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Despite zoning dispute, planning commission advances Castilleja's expansion plan

Commissioners raise concerns about proposed underground garage but vote to approve conditions for school's new conditional use permit

If approved, Castilleja School's new conditional use permit would allow the school to expand its enrollment to 540 students. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Castilleja School eked out a hard-fought and limited victory Wednesday night, when the Planning and Transportation Commission approved a list of conditions that would allow the school to meet its goal of increasing student enrollment to 540.

Over the course of four hours, the commission concluded its monthslong period of deliberations by taking a series of votes that collectively advance the school's bid to modernize its Bryant Street campus. By a 4-2 vote, with Commissioners Ed Lauing and Doria Summa dissenting, the commission endorsed the conditions of approval for Castilleja's new conditional use permit, which will allow it to gradually expand enrollment from the current level of 426 students to 540.

By the same vote, the commission voted to approve findings for the zoning variance that Castilleja had requested to replace aged buildings with new ones (Commissioner William Riggs was absent).

But even as planning commissioners reached numerous compromises over conditions of approval, they hit a stalemate over one a key issue that pertains to the expansion: the school's planned underground garage. For months, residents opposing the project have argued that an underground garage is illegal in a single-family residential neighborhood. And even if it were allowed, it should count toward the school's gross floor-area-ratio, they said.

City staff concluded that the prohibition on underground garages is limited to residential uses, thus making Castilleja exempt. They acknowledged, however, that the zoning code is unclear on whether the garage should count toward floor-area-ratio and have gone along with Castilleja's request not to count it. In explaining the decision, staff pointed to Congregation Kol Emeth, a synagogue where a newly constructed underground garage did not count toward floor area.

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Facing vague guidance from the zoning code, the commission deadlocked 3-3 over whether the school's proposed garage should be allowed and, if so, whether it should be included in the school's floor area. Summa, Lauing and Chair Cari Templeton rejected staff's position that the underground garage is an appropriate and zone-compliant use in the residential neighborhood. Commissioners Michael Alcheck and Barton Hechtman and Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar all supported the staff position and recommended making the necessary finding to advance the project.

The commission's division over the proposed garage prevented it from approving the necessary findings to formally approve the adoption of the conditional use permit. Its split vote means that it will be up to the City Council to parse the zoning code, hear the various arguments and do what the commission could not: reach a majority decision.

The planning commission was more decisive on other aspects of the application, including the conditions of approval that Castilleja would have to meet to move ahead with its campus reconstruction and enrollment expansion. In its third meeting on the subject, the commission voted 4-2 to accept a long list of conditions, including ones that limit special events of 50 or more attendees at the school to 74 annually and that require the school to diligently monitor and regularly report traffic conditions around the school.

Most critically, the conditions of approval comply with Castilleja's request to raise the enrollment cap to 540, provided its traffic impacts don't increase over time.

"I don't think there's a problem with having 540 or however many students, as long as there's no impact on traffic — and that can be managed," Roohparvar said.

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The commission's votes mark the conclusion of a critical phase for a project that has been in the city's pipeline for the past four years and that has pitted the school's neighbors against one another. Over months of long and contentious public hearings, the commission has heard from dozens of residents who oppose the project and dozens who support it. In the past month alone, the commission has received roughly 300 pages of correspondence from project advocates and opponents.

Many, like Palo Alto resident Mike Anderson, whose daughter graduated from Castilleja, lauded the school's array of transportation programs, including its van shuttles, buses and policies that require employees to use alternatives to solo driving.

"This school has a proven record and all you need to do is to listen to the opposing neighbors," Anderson wrote. "Even they admit that traffic is under control now. Yes, they are imagining the worst for the future, but they agree that conditions are truly improved and very good right now."

Others, including members of the neighborhood group PNQLNow (Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now), have urged the city to significantly reduce the scale of the project. Andie Reed, a member of the group, requested that the city consider a lower enrollment figure and that it follow a stricter interpretation of the zoning code when it comes to measuring the school's proposed floor area.

"We ask that any new expansion plans reduce the impacts on the neighborhood, not increase them," Reed wrote to the commission. "Suggestions from the community over the past years have been to establish a realistic yet rigorous, mandatory shuttling system after rebuilding the school and getting settled in with a reasonable increase of enrollment (30% has never been seen for this school or any other in an R-1 neighborhood)."

Lauing and Summa both supported the more conservative approach championed by PNQLNow, which called for granting Castilleja permission to increase enrollment to 450. Both said the school can always return at a later date to request further growth. The incremental approach, Lauing argued, would give the school a chance to demonstrate that its traffic-reduction programs are working and alleviate neighborhood concerns about the project.

