Letters to the editor | August 23, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 23, 2019

Letters to the editor

So long, Prolific Oven


Growing up in Palo Alto in the '90s, one of our family's Saturday rituals was shopping at the farmers market on Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street. Such outings required sustenance, so we would first drop in at the Prolific Oven for breakfast. There, I would order a cheese danish and slowly unwind the pastry perimeter, eating as I went, before chomping down on its creamy core.

My wife, who I met at Gunn High School, also grew up on Prolific Oven pastries. We disagreed on which cake was their best — me, carrot; her, mocha — but when we got engaged in 2013, there was no question that Prolific would be supplying our wedding cake.

After we moved away, a trip back home wasn't really complete without a pilgrimage to Prolific.

Sadly, year after year, the bakery started to look increasingly out of place as more and more upscale chains moved in, and University Avenue started to look more and more like Santana Row or an extension of Stanford Shopping Center.

I was heartbroken this week when I read that they were shutting their doors after 39 years. For me, it's the latest in a long line of closures of my favorite childhood spots, from Palo Alto Toy and Sport to Palo Alto Bowl.

I shouldn't be surprised: Silicon Valley is not known for holding on to the old or the nostalgic. Still, I'm sad that there are an infinite number of places to get a $5 pour-over and a gluten-free croissant, but those cheese danishes are gone.

Erik Petigura

Carson Street, Culver City

(Formerly: Magnolia Drive, Palo Alto)

More traffic coming


In my opinion, Palo Alto has major traffic problems right now with traffic all over the city. Many cities are faced with similar problems. If and when the Stanford University expansion goes forward, Palo