As head of Castilleja School, I would like to respond to your recent article about steps we were forced to take last week to curtail years of trespassing, vandalism, and theft on school grounds.
First of all, I want to point out the difference between the random sign stealing that has taken place throughout our community, and the protracted illegal activity we have been subjected to on campus by what appears in our security video to be a single person.
It is true that lawn signs expressing views from both sides of the debate have been stolen from private homes around the city, mine included. I am disappointed to learn that Mr. Ng's were among them. We will continue to remind our large base of supporters that respect and freedom of speech are essential to Castilleja's core values and mission.
While this behavior is completely unacceptable, it is not the reason that Castilleja recently sought and was granted a temporary restraining order. That action was taken in response to a single individual's repeated and escalating illegal activity on our campus. We had hoped a Cease and Desist letter, sent in May 2018, would deter the individual. Unfortunately, video footage of continued activity prompted the Palo Alto Police to recommend that we request a restraining order; a judge subsequently issued the temporary order last week.
The difference between the actions of this individual and those occurring randomly around the city is a very important one when we consider that Castilleja is a school, where campus security is paramount. I feel it is essential to add that distinction to this conversation. This is not a story about sign stealing; it is about maintaining campus security and protecting our students.
Train trench would be better
Regarding the Weekly's Feb.1 editorial, "The case for a train viaduct in Palo Alto": Such a plan with grade-level crossings at Charleston and Meadow Drive is easy to execute but would be hard to live with. A viaduct would visually slice through town for the next 100 years. In the future, jet backpacks may move commuters or they may be shot through vacuum tunnels, but trains will always be needed to transport bulk materials at low cost.
Consider this: Three miles of elevated rails from San Antonio to just south of downtown. Three miles of concrete pillars. Or three miles of sound walls 25 or 30 feet tall. If the sound wall is carried by the viaduct, it has to be designed to survive a powerful earthquake. This means more concrete pillars to support the viaduct. Hardly an inviting green space underneath for bikers or pedestrians.
Palo Alto is not a country village with one or two trains coming through daily. Placing the Caltrain rails in a modest trench, say 15 feet deep, would not scar the town visually. It would cost a lot, but City Hall could tighten its belt and think about a hundred-year solution.
Here's an idea: Do we need five libraries in this day when we have the internet that provides an information revolution that spans the world? Or an airport that serves a tiny segment of our population but allows city leaders to puff out their chests as they say,"Palo Alto has an airport!"
These or similar decisions are hard choices for our leaders. Will they survive a hundred-year judgment?
Stop the President Hotel conversion
Palo Alto has for several years made efforts to deal with the jobs versus housing and parking imbalance, particularly in the downtown and California Avenue business districts. The President Hotel was one of the last bastions of reasonably priced downtown housing. We are now faced with a national real estate developer whose vice president of development, Tim Franzen, is in pursuit of the AJ corporate mission: "exploiting misalignments between low-quality, highly commoditized offerings and the consumers' appreciation and desire for authentic experiences."
Toward that end, the President would be converted to a 100 room hotel with just 12 parking spaces. There's no apparent concern for the housing and parking for customers or staff (housekeeping, maintenance, food service, etc.) or impact on Palo Alto. .
I urge the City Council to stop this conversion and look for ways to serve those who elected them: Keep the President for housing residents on limited incomes, who contribute daily to the positive quality of life we all hope for in Palo Alto. Mr. Franzen's Illinois real-estate license does not entitle him to tell the City Council and/or the Planning Commission how to manage Palo Alto's problems, but those officials can tell him to pursue his goals elsewhere.
Many of us would be happy to give him directions!.
A more enlightened world?
I recently saw the remarkable film "Greenbook," about troubled race relations in the South of the 1960s. In the theater near me was a family with a boy about 11 years old. The boy was polite and well-mannered, but as this story of segregation unfolded I observed that at least outwardly he did not seem at all engaged by the subject. So I turned to speculation, and my mind rejected the too-easy inference that he was bored; instead, I imagined that perhaps the movie did not really register with him because he had grown up in an enlightened and integrated world, so that he simply had no conception of how the world depicted in the film could even exist.
Yes, I know my somewhat whimsical thought may seem naive and unrealistic, but I'm glad I indulged it. At least while in the theater I enjoyed and found hope in the notion that there will be a generation soon for whom that world will seem like it's from another planet.
Students need to feel safe
I'm writing to share a perspective that I feel wasn't included in your reporting about Castilleja School. As a parent of a Castilleja student, I had noticed signs disappearing or being damaged around campus. However, discovering that the activity included slicing signs with box cutters and covering them with troubling (if not hateful) stickers convinced me that the school had no other option but to take swift legal action.
I am grateful there is now a restraining order in place. Students walk to and from school every day, crossing the edges of campus where all of this was happening, and the school leadership took all the right steps to safeguard campus.
I remain grateful to and impressed by the adults in the Castilleja community as they weather this process while keeping their mission and the girl's well-being at the very center of their thoughts and actions.
A campus is not a place to overlook illegal activity. No parents would want that for their children.
More traffic jams coming
I have owned a home opposite Castilleja School for 50 years. Our family watched helplessly as it regularly swelled enrollment, created traffic congestion, noise and parking issues. Now the privately owned business in a residential district is proposing a multi-million dollar expansion while adding 30 percent more students (to what is already the most dense student/acre school in Palo Alto).
Our city has been strangely complicit in Castilleja's long-standing over-enrollment in violation of its current conditional-use permit.
Want more traffic jams from Embarcadero Road to Town & Country Village? Folks, they are coming.
Why the opposing vote?
Last week, in a 4-1 vote, the Palo Alto school board decided to request mediation in its dispute with a high school student who filed a Title IX complaint last year. It would be interesting to know why board member Ken Dauber, who has been an outspoken supporter of exhaustive efforts to ensure that the school district "stays on the right side" of the Obama administration's aggressive interpretation of the Title IX law, decided to cast the lone dissenting vote.
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