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Castilleja School claims Palo Alto's move to reduce proposed garage is illegal

New letter alleges city is acting unlawfully in demanding smaller parking facility as approval process drags on

Castilleja School in Palo Alto on Oct. 28, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In an abrupt change of tone, Castilleja School argued in a letter this week that Palo Alto's proposals to reduce the size of the school's proposed underground garage is illegal and that the city's process for reviewing its redevelopment application violates the U.S. Constitution.

The letter, authored on behalf of Castilleja by attorney David Lanferman, was submitted just over a week before the Planning and Transportation Commission is scheduled to hold its public hearing on the contentious campus redevelopment plan, which calls for replacing three existing buildings and constructing an underground garage.

The proposal has already undergone numerous revisions, with Castilleja reducing the size of the garage twice in response to neighborhood concerns and the City Council's direction. Despite this revision and many others, the proposal remains mired in the city's planning process. After both the Planning and Transportation Commission and the Architectural Review Board voted in 2020 to support the plan following nine public hearings, the council in March kicked the project back to these panels for further reviews. The council also demanded that the garage be reduced in size so that it would contain no more than 57 spaces, which is half of the spaces that Castilleja is required to provide.

In the new letter, Lanferman maintains that the council's move to scale back the garage in Castilleja's application runs counter to the city's zoning code, its Comprehensive Plan and the city's precedent. He also took issue with the suggestions from council members and project opponents that underground garages are illegal in low-density residential areas and that, if approved, they should be counted toward the project's overall square footage.

Neither of these restrictions, Lanferman noted, applied to Congregation Kol Emeth, a congregation that was allowed to rebuild its synagogue in an R-1 zone and construct a 109-space underground parking facility, which did not count toward the project's square footage. In the case of Castilleja, meanwhile, the city is exploring requiring the school to obtain a "text amendment" from the city before it could win approval for the garage.

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Lanferman calls the proposal for a text amendment, which the planning commission is set to discuss, as "arbitrary," "irrational" and "unnecessary." Requiring it, he argued, would "deprive Castilleja of its constitutionally protected rights to equal protection." The letter cites the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states to deny a person in its jurisdiction the "equal protection of the law."

"Here, the City is proposing to treat Castilleja differently from how it is has treated other similarly situated developments," the letter states. "The larger Congregation Kol Emeth underground parking facility was not counted as gross floor area. Requiring the text amendment as a precondition for approval of the Castilleja Project when none was needed for Congregation Kol Emeth raises obvious concerns of disparate treatment."

The letter represents a toughening stance from the school, which has spent more than five years trying to get its redevelopment plan across the finish line. Lanferman, an attorney at the firm Rutan & Tucker LLC, has a long history of litigation against the city. He represented AJ Capital in its proposal to convert the President Hotel from an apartment building to a boutique hotel, a deeply unpopular project that only received city approval after threats of litigation. Lanferman represented the developer of Edgewood Plaza after it was fined by the city for failing to attract a grocery store as required by the "planned community" zone that facilitated the plaza's renovation. He also had represented John and Forrest Mozart, who had challenged the city's "inclusionary housing" law, which requires housing developers to either designate a portion of their projects to below-market-rate units or to pay an in-lieu fee. And three years ago, he represented Michal Alcheck, who recently concluded his 10-year term on the planning commission, as Alcheck was trying to obtain building permits for two garages.

Lanferman also is currently representing developer Charles "Chop" Keenan, who has argued that the city has failed to follow the law in its refusal to use the parking fees it collects from developers to build new garages in the downtown area.

In the case of Castilleja, Lanferman is arguing that the city's actions toward the school violate not only the law but also the city's own policies. The Comprehensive Plan, he notes, strongly encourages underground garages in lieu of surface parking lots. Thus, he wrote, the proposed text amendment "appears vulnerable to challenge as an arbitrary and irrational action (without consideration of appropriate land use planning principles."

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The letter does not explicitly threaten litigation but requests the planning commission to "provide clear direction with minimal further requests of Staff and Castilleja so that Project review can proceed in accordance with the PTC's prior positive recommendation for approval."