There's no reason, he said, for the city to immediately commit to allowing 540 students.

"I don't think it's penalizing the school at this point to give them 450 instead of none," Lauing said. "And I don't think the extra students will be hard to get to if they just perform and regain trust."

Summa agreed and noted that the city can always increase enrollment further, once everyone feels assured that the school can adequately manage its traffic.

"I'm confident that if we started at a lower maximum, as Castilleja proceeds with their strong TDM (transportation-demand management) program and shows success at that, they can come back and ask for added enrollment," Summa said.

Others suggested that the city's proposed conditions already go far enough to mitigate the proposed traffic impacts. Commissioner Bart Hechtman pointed to the commission's Nov. 4 vote to institute a "no net new trips" requirement on Castilleja, which the school strongly opposed. The new conditions also require regular traffic monitoring by Castilleja and strict adherence to limits on average daily trips (1,296) and on morning peak hour trips (440). If the school exceeds these limits in consecutive reporting periods, it would be subject to fines and reductions in future enrollment allowances.

To further assuage community anxieties about traffic impacts, the commission specified that the school's ability to expand would be based on reviews of three traffic reports, including two from the prior year and one from the year during which the expansion is requested. The list of conditions also includes a long list of transportation-demand management measures to reduce daily traffic, including use of carpool programs, shuttles and incentive programs for faculty, staff and students to use alternative means.

Given the city's strict prohibitions on increasing traffic impacts, there's no reason to keep the school from adding students, Hechtman said.

"I think the safety net is fantastic," Hechtman said. "It's foolproof. And it's that way because it's been labored over by so many consultants for so many years to get it right."

Hechtman also pushed back against proposals from Lauing and Summa for a more incremental approach on increasing enrollment.

"We have received comments in support and opposition from people who live next door to each other — over and over and over again," Hechtman said. "And I think part of the stress of this situation is not knowing how it's going to turn out."

One of the commission's most important tasks, he said, is to bring a "decisive" position to the council, rather than create a situation in which the applicant would have to come back in the next year or two to ask for another approval, potentially inviting more divisiveness among neighbors.

"I think that would be a disservice to our community," Hechtman said.

Templeton concurred and said that tying requests for additional enrollment to traffic impacts from the prior and current school year is "a really important clarification."

"It shows that Castilleja would be a good neighbor," Templeton said. "That is really the crux of all of these disagreements that we had."

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Despite zoning dispute, planning commission advances Castilleja's expansion plan

Commissioners raise concerns about proposed underground garage but vote to approve conditions for school's new conditional use permit

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 12:44 am

Castilleja School eked out a hard-fought and limited victory Wednesday night, when the Planning and Transportation Commission approved a list of conditions that would allow the school to meet its goal of increasing student enrollment to 540.

Over the course of four hours, the commission concluded its monthslong period of deliberations by taking a series of votes that collectively advance the school's bid to modernize its Bryant Street campus. By a 4-2 vote, with Commissioners Ed Lauing and Doria Summa dissenting, the commission endorsed the conditions of approval for Castilleja's new conditional use permit, which will allow it to gradually expand enrollment from the current level of 426 students to 540.

By the same vote, the commission voted to approve findings for the zoning variance that Castilleja had requested to replace aged buildings with new ones (Commissioner William Riggs was absent).

But even as planning commissioners reached numerous compromises over conditions of approval, they hit a stalemate over one a key issue that pertains to the expansion: the school's planned underground garage. For months, residents opposing the project have argued that an underground garage is illegal in a single-family residential neighborhood. And even if it were allowed, it should count toward the school's gross floor-area-ratio, they said.

City staff concluded that the prohibition on underground garages is limited to residential uses, thus making Castilleja exempt. They acknowledged, however, that the zoning code is unclear on whether the garage should count toward floor-area-ratio and have gone along with Castilleja's request not to count it. In explaining the decision, staff pointed to Congregation Kol Emeth, a synagogue where a newly constructed underground garage did not count toward floor area.

Facing vague guidance from the zoning code, the commission deadlocked 3-3 over whether the school's proposed garage should be allowed and, if so, whether it should be included in the school's floor area. Summa, Lauing and Chair Cari Templeton rejected staff's position that the underground garage is an appropriate and zone-compliant use in the residential neighborhood. Commissioners Michael Alcheck and Barton Hechtman and Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar all supported the staff position and recommended making the necessary finding to advance the project.

