noticed looking at the map of the area, Gamble Garden is one block away and it takes up a very similar footprint. According to its website, it's a 501c3, so I assume they do not pay property taxes. Should GG be encouraged to sell so a) more housing could be created and b) increase the city's tax base? I'm trying to understand where you draw the line for what non-profit entities should be allowed to exist in residential areas and to be exempt from property taxes.


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2020 at 4:56 pm
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2020 at 4:56 pm
11 people like this

@MB Parent: I like you raising Gamble Gardens as a comparison. I don't know that the neighbors have issues with the garden and the events held there. Does Casti have a direct benefit to the community (ie. I can visit and use facilities)? Is Gamble Gardens in violation of a CUP?


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 3, 2020 at 2:54 am
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 2:54 am
9 people like this

MB Parent -

My computation of lots was done based on filings made by Castilleja and available in the Palo Alto archives. I direct you to the original plan of the city and you may count for yourself.

As to valuation, that is impossible to know, and is, in fact, fairly irrelevant.

What is most important is the response given by staying home above. If Castilleja were to offer its grounds to the public to enjoy every day; if it were to allow its premises to be rented at low cost by community members for weddings; if it were to work with all of our local public schools in order to host field trips, provide educational outings, and provide volunteer opportunities for community members, then Castilleja would in fact be providing a public service... like the many public services offered by Gamble Gardens.

But Castilleja does none of those things. It locks its gates to the public. It continues to refuse to offer any full scholarships to needy children residing in East Palo Alto or Menlo Park - or even in Palo Alto. It refuses to share its proposed parking garage, open its proposed swimming pools, or allow the public to enter to marvel at any of its proposed beautiful, high tech amenities. Rather, Castilleja is reserved for the small number of people that Castilleja hand picks, and Castilleja closes its gates to all others.

That is why Castilleja, of course, is NOT a charitable organization, as is Gamble Gardens. Castilleja enjoys its tax exempt status due to a tax loophole created by lobbyists paid by wealthy private schools and religious organizations in order to escape taxation without providing charitable services. It's not really a status of which it should boast. It's far higher integrity to be a Gamble Gardens, and should Castilleja choose to act like its beloved neighbor, I believe we all would be glad.


Bill Bucy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 3, 2020 at 7:05 am
Bill Bucy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 7:05 am
15 people like this

The city is bending over backwards to make this project work rather than giving Castilleja a fair shot at addressing relevant issues and making a decision. Officials should keep in mind you can't put 10 pounds of something into a five pound bag.


MB Parent
Registered user
Ohlone School
on Nov 3, 2020 at 1:15 pm
MB Parent, Ohlone School
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 1:15 pm
7 people like this

Staying home:

Thanks for clarifying points. I agree Gamble Gardens offers a ton of value to the community. The few times I've been there, I've been impressed. I was mainly trying to compare a lot of similar size. So both lots offer same amount of possible new housing and tax revenue.

Rebecca:

Appreciate your clarifying points as well. Again trying to understand the standards you are trying apply here and how far to apply that standard. From your initial post, it appears your goal is a) help put a dent into the current housing crisis and b) increase the property tax base. Both very laudable goals!

I agree, if what you say is true about the school not adding any general public benefit, that they can and should do more. If Gamble Garden is a notable gold standard for acting as a good neighbor, would these conflicts with Castilleja end if they could offer an agreed upon list of public access? Seems quite possible to hammer out and reach a successful resolution.

More broadly, is your view that all Palo Alto based private schools and religious institutions (churches, synagogues, etc) who are not sufficiently open to the general public should lose their tax exempt status? Of course, such openness standard would have to be more crisply defined. Again, just trying to understand your logic here.


Mike
Registered user
Green Acres
on Nov 3, 2020 at 1:28 pm
Mike, Green Acres
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 1:28 pm
2 people like this

this is a test comment


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 3, 2020 at 3:57 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 3:57 pm
3 people like this

Too many comments to read, and I’m not located right near the school, so not in a position to fully appreciate all ramifications, but wish to mention I remain concerned about Embarcadero road traffic in the general, widespread sense of definite negative effects on this city.
In addition, I happen to have knowledge/experience on one point: if the school enrollment goes to 540, as I read, I assure you there WILL be effects on this city. I am familiar with private boarding high schools of that student body size (not in this state).


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 3, 2020 at 4:16 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 4:16 pm
1 person likes this

MB Parent - the law already provides for the concepts I state.

Because Castilleja runs a commercial operation (even though tax exempt, it is not residential and thus commercial) on 55 RH-1 lots, the city has no legal right to enable it to run its operation unless Castilleja provides public benefit to compensate for traffic, noise, safety issues, and other problems created when a commercial entity is located in a residentially-zoned space. That was the purpose behind the 2000 CUP.

But Castilleja NEVER complied with the 2000 CUP, which is why the City was set to evict them by pulling their permit (CUP) in 2013. Castilleja bought itself more time by repeating its promises, but it broke those promises too. (see above).

Even though Castilleja in 2013 promised that it would not request a new CUP until and unless it complied with its 2000 CUP. it filed for a new CUP anyway (without every complying with its existing CUP)_. And even though Nanci Kauffman signed a document in writing stating that she agreed to move the school if she did not bring it into compliance with the 2000 CUP, she now claims that she "cannot afford" to move the school. Her 2013 promise to agree to the revocation of the CUP if she did not comply by 2018 is exactly why the City gave her more time. Now she acts like this contract never existed.

You can read more about my research regarding Castilleja's long history of mistreatment of our community here: winwithrebecca.com/castilleja

So you know, there are a decent number of Palo Alto-based Castilleja families who strongly support my campaign. They recognize that I strongly value women's education (my campaign manager attends an all-women college!). But even while believing in women's education, I still think that all parties should be held accountable when they violate the law, especially when those legal violations have material negative impact on others -- and in Castilleja's case, they do.

I hope that helps. Feel free to reach out directly if you would like to speak live about it. If you email the address on my website, I'll respond with my phone number.

Best,
Rebecca


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2020 at 9:54 pm
11 people like this

"The school was also ordered to gradually reduce its enrollment from 448 students back to 415, which it has been doing since and has yet to achieve."

The clock started running on that in 2013. Seven years ago. And yet a compromise that includes an enrollment increase is on the table. Hello??

And shouldn't Castilleja should be negotiating with CC, not City Staff? Seems to me our CC needs to reassert itself as being in charge of the City Manager and City Staff so that our elected officials, not Staff, decide all land use-related issues.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:52 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:52 am
6 people like this

@Annette, excellent questions above. Let's hope the new City Council will address them.


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