The commission plans to hold its next hearing on the Castilleja proposal on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at which time it will consider the school's parking plans and a conditional use permit that would allow the school to expand its student population. While Castilleja is hoping to gradually increase enrollment from the current level of 422 to 540, opponents of the project as well as some council members and commissioners have said at prior hearings that they would favor a more modest student increase.

During recent meetings on the project, the reaction to the proposal has been mixed. A group of neighbors, including those affiliated with the group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now, has persistently called for the school to scale back its plans and eliminate the garage. Many others, however, have argued that the planning process has gone on for far too long and that the school's proposal merits support.

Lesley King, who owns a home about a block away from the school, told the commission at the Dec. 8 hearing that it's "well past time to find a middle path that serves all parties."

"At this point, though, I'm troubled that even though the Architectural Review Board and, you, the Planning and Transportation Commission have acknowledged that this is a project that should be approved, the staff report and the guidance from council do not heed that advice and instead have raised some seemingly arbitrary numbers and incomplete data to stall progress," King said.

But Rob Levitsky, who also lives next to Castilleja and who strongly opposes its redevelopment, argued at that hearing that a large underground garage does not belong in a single-family neighborhood.

"If Castilleja really wants 500 to 600 students, it's time to move or open another campus like so many others do," Levitsky said.

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Castilleja School claims Palo Alto's move to reduce proposed garage is illegal

New letter alleges city is acting unlawfully in demanding smaller parking facility as approval process drags on

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jan 14, 2022, 9:46 am

In an abrupt change of tone, Castilleja School argued in a letter this week that Palo Alto's proposals to reduce the size of the school's proposed underground garage is illegal and that the city's process for reviewing its redevelopment application violates the U.S. Constitution.

The letter, authored on behalf of Castilleja by attorney David Lanferman, was submitted just over a week before the Planning and Transportation Commission is scheduled to hold its public hearing on the contentious campus redevelopment plan, which calls for replacing three existing buildings and constructing an underground garage.

The proposal has already undergone numerous revisions, with Castilleja reducing the size of the garage twice in response to neighborhood concerns and the City Council's direction. Despite this revision and many others, the proposal remains mired in the city's planning process. After both the Planning and Transportation Commission and the Architectural Review Board voted in 2020 to support the plan following nine public hearings, the council in March kicked the project back to these panels for further reviews. The council also demanded that the garage be reduced in size so that it would contain no more than 57 spaces, which is half of the spaces that Castilleja is required to provide.

In the new letter, Lanferman maintains that the council's move to scale back the garage in Castilleja's application runs counter to the city's zoning code, its Comprehensive Plan and the city's precedent. He also took issue with the suggestions from council members and project opponents that underground garages are illegal in low-density residential areas and that, if approved, they should be counted toward the project's overall square footage.

Neither of these restrictions, Lanferman noted, applied to Congregation Kol Emeth, a congregation that was allowed to rebuild its synagogue in an R-1 zone and construct a 109-space underground parking facility, which did not count toward the project's square footage. In the case of Castilleja, meanwhile, the city is exploring requiring the school to obtain a "text amendment" from the city before it could win approval for the garage.

Lanferman calls the proposal for a text amendment, which the planning commission is set to discuss, as "arbitrary," "irrational" and "unnecessary." Requiring it, he argued, would "deprive Castilleja of its constitutionally protected rights to equal protection." The letter cites the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states to deny a person in its jurisdiction the "equal protection of the law."

"Here, the City is proposing to treat Castilleja differently from how it is has treated other similarly situated developments," the letter states. "The larger Congregation Kol Emeth underground parking facility was not counted as gross floor area. Requiring the text amendment as a precondition for approval of the Castilleja Project when none was needed for Congregation Kol Emeth raises obvious concerns of disparate treatment."