The commission's division over the proposed garage prevented it from approving the necessary findings to formally approve the adoption of the conditional use permit. Its split vote means that it will be up to the City Council to parse the zoning code, hear the various arguments and do what the commission could not: reach a majority decision.

The planning commission was more decisive on other aspects of the application, including the conditions of approval that Castilleja would have to meet to move ahead with its campus reconstruction and enrollment expansion. In its third meeting on the subject, the commission voted 4-2 to accept a long list of conditions, including ones that limit special events of 50 or more attendees at the school to 74 annually and that require the school to diligently monitor and regularly report traffic conditions around the school.

Most critically, the conditions of approval comply with Castilleja's request to raise the enrollment cap to 540, provided its traffic impacts don't increase over time.

"I don't think there's a problem with having 540 or however many students, as long as there's no impact on traffic — and that can be managed," Roohparvar said.

The commission's votes mark the conclusion of a critical phase for a project that has been in the city's pipeline for the past four years and that has pitted the school's neighbors against one another. Over months of long and contentious public hearings, the commission has heard from dozens of residents who oppose the project and dozens who support it. In the past month alone, the commission has received roughly 300 pages of correspondence from project advocates and opponents.

Many, like Palo Alto resident Mike Anderson, whose daughter graduated from Castilleja, lauded the school's array of transportation programs, including its van shuttles, buses and policies that require employees to use alternatives to solo driving.

"This school has a proven record and all you need to do is to listen to the opposing neighbors," Anderson wrote. "Even they admit that traffic is under control now. Yes, they are imagining the worst for the future, but they agree that conditions are truly improved and very good right now."

Others, including members of the neighborhood group PNQLNow (Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now), have urged the city to significantly reduce the scale of the project. Andie Reed, a member of the group, requested that the city consider a lower enrollment figure and that it follow a stricter interpretation of the zoning code when it comes to measuring the school's proposed floor area.

"We ask that any new expansion plans reduce the impacts on the neighborhood, not increase them," Reed wrote to the commission. "Suggestions from the community over the past years have been to establish a realistic yet rigorous, mandatory shuttling system after rebuilding the school and getting settled in with a reasonable increase of enrollment (30% has never been seen for this school or any other in an R-1 neighborhood)."

Lauing and Summa both supported the more conservative approach championed by PNQLNow, which called for granting Castilleja permission to increase enrollment to 450. Both said the school can always return at a later date to request further growth. The incremental approach, Lauing argued, would give the school a chance to demonstrate that its traffic-reduction programs are working and alleviate neighborhood concerns about the project.

There's no reason, he said, for the city to immediately commit to allowing 540 students.

"I don't think it's penalizing the school at this point to give them 450 instead of none," Lauing said. "And I don't think the extra students will be hard to get to if they just perform and regain trust."

Summa agreed and noted that the city can always increase enrollment further, once everyone feels assured that the school can adequately manage its traffic.

"I'm confident that if we started at a lower maximum, as Castilleja proceeds with their strong TDM (transportation-demand management) program and shows success at that, they can come back and ask for added enrollment," Summa said.

Others suggested that the city's proposed conditions already go far enough to mitigate the proposed traffic impacts. Commissioner Bart Hechtman pointed to the commission's Nov. 4 vote to institute a "no net new trips" requirement on Castilleja, which the school strongly opposed. The new conditions also require regular traffic monitoring by Castilleja and strict adherence to limits on average daily trips (1,296) and on morning peak hour trips (440). If the school exceeds these limits in consecutive reporting periods, it would be subject to fines and reductions in future enrollment allowances.

To further assuage community anxieties about traffic impacts, the commission specified that the school's ability to expand would be based on reviews of three traffic reports, including two from the prior year and one from the year during which the expansion is requested. The list of conditions also includes a long list of transportation-demand management measures to reduce daily traffic, including use of carpool programs, shuttles and incentive programs for faculty, staff and students to use alternative means.

Given the city's strict prohibitions on increasing traffic impacts, there's no reason to keep the school from adding students, Hechtman said.

"I think the safety net is fantastic," Hechtman said. "It's foolproof. And it's that way because it's been labored over by so many consultants for so many years to get it right."

Hechtman also pushed back against proposals from Lauing and Summa for a more incremental approach on increasing enrollment.

"We have received comments in support and opposition from people who live next door to each other — over and over and over again," Hechtman said. "And I think part of the stress of this situation is not knowing how it's going to turn out."

One of the commission's most important tasks, he said, is to bring a "decisive" position to the council, rather than create a situation in which the applicant would have to come back in the next year or two to ask for another approval, potentially inviting more divisiveness among neighbors.

"I think that would be a disservice to our community," Hechtman said.

Templeton concurred and said that tying requests for additional enrollment to traffic impacts from the prior and current school year is "a really important clarification."

"It shows that Castilleja would be a good neighbor," Templeton said. "That is really the crux of all of these disagreements that we had."

Comments

Alex
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:16 am
Alex, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:16 am
74 people like this

Why are we bending over backwards for an institution that has flouted the rules for years? They’ve BEEN expanded for all of the years their enrollment has exceeded the cap. They shouldn’t be rewarded for that.


We Can Do Better
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2020 at 7:34 am
We Can Do Better, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 7:34 am
63 people like this

Aside from the substance the majority embraced last night (thank you Summa, Lauing and Templeton for that “no” vote on the noxious garage), there is this that persists week after week -

Commissioner Hechtman - do everyone the simple courtesy of using earbuds so you can be heard, and stop sitting in the dark. You surely hear staff and Commissioners comment they can barely hear you. Same with the public in zoomland who sees you as a shadow. Step it up Bart.

Vice Chair Roohparvar - spend less time playing and with your hair and more time reading the weekly packet in order to start contributing meaningfully. And it’s time you learn how to make a motion rather than to just giggle and need others do so for you. You wanted to be a Commissioner - act like one and do the work.

Commissioner Riggs wasn’t present last night because he chooses to teach a class every other Wednesday evening so regularly misses PTC meetings. Unbelievable.

And the city staff person last night is at times not available because she’s a paid moonlighter on the San Francisco Planning Board on some Wednesdays - with the city’s blessing. This at a time when we are strapped for staff due to budget cuts and a hiring freeze.

So looking forward to the new City Council - maybe it will have higher standards.


We Can Do Better
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:48 am
We Can Do Better, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:48 am
74 people like this

One more thing -
Commissioner Alcheck did not disclose that his personal attorney is now Castilleja’s ( this was outed by others). Now it becomes known that his niece apparently is a student there.

Surely if so, this would have been pertinent to his decision making and should have been disclosed by him.

His tortured aggressive advocacy, despite law and common sense, would then have been better understood by those who watched in dismay.


Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:40 am
Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:40 am
24 people like this

Once again, thank you to the PTC for moving this important project forward. It has been encouraging to see so much support among our forward-looking community for the practical, reasonable, and beautiful proposal that Castilleja has worked so collaboratively, along with the city and neighbors, to develop and fine tune. I share the sentiments of so many in our evolving city in expressing my earnest hope that the City Council will recognize the benefits and the lack of impact that this modernization project will bring. Thanks again to the PTC. Moving forward together!


mxhr
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:43 am
mxhr, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:43 am
18 people like this

Thank goodness this is over. I doubt this sort of opposition would have been experienced by an all-boys school but I can't say for sure. That said, I have to wonder how Ed and Doria manage to justify their consistent disregard for well-established commission norms. I could no longer watch after Ed characterized the staff recommendation as having no safety net. [Portion removed.] I guess in a world of alternative facts Ed Lauing can have his own. But, for real, if you are familiar with this project then his comments were nothing but completely inaccurate and worse misleading. I wish the weekly would acknowledge that disinformation effort because it is characteristic of how the small opposition group operated throughout this effort and to have a commissioner echo that sort of misinformation during the hearing actually does a lot more harm. As some on this forum have frequently said, I really do hope commissioners begin to be held to account for blatant political efforts, I just think we have very different commission members in mind when we agree on that idea. I for one am very thankful that the commission now has several individuals who have legal backgrounds, their contributions significantly amplify the quality of the deliberations.


Trisha Suvari
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:34 am
Trisha Suvari, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:34 am
25 people like this

Thank you PTC for your thoughtful deliberations. The enrollment increase opens the door for more girls who wouldn't have the unique opportunity to receive an all girls education. This is a win for our future generation of ambitious leaders that we desperately need. I have no doubt that Castilleja will manage a carefully orchestrated TDM that will mitigate traffic impacts. They have been managing a successful TDM plan since it was required of them and they strive to be respectful of the neighbors. I continue to be surprised at the arguments made by the opposers of this project that are not based on facts. It's a disturbing trend in the Nation right now as a whole, and to see it play out locally is equally disappointing. The fact is, the neighbors wanted the garage. Castilleja put in the plans as a response to neighbor feedback because they wanted cars off the street. Now the opposers are backtracking on this. Thank you PTC for recognizing the need to renovate the outdated buildings. The variance was needed to approve square footage that already exists at the school. Castilleja will not be taking over any more space than what they already occupy! The opposers will not be satisfied with anything short of Castilleja moving out of Palo Alto, and that is simply not an option. Thank you PTC for recognizing that more girls should have the opportunity to receive an education at Castilleja. A diverse and inclusive environment is needed now more than ever. I hope that City Council will follow in your footsteps and allow this project to finally move forward with the proposed garage.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:52 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:52 am
62 people like this

Casti, thanks for teaching girls they can break and ignore the laws they don't like.