The letter represents a toughening stance from the school, which has spent more than five years trying to get its redevelopment plan across the finish line. Lanferman, an attorney at the firm Rutan & Tucker LLC, has a long history of litigation against the city. He represented AJ Capital in its proposal to convert the President Hotel from an apartment building to a boutique hotel, a deeply unpopular project that only received city approval after threats of litigation. Lanferman represented the developer of Edgewood Plaza after it was fined by the city for failing to attract a grocery store as required by the "planned community" zone that facilitated the plaza's renovation. He also had represented John and Forrest Mozart, who had challenged the city's "inclusionary housing" law, which requires housing developers to either designate a portion of their projects to below-market-rate units or to pay an in-lieu fee. And three years ago, he represented Michal Alcheck, who recently concluded his 10-year term on the planning commission, as Alcheck was trying to obtain building permits for two garages.

Lanferman also is currently representing developer Charles "Chop" Keenan, who has argued that the city has failed to follow the law in its refusal to use the parking fees it collects from developers to build new garages in the downtown area.

In the case of Castilleja, Lanferman is arguing that the city's actions toward the school violate not only the law but also the city's own policies. The Comprehensive Plan, he notes, strongly encourages underground garages in lieu of surface parking lots. Thus, he wrote, the proposed text amendment "appears vulnerable to challenge as an arbitrary and irrational action (without consideration of appropriate land use planning principles."

The letter does not explicitly threaten litigation but requests the planning commission to "provide clear direction with minimal further requests of Staff and Castilleja so that Project review can proceed in accordance with the PTC's prior positive recommendation for approval."

The commission plans to hold its next hearing on the Castilleja proposal on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at which time it will consider the school's parking plans and a conditional use permit that would allow the school to expand its student population. While Castilleja is hoping to gradually increase enrollment from the current level of 422 to 540, opponents of the project as well as some council members and commissioners have said at prior hearings that they would favor a more modest student increase.

During recent meetings on the project, the reaction to the proposal has been mixed. A group of neighbors, including those affiliated with the group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now, has persistently called for the school to scale back its plans and eliminate the garage. Many others, however, have argued that the planning process has gone on for far too long and that the school's proposal merits support.

Lesley King, who owns a home about a block away from the school, told the commission at the Dec. 8 hearing that it's "well past time to find a middle path that serves all parties."

"At this point, though, I'm troubled that even though the Architectural Review Board and, you, the Planning and Transportation Commission have acknowledged that this is a project that should be approved, the staff report and the guidance from council do not heed that advice and instead have raised some seemingly arbitrary numbers and incomplete data to stall progress," King said.

But Rob Levitsky, who also lives next to Castilleja and who strongly opposes its redevelopment, argued at that hearing that a large underground garage does not belong in a single-family neighborhood.

"If Castilleja really wants 500 to 600 students, it's time to move or open another campus like so many others do," Levitsky said.

Comments

Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:26 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:26 am

Casti's lawyer seems to have quite the track record of defending developers who have to be sued to make them honor their commitments after years of stalling and pressure on the city to start fining them until they do.


Bill Glazier
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:55 am
Bill Glazier, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:55 am

If Casti wants to get nasty, I suggest a simple way to avoid all the trouble and expense. This is a discretionary planning and zoning approval. The City should just plain deny it, and tell them clearly they need to find another campus. They have proven they do not play nice - failing to live up to their historic agreements, and now choosing a confrontational approach.

Just tell them no, and let them go. Someplace else.


Chris
Registered user
University South
on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:28 am
Chris, University South
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:28 am

Bill Glazier,

Are you a land use attorney? Given the deep pockets of Castilleja and the Palo Alto's big deficits, I don't think your strategy will fly.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:48 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:48 am

What's the relationship between Casti's "deep pockets" and Palo Alto's big deficits? They don't pay taxes and so far as I can see, all Casti's done is run up PA's deficits by costing taxpayers lots of money in staff time, consultants, etc.


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 12:25 pm
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 12:25 pm

I’m relieved to see Castilleja take a stronger stand. The town committees need to approve this much compromised plan and let all of us go on with addressing bigger issues. This school was here long before most of the houses in this “residential area” and is a treasured part of our history. Let’s get the building renovated.