""I don't think there's a problem with having 540 or however many students, as long as there's no impact on traffic — and that can be managed," Roohparvar said."

Incredible how not a single big development project ever has an impact on traffic, especially when the city conducts traffic surveys at off-peak hours. Another Palo Alto miracle.


Paly Parent
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:54 am
Paly Parent, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:54 am
64 people like this

What an absurd outcome...the line about how this can be done with no impact on traffic is ridiculous. Once again it seems like rules (including zoning) are just suggestions that businesses can overcome, and not something residents can count on to be enforced.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:41 am
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:41 am
26 people like this

Thanks to the PTC for their very hard work leading up to last night's decisions. The commission recognized Castilleja's efforts to modernize in a way that will minimize traffic impacts while improving the neighborhood and the city. The commission also recognized that opposition to the school's plans are a vocal minority, and that a good representation of neighbors and members of the community want this plan to go forward.

To those commenters who criticize specific commission members, please remember that they are unpaid volunteers who dedicate many hours in service to the city. I say that of all of them including the ones with whom I disagree on this issue.

Once again, thanks to the PTC and it's time for the council to approve.


azr
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:41 am
azr, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:41 am
23 people like this

Thanks go out to those commissioners who really worked last night to understand the issues and tried to approach a fair result even if it largely reflects what the school wants. Thoughtful suggestions from the neighbors over the last 4 years how the school could lower the scope of the project, rebuild, and be still be compatible with the neighborhood have been mostly ignored. It was very disconcerting that when the fact that the actual existing permitted floor area of the school (99,831 per City docs) was brought up, which number is significantly inconsistent with what school and staff are claiming (116,297), it was brushed off by suggesting this was a more accurate count than back in 1999, or 2006, or 2016. Apparently, by 2017, the floor area magically increased by 16K sq ft although no permitted sq ft were added. How can that be? Presumably because the school wants to "replace existing floor area" and so have determined how to make that a larger number. If that is a "commission norm", then we're in deep trouble. Thank goodness at least 2 commissioners were concerned about that fact (maybe more who either weren't there or remained silent) and the very circuitous interpretation of how an underground garage can be a basement (even though it isn't under a building) and how a single dissimilar synagogue whose garage is actually under part of the building and who got a variance for the setback encroachment (not because it was or wasn't a basement) can be a precedent; these are very troubling misinterpretations of facts and we need fact-based commissioners who do their homework. It is very reasonable to suggest starting any increase slowly and have them earn more additional students (like a couple of commissioners suggested), which would win the neighbors' support.


Becky Sanders
Registered user
Ventura
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:43 am
Becky Sanders, Ventura
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:43 am
51 people like this

At MHRX:

Point - Thank goodness this is over.

Counterpoint - You got that right. I have never seen such a circus in my life. So tired of the bad boys stomping around up there behaving badly, and now I read that one of the bad boys is connected to Monstraleja . According to We Can Do Better - “Commissioner Alcheck did not disclose that his personal attorney is now Castilleja’s ( this was outed by others). Now it becomes known that his niece apparently is a student there. Commissioner NoChecks is the same one as used his position for financial gain in the infamous “GarageGate” uncovered by Resident Activist Fred Balin. Web Link. Why this guy is still running around unbridled is anybody’s guess.

Point - I doubt this sort of opposition would have been experienced by an all-boys school but I can't say for sure.

Conterpoint - That’s right you can’t, but I can, and we would have been just as rigorous in our lobbying efforts to get the city staff to enforce the city’s own laws, no matter who stands to gain.

Point - That said, I have to wonder how Ed and Doria manage to justify their consistent disregard for well-established commission norms.

Counterpoint - Oh you mean they failed to cave to the vested interests? Forgot to use their own position for financial gain? Forgot to yell and scream over one another and their colleagues?

[Portion removed.]

Point - I guess in a world of alternative facts Ed Lauing can have his own.

Counterpoint - And so can the circus clowns.

Point - But, for real, if you are familiar with this project then his comments were nothing but completely inaccurate and worse misleading.

Counterpoint - Could the writer please recite chapter and verse of where Commissioner Lauing was in error. There are no facts here just accusations. More suited to a domestic squabble rather than the public forum.

Point - I wish the weekly would acknowledge that disinformation effort

Counterpoint - I wish they’d get a Knight Ridder grant and do some deep investigative reporting about the ties of PTC members to vested interests.

Point - because it is characteristic of how the small opposition group operated throughout this effort

Counterpoint - Gee that’s pretty dismissive of a group of cross-neighborhood activists that expect the zoning code to be followed, laws to be enforced and penalties be extracted. We believe the recent council vote speaks for the influence of our small opposition group.

Point - and to have a commissioner echo that sort of misinformation during the hearing actually does a lot more harm.

Counterpoint - You said it, brother, but you have the wrong commissioner.

Point - As some on this forum have frequently said, I really do hope commissioners begin to be held to account for blatant political efforts,

Counterpoint - Totally, however, Commissioners Summa and Lauing will be excluded from your calculus. They hardly stand to benefit politically from their unpopular-with-rich-and-well-connected people stances. I guess they just want to serve the interests of the residents who elected the council that appointed them.

Point - I just think we have very different commission members in mind when we agree on that idea. I for one am very thankful that the commission now has several individuals who have legal backgrounds,

Counterpoint - I admire how well and how closely Commissioners Summa and Lauing tie their opinions and arguments to the municipal code, rather than trying to skirt the law using legalese and obfuscation to benefit an elite institution.

Point - their contributions significantly amplify the quality of the deliberations.

Counterpoint - minus the circus clowns please.


neva
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm
neva, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm
24 people like this

I would like to disagree with MXHR.
Commissioners are volunteers and spend a lot of time
reading all these documents. [Portion removed.]


Hulkamania
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm
20 people like this

Castilleja - 1, Neighbors - 0


Neighborhood Inactivist
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm
Neighborhood Inactivist, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm
8 people like this

[Post removed.]


mxhr
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm
mxhr, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm
16 people like this

Happy to clarify my point. Lauing stated said that as written, the conditions of approval provided no safety net. He further explained that if the traffic conditions worsened nothing could be done.

Contrast that with what Hectman said in response, that the conditions of approval provided a fool proof safety net. Going on to explain that growth could only be approved once the monitoring and reporting demonstrated no additional trips (traffic impacts).

So Becky, which one is true? Surely both these statements cannot be true at the same time. These statements weren’t opinions. Lauing didn’t qualify his statement as a “feeling” that there was no safety net. And, to be clear, even if Hectman was corrupt or financially benefiting from his support of the project (which he is so obviously not) it doesn't change the truth calculus.

One statement is correct, and the other is false. Now I'm familiar enough with the conditions of approval to know which is which. But for those that are not, allow me to be more specific. I submit the following as evidence: Lauing suggested that enrollment should be limited to 450 students and increases should not be permissible under this CUP because there was no safety net. That is false and misleading. In other words, it is a lie. I called it a Trumpian level mischaracterization because he should know better (as I typically feel about Trump's lies) and here's why:

Lauing should be aware of how the mechanics of the enrollment growth permissible under the CUP's conditions of approval operate vis a vis the significant and overwhelming amount of monitoring that the CUP requires. As was explained last night, the small increase in enrollment would only be possible if the school demonstrated that no impacts to traffic were present. And, as Lauing should be aware, the conditions contained a tremendous amount of specificity regarding how the impacts would be measured and how often they would be measured. Again, safety net safety net safety net.

Now allow me to leave you with some counterpoints. Here's the impression I am left with after reading the comments of those in opposition to this project - A VOTE IN FAVOR OF THIS PROJECT IS EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION. I am not going to point to each comment that supports this impression but take note that 24 people so far have liked the comment that suggested that Roohparvar stop playing with her hair and giggling. What a disgusting comment and for it to receive such overwhelming support relative to the other comments here and for not one person in opposition of the project to suggest that it is in poor taste speaks volumes. It is so sad but I digress....

The impression you've made is that you believe a vote in favor of this project is evidence of corruption. What does corruption mean? Don’t worry about that. What about unsubstantiated rumor? That works great. Why one might ask? Because apparently, no upstanding hard working dedicated person could support this project. Welcome to the circus of your own creation. Was there a large number of individuals who opposed this project? Yes. Was there an equally large number of individuals who supported it? Yes. But they weren’t neighbors you say? Are you sure? I think many of them clearly identified themselves as neighbors. They too must be corrupt then right?