Local Resident
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2022 at 12:40 pm
Local Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 12:40 pm

The core problem is Castilleja wants to add too many students. Simply capping them at 450 students would solve many of these problems.


Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:10 pm
Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Paragraph 3 says it all. Castilleja has been through numerous revisions, reducing the garage twice, and even with approval from the ARB and the PTC, it’s never enough. The school has been working toward compromise for years, and no one seems to be meeting them halfway. There is precedent. This isn’t fair treatment. The letter seems to be an effective tool to address that issue.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:16 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:16 pm

Please just let Castilleja find another place! Really, getting nasty is not want we want in Palo Alto. Please planning group, deny their request and let them seek a new location like all the other local private schools have done. Enough is enough.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:30 pm
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 1:30 pm

I am surprised it took this long for Castilleja to do something like this since it's been clear for a while that the city only listens to a legal threat (see Foothills Park, President's Hotel, etc.). The key sentence to me is the request to "provide clear direction with minimal further requests of Staff and Castilleja so that Project review can proceed in accordance with the PTC's prior positive recommendation for approval." There is only so much moving of goalposts that anyone can take.


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:19 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Based on my reading of things there is nothing illegal here. But, supposing there were, I have a proposal on how to redress it that seems to make sense in light of this issue's history.... Here's the proposal. We let the (allegedly) illegal behavior continue for a decade, after which the city will pay $300,000. After that, everyone can call it even? What is fairness if not reciprocity?


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:20 pm
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:20 pm

Palo Alto does not allow underground garages in Single Family Neighborhoods. The Planning Department was bending over backward to allow Castilleja to move ahead and even tried calling the underground garage as a basement. When the garage should be counted as part of the total square footage, Pat Burt was try to be nice to them and allowing them not to count the square footage if the garage was smaller. At that point, I already thought it was a mistake to allow this repeat violator of their Conditional Use Permit. Now Castilleja is still not happy and tries to bully the City into submission. So I think the best way is to go by the book without giving them any discretion by counting all the square footage. Then we will see if they can still build a garage according to the City law.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:58 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:58 pm

This is a very aggressive act by a school many, usually not in the immediate neighborhood, consider a "good neighbor".

Now that the PTC composition has changed and a "ringer" is no longer on the Commission, Castilleja gets tough. Very bad optics!!!!

Inconvenient timing, since their own Parking consultant, Fehr & Peers, in their 7/23/21 Castilleja Parking Study indicated a parking garage of any size was not necessary. "All parking needs could be met by Alternative 4, the Disbursed Circulation/No Garage alternative." So much for Pat Burt trying to find an acceptable solution by "spiting the baby".

I guess Castilleja's attorney is counting on PA's City Attorney folding at the mention of any lawsuit. DON'T DO IT MOLLY! We are watching and are sick of the special treatment afforded Castilleja.

A garage never should have been approved and would not have been approved except for "fancy semantics" by Mr. Lait and Ms. French. And bullying by a PTC Commissioner.

I hope the PTC and residents will read the 7/23/21 Fehr & Peers' Report as well as Dudek's 11/17/21 Castilleja School Building Survey and Gross Floor Area Assessment. Both tell a different story than the one promoted by the pro-Castellija faction.

I applaud the residents and neighbors who, for 5 long years, have fought back against Castilleja's power, friends in high places and expansion plans.

As a Castilleja parent, I believe their expansion plans should be accurately assessed with all available information and returned to the drawing board. If Castilleja had not asked for so much, their new campus could have been completed by now. Thank you.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:14 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:14 pm

S. Underwood.... very tongue in cheek email.

But it would only be fair, if during those many years of non- compliance, the City earned $12 Million dollars in some sort of fees from Castilleja equal to the estimated $12 Million dollars Castilleja earned on the extra tuition allowed by over enrollment. That equals a return on investment, the fine, of 4,500%. I do wish PA could figure out how to do this!

An amazing investment! And Castilleja can claim the "higher ground", by saying Castilleja has paid their dues...but only for 3 years of over-enrollment.

This certainly is not my definition of FAIR; rather it meets the definition of SHREWD.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:00 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:00 pm

Simple. Time to permanently cap their enrollment at a maximum 450 students.

Unfortunately for Casti, as they so clearly demonstrate in their lawyer's letter, this is about the bigger picture and the council setting precedents that residents in all of Palo Alto's R1 neighborhoods will have to live with in future.

Developers must be eagerly watching for precedents the city will set for Casti which they too can take advantage of in the future.


EYC
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:45 pm
EYC, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:45 pm

I live two blocks from Casti. I see cars waiting in line on Bryant and Embarcadero at pick up time everyday. Given the future for Churchill crossing is up in the air now, Embarcadero St might be heavily overloaded. Casti should let go the garage building and keep the current enrollment.


Old PA Resident
Registered user
Southgate
on Jan 14, 2022 at 5:45 pm
Old PA Resident, Southgate
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 5:45 pm

I'm glad to see Casti put more pressure on this ridiculous process. It seems like they've jumped thru hoops to satisfy changing objections put up by a small number of residents who likely don't want to be inconvenienced by a construction project. Casti can only increase enrollment if there's no measurable change to local street traffic, so it can't be concerns about traffic or school size - those seem like excuses to create doubt and stall. This has cost our town much money and time - but it seems like it's the fault of an unreasonable small minority that has been running the clock and running up our bills.

The school has been here for longer than all of us and is world famous, we should support to modernize so we can be proud of their campus. Wonder if Casti was a boys school if people would feel as free to criticize or put roadblocks in their way. It's like Casti is proving the whole point for why girls' schools are still needed. It's time to let them move forward with this project.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2022 at 6:39 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 6:39 pm

I keep saying the same thing... if any of the students are in a team sport, they HAVE to have a way to get to practice. I know a few are in rowing and getting to practice on time is critical. So, please realize that whatever is proposed is not accurate. Students who are on a sports team MUST have a way to get to practice and that is not public transport. Just look at the cars parked on the streets. Easy to move cars to a new location for the 2 hour limit. Please stop shutting your eyes to the facts.


ArtL
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 8:33 pm
ArtL, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 8:33 pm

They have presented a sensible and reasonable plan. I think Council has been overly critical of what has been proposed because of the failure of the school to abide by previous attendance limits. It's time to let the school modernize its facilities and for the community, whose concerns have been taken into account, to move on


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:07 pm
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:07 pm

We should all be asking why Castilleja is pushing so hard to have a garage. If they are really only want to increase the enrollment to 540, then why they are pushing so hard to build the garage first. Unless 540 is only the starting point. After they build the garage, then they will continue to push for expansion and having more students to flood the neighborhood with more traffic.
Castilleja claims to be innovative. Why can't they come up with an innovative eco-friendly solution to really fix their traffic problem instead of insisting on bringing more cars to jam up Palo Alto streets as an excuse for an underground garage. Why can't Castilleja be more like other private schools that do not allow students to drive to school. Castilleja is over 100 year old and still living in the past by insisting to allow their students to drive to school. When will Castilleja be willing to face the reality that is not a solution fo the future?


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:19 am
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:19 am

“Old Palo Alto” above points out Casti has been here longer than the neighborhood homes, which appears to be being used as justification for the school’s expansion.

However, for the vast majority of those years Casti was a small boarding school with a few local day pupils with minimal neighborhood impacts. A small residential school in a residential neighborhood.

In terms of neighborhood impacts, Casti as a day school is a relatively new entity in the neighborhood. Whose reincarnation as a day school occurred only a few decades ago. With a conditional use permit, as I recall, for between 300 and 350 students. While Palo Alto has allowed Casti to grow to its current size, that does not give Casti the right as a day school in a residential neighborhood to continuously expand. However many plans they present and however many years they spend continuously asking for more.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:25 am
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:25 am

There is a bit of history about the land that Casti wants to use for a garage. I am not sure everyone knows it.

Thirty years ago, that land was a part of Melville Street, owned by the city. Casti asked the city to gift it so that it could be used as a field, which they needed for athletics.