If you wish to leave this circus of yours then you must first acknowledge that someone could legitimately support this project without having a nefarious reason. You must also stop attacking those who did support this project for being corrupt or touching their hair. And you have to stop this endless charade of accusing commissioners of conflicts of interest where none actually exist. For future reference, violations of conflicts of interest are adjudicated by the FPPC. None of the current Palo Alto planning commissioners have been found to have violated the conflict of interest rules by the one body tasked with that job. That is also a fact. An indisputable fact. Though it would be Trumpian to suggest otherwise.


Absolutely ridiculous!
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:58 pm
Absolutely ridiculous!, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:58 pm
60 people like this

This is crazy. Cheat and lie for over a decade and then demand that you be given more students and a huge increase in space and ability to annoy the neighborhood.

Who are these crazy city staff people and planning commissioners that allow this disgusting mess to go on and on. Castilleja should have been slapped down years ago and there should be no chance that they can increase enrollment or the size of the school. They are cheaters and liars and deserve to be punished not rewarded.

Let's hope that when this appalling expansion plan gets to city council they will do the right thing and send the Casti administration back to the hole that they deserve to live out their penance in.


azr
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:04 pm
azr, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:04 pm
42 people like this

The problem I have with commissioners who say there is a fool-proof safety net is that they are obviously unaware of the history of this school, the City's lack of enforcement of this school's Conditional Use Permit, and the many inaccuracies that continue to be propagated - i.e. square footage, the avoidance of answering questions about the underground garage, and that the neighbors are at odds with each other. Actually, the neighbors are at odds with the school; parents and affiliates who live near-ish want the school to be allowed to do anything they want to do. Actual neighbors just want the school to be held to the same standards as anybody else. The current school leadership is the same now as that from 10 years ago, and they have not only not complied but have in fact aggressively fought compliance with their own Conditional Use Permit. Why would you expect different outcomes?


jc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:15 pm
jc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:15 pm
48 people like this

This school was founded as a residential school in a residential neighborhood.

Now this is not a residential school and no longer belongs in a residential neighborhood.


Nancy Tuck
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:22 pm
Nancy Tuck, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:22 pm
25 people like this

THANK YOU, PTC, for furthering the Castilleja renovation and enrollment increase in the right direction. As a neighbor of the school, I am excited about the more attractive buildings and landscaping. As a neighbor on Melville, I have NO concerns about the garage. I hope the City Council will see the advantages to taking the parking and traffic underground. I have witnessed the extraordinary efforts and impact of the TDM, and have no worry that the school won't continue to be an excellent and conscientious part of the community. And as the parent of an alumna, I am pleased to see that you approved the enrollment increase. I would love to see more girls get the incredible education that mine did. This school is a gem for Palo Alto.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:40 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:40 pm
25 people like this

Perhaps one aspect of the school's TDM could be to give qualified Palo Alto girls priority for admission. They can walk, bike, skateboard, scoot and shuttle across town to school. This would augment the value of the school to its home city and reduce the number of students driving to school.


PC
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2020 at 11:48 am
PC, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 11:48 am
9 people like this

Thank you PTC members for your efforts and the time. No .org will want to invest in underground parking garage they are expensive. The school decided on it after all of the neighbors complained about cars parked on the road. We live in crescent park and don't sometimes get to park on our side of the street and have to walk a few blocks to park because lot of cars from downtown park in our area. We don't complain and put up signs saying you cannot park here. The school doesnt allow any of the students to park on the neighbors side already.

The underground parking will certainly help with not seeing many cars on the outside and it will certainly restore the feel of the residential neighborhood. you have put so many conditions on the use already. lets do the right thing by allowing the parking garage so that we dont have to see those cars on the outside and it will be safer for people on the bike. When people park on the curb side and open the doors its dangerous if they don't anticipate and open the car doors. The underground will make it safer for everyone. Its not fun to be hit by a opening door.


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2020 at 6:43 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 6:43 pm
20 people like this

Yesterday I read it will take only 2,600 signatures to put the Foothills Park issue on the ballot for the citizens of our fair city to decide. After hearing that I am left wondering how has this issue not been pushed to that logical and democratic end?

Let's get Castilleja's plan finalized, gather the 2,300 signatures (my family is ready to provide 5 registered voters) and let the citizens decide.