With few restrictions, the city gave Casti the land. As was pointed out at the time, it is very rare for cities to give away or sell roads or parts of roads since it is very hard to get them back if you need them. But Palo Alto wanted to be generous and kind.

Now, the entire focus of this contentious and divisive development is this gift from the city.

The city would do well to take a harder line for such requests in the future.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:39 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:39 am

The city GAVE Casti the land, as in gave at no charge??]

How special that the city could help such a needy institution which then turned around and broke the law for many years by violating the its enrollment cap AND costing the city and neighbors a fortune in staff time, legal fees, consultants etc.

Casti's such an inspiration to us all as it teaches its girls and the community values such as gratitude, respect for the law, consideration for its neighbors, humility, fairness etc.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:48 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:48 am

This process could have ended long ago but for the school's insistence on the garage. So stubborn. And arrogant. And contrary to the environmental goal of reducing GHG emissions. I agree with Lanferman that it is time for “clear direction with minimal further requests”. The PTC and CC should eliminate any vagueness that might exist here and simply say NO to the garage. The CC did that in 2019 when it voted unanimously to not go forward with the proposed and promised downtown garage. In her comments, former mayor Kniss apologized to the business community and noted that CC had made climate change and sustainability a top priority at their 2019 retreat, saying that "times had changed" and that "our commitment to climate change and sustainability is very real”. In the intervening 3 years, climate issues have only worsened. Losing the garage doesn’t kill the project (their own consultant concluded that the garage is not necessary) unless Castilleja chooses to let it.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:52 am
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:52 am

@Online Name,

Yes, the city did not charge for the land or even consider such a move.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2022 at 9:45 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 9:45 am

@smithjr: thank you for that tidbit of history. Talk about no good deed going unpunished! Here's hoping the City doesn't compound that error by approving the garage.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:00 am
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:00 am

Thank you rsmithjr for writing about the City giving or vacating the 200 block of Melville when Castilleja asked for it. Many people do not know this and would be outraged to learn of this special treatment.

This equaled around 0.6 acres of land,. NICE GIFT to a rich non-profit! I have heard but not confirmed the land was to be left open to the public but was not with the creation of Speiker Field. Approximately 20 public parking spots were lost.

Not only that...there is more!

The City sold to Castilleja a small adjacent property for $1,500.00. I do not believe there was a open/ competitive "bidding process", as I believe, is required. AND the the city council also allowed Castilleja, if and when they purchased the homes on the 200 block of Melville, to join this property into their campus.

Under the 200 block of Melville, now part of Castilleja's campus, is the Main sewer line for many home on Melville.

This is why Castilleja requested a special ruling from the City allowing them to build part of their tunnel (from the garage to the campus) several feet under the sewer line. This "special request" has been very hush-hush. Not even a June, 2021 public records request answered my question as to if and when this request, a Utility Easement, was granted.

If granted, will the City hold Castilleja, a $123M non-profit, responsible for any construction or future damage to the sewer line or does, once again, the Palo Alto taxpayer get stuck with the bill?

So many questions! So hard to get accurate answers. This is why many of us, living in Palo Alto, do NOT consider Castilleja a good neighbor. Or trust the process to date regarding their expansion. Thank you.


Bill Bucy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:10 am
Bill Bucy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:10 am

The city budget should contain a separate line item for 'spending related to Castilleja School's request for expansion.' Better still would be a monthly Castilleja financial rundown to the council that is shared with the public. At least then the debate over this debacle could focus on a practicality rather than such arcane matters as whether the school has rights under the 14th Amendment or the difficulties the rowing team faces getting to practice on time.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:54 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:54 am

Indeed, let's stop worrying about the rowing team getting to practice on time and START worrying about the tens of thousands of drivers who DAILY battle the slowdowns and gridlock on Embarcadero without making THEIR lives worse.

"The City sold to Castilleja a small adjacent property for $1,500.00. I do not believe there was a open/ competitive "bidding process", as I believe, is required. AND the the city council also allowed Castilleja, if and when they purchased the homes on the 200 block of Melville, to join this property into their campus."

Who knew there were ANY Palo Alto properties priced at $1,500.00? Silly me, I used to joke that Palo Alto properties were missing a zero vs East Coast property prices; who knew they were such a bargain.

Seriously, these giveaways and this whole costly "process" has been and continues to be outrageous and an insult to the taxpayers who have to listen to the city plead poverty and claim they're too broke to restore all the services they've cut.

I second the request for an accounting of land giveaways, wasted staff time, uncollected fines for being over enrollment, cost of consultants etc etc.

Now that we have a relatively unbiased PTC without Casti ties, let's finally just say NO.

Let's also remind the "planning" staff that 75% of Casti students drive from out of town as it diligently hones its plans to reduce OUR car trips AND restrict OUR movements to places within 15 MINUTES via bike, walking and public transit (as per their CC presentation 2 weeks ago).



Now that we have a relatively unbiased PTC without Casti ties, let's finally just say NO. Let's also remind the "planning" staff that 75% of Casti students drive from out of town as it hones its plans to reduce OUR car trips AND restrict OUR movements to places within 15 MINUTES via bike, walking and public transit (as per their CC presentation 2 weeks ago).


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:52 am
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:52 am

Castilleja continues to push their plan to extract tens of thousands of tons of earth to build an underground cement bunker to bring in more cars and create more congestion. It is laughable that while we are facing the reality of climate change daily, their supporters are still blindly following them by calling their plan as "sensible and reasonable". While Castilleja claims they will have a LEED certified building plan but why can't they design a truly workable NO GARAGE plan that is good for the environment by reducing their traffic impact to the city and the neighborhood?


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2022 at 12:39 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 12:39 pm

@cmarg: what point are you making? Surely it cannot be that the City should ignore inconvenient truths such as climate change and approve a plan that includes a huge garage b/c that is needed so that girls can hop in their personal vehicle and drive to rowing practice. City planners are pushing EVERYONE to drive less. Mother Nature is exhorting EVERYONE to drive less. I am not aware of an exception for Castilleja, although it appears that is precisely what they are seeking.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Jan 15, 2022 at 3:51 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Annette, I am saying that Castilleja is not being 100% honest about their situation. They would do well to move to a new location and build a larger campus that supports educating girls. It is just becoming so repetitive to keep saying that there is not integrity present within the Castilleja plan; actions speak louder than words and it has been years of Castilleja saying they will abide by the rules and not following the rules. And, for whatever reason, Palo Alto Planning is not pushing back and they are not penalizing Castilleja for not following the rules.

We need less cars, we need to be in a community of honest and upright people who are aligned to have a healthy and environmentally focused city and world. Given the majority of students are outside of Palo Alto, it seems like a no-brainer to move the campus or create a second campus elsewhere. Keys School, Pinewood, and Harker all created second campuses. I cannot comprehend why this request has not been shut down from the city. So much time and energy is being spent on this request. There are many more important things we need to do as a community.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2022 at 7:05 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 7:05 pm

@cmarg: thank you for the clarification. I think there are many reasons why this project has attracted so much attention. It is easy to imagine the traffic impacts given that the school is bordered by Embarcadero, a main thoroughfare used by many of us each day. It is also easy to appreciate the many ways an enterprise such as Castilleja impacts the neighborhood it is in. Then there's the credibility issue. And the conflict that existed during the time that former Planning Commissioner Alcheck was involved in the review of the school's plans, doing his best to bulldoze a path to approval. And the tabulation of sf error that had to be remedied. That did nothing to enhance the school’s credibility. And trying to get the garage classified as a basement. That also did nothing to enhance the school’s credibility. Then there are the many issues associated with the garage which is an affront to the City’s sustainability goals. No one disagrees that the school does a great job of educating young women (I was glad to have the opportunity to send my daughter there) but that does not convey a green light for an over-reaching expansion plan.


PatMarkevitch
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:02 pm
PatMarkevitch, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 8:02 pm

Rowing teams generally will practice very early in the morning (before school hours) when the water is calm.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2022 at 8:00 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 16, 2022 at 8:00 am

The Kol Emeth project got underway in 2018, prior to City Council prioritizing climate change and sustainability.