The Castilleja families should be the first residents to sign such a petition since they are 100% sure this is a great idea for their school and for Palo Alto. The ironic challenge, of course, is that two thirds of Casti families (or more) don't live in town and will be unable to sign or vote on the proposition. No doubt they will help fund a slick campaign though!


Duveneck neighbor
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2020 at 9:01 am
Duveneck neighbor, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2020 at 9:01 am
20 people like this

A public school attempting these changes would face direct and indirect public approval: through a bond measure to fund the renovations; and, through elected officials.

Why does a private school not face similar controls? The PTC is not an elected body.

The process so far, smells. Therefore, expect fierce public opposition at Council.

And stop the “female education“ ploy. We all care about education, and some of us have made substantive contributions to improve the environment for female education, and for education for underrepresented minorities, over the last fifty years. This issue is about power and privilege. Full stop.


Other questions
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2020 at 9:11 am
Other questions, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2020 at 9:11 am
3 people like this

Did PTC consider the effect of autonomous vehicles? By the time this thing might be built, such will likely be available. The entire basis for the traffic impact assumptions by PTC may be moot.

Further, many students commute by train. With CalTrain electrification, the station/stop at Embarcadero could be reactivated, thus eliminating many vehicle interactions with surface road infrastructure.

Finally, what fraction of the student body comes from families comprising low-income and under represented minorities? If this fraction is low, then the project is obviously about privilege; and we have already more than enough in our fair city, and so don’t need more.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 22, 2020 at 10:27 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2020 at 10:27 am
22 people like this

"Further, many students commute by train. With CalTrain electrification, the station/stop at Embarcadero could be reactivated, thus eliminating many vehicle interactions with surface road infrastructure."

Who knew there were trains running in Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Portola Valley, etc.

"Did PTC consider the effect of autonomous vehicles? By the time this thing might be built, such will likely be available. The entire basis for the traffic impact assumptions by PTC may be moot"

Did they shrink the autonomous vehicles so they take up less room on the roads and cause less congestion? Have they been taught yet to yield politely to cars that have backed 3/4 of the way out of their driveways?


Other questions
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2020 at 6:14 pm
Other questions, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 23, 2020 at 6:14 pm
2 people like this

@Online Name

Your statements miss the points:

I’ve seen many Castilleja students riding CalTrain each day, but walking the considerable distance from downtown PA. I’m obviously talking about those students, not those coming from the communities you set forward mistakenly as exemplar for all Castilleja students.

A typical Castilleja student arriving by private vehicle arrives one per car. An autonomous car could carry four students easily, and six at a pinch. An autonomous SUV or small bus could double or triple that number.

Of course an autonomous vehicle can handle the red herring counter example you offer.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 23, 2020 at 6:26 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 23, 2020 at 6:26 pm
12 people like this

Got a breakdown of where the Casti students come from? Sure, a few might take CalTrain but how many? You're still missing the point that CalTrain doesn't reach students' homes in the communities I mentioned and they still have to get to/from school and/or their CalTrain station to get to downtown PA.

So an autonomous car can carry the same number as regular cars? So what's your point?


B
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2020 at 10:05 pm
B, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 23, 2020 at 10:05 pm
2 people like this

Great news! So much tension about education is odd!


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 24, 2020 at 1:45 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 24, 2020 at 1:45 am
24 people like this

It's not about "education" but the long-term effects the expansion will have on the neighborhood and traffic and the short-term effects of constructions on one of the three 101 connectors, esp. since University Ave is closed and San Antonio's facing major construction.


PACC Reputation - New and Old
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2020 at 11:17 am
PACC Reputation - New and Old, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 11:17 am
9 people like this

@Absolutely Ridiculous

"This is crazy. Cheat and lie for over a decade and then demand that you be given more students and a huge increase in space and ability to annoy the neighborhood."

I believe you. Having observed other debates at City Hall.

I believe there is massive deception with PACC members and with City Hall. I'm not near Castilleja or that impacted by their actions but I care about how city government behaves.

There's been insinuation about there being an "old" Palo Alto and a "new" Palo Alto. I realize meant to be about age, that somehow the older people don't want change and the younger people do. I kind of feel cheated and lied to by both - the older folks created the system that never changed to prevent lies and cheating and stood by all the lies and cheating.

Now what? Does PACC's reputation matter? The outgoing majority is effectively gone, how compromised are the members of the supposed "new" current majority, what games now?

Hoping for a "new new" Palo Alto that can stop the lying and cheating that year around gets packaged as "reasonable" compromise or consensus or whatever term to gloss over.


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