As Kniss said in February 2019 priot to voting against the promised downtown garage, the times have changed. During the time since the Kol Emeth garage was approved we have seen our sky turned orange and black for days from distant wildfires. That was 2020 and since then there has been a steady stream of frighteningly disruptive weather disasters that have taken lives. And we are told this will continue. Timing matters. A more reasonable Castilleja expansion plan might well have been approved and possibly even built by now. Given what Castilleja’s 5 Cs stand for (courage, conscience, courtesy, charity, and character) it is disappointing that the school has dug in its heels over this and not settled on a way to modernize and expand without the garage.


Longtime PA res
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:06 am
Longtime PA res, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:06 am

This fact that a garage has even been considered at all when residents are not allowed underground garages is a sticking point in Castilleja’s already over reaching and disruptive plans within the neighborhood. [Portion removed.] All I can conclude is that Castilleja is really getting desperate… doing a 1,2, 3 punch by trying to bully the city with its means to get approval.
1) Hiring a lawyer to argue that reducing the garage size is illegal when neighbors have been prohibited to building them for years!
2) Pressuring the principal of the Fehr and Peers, a traffic consultant to write a local paper to defend a position that a very astute citizen pointed out about having enough parking spaces without a garage. Never have I seen a professional have to write a letter to the editor in the Palo Alto weekly to explain a position in their client’s report.
3) And running a full page ad with 6 quotes from school supporters to ask residents to support this plan.
I wish that immediate neighbors could afford the big money that Castilleja's multi-million endowment is throwing into this [portion removed.]

For all of the Castilleja supporters accusations that the goal posts were moved, the school’s narrative has not changed. In fact this long drawn out affair is of Castilleja’s own doing.  Spending many years rebranding its expansion plans to a “modernization” plan while requesting a student enrollment increase, touting its LEED building while insisting on a polluting, environmentally hazardous garage, and now this last desperate [portion removed] tactic to get their plans approved among other things have all served to delay the process.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:41 am
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:41 am

PatMarkevitch, my including rowing as a team sport was just an example. In my experience, there are late afternoon rowing practices, especially for 1st year rowers. I also realize other team sports practice in late afternoon. My point is that several team sports practice in late afternoon and people have other afternoon commitments; a school indicating that everyone or the majority will take public transit is not a realistic. Again, it is best to be upfront about the situation. Just hoping we can get to being honest and think of others versus having self interests.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 16, 2022 at 11:33 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 16, 2022 at 11:33 am

@Annette, excellent posts about Casti's values and about former Planning Commissioner Alcheck's professional/legal conflicts. Given the way he monopolized meetings, prolonging them until people left and his long harangue from the podium at a 90-yr-old woman that prompted protests from the audience, he's hardly an embodiment of Casti's professed values.

The same "logic" about calling a garage a basement smacks of their similar claim that trees are protected except for when they conveniently aren't.

@cmarg, why is it unrealistic for Casti girls to take public transit when the city's Climate Action Plan details who the city wants us to restrict our lives to where we can get to via foot, public transit and bike? Why are they entitled to exceptions and the rest of us who pay PA taxes aren't? Are they going to restrict commuters to 15 minutes from where they live?


RDR
Registered user
another community
23 hours ago
RDR, another community
Registered user
23 hours ago

So people should notice that the argument put forth by Castilleja makes sense. Why on earth would the city try to limit the size of underground parking when they already limit the school enrollment? Basically the city is just trying to require the the school have a lot of cars sitting around at ground level where they can be seen. Doesn't make much sense no matter how you slice it.

The constitution says government has to be fair and its regulations must not deprive citizens of their property rights, no matter what demands are made by the neighbors. When they put underground parking into the general plan, it has to apply to everyone!


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
22 hours ago
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
22 hours ago

How interesting that the constitution says government has to be fair and must not deprive citizens of their property rights. If we are to be fair and Casti has to abide by the same rules as the rest of us, in that location they aren’t allowed to do much, if anything, that they want to do.








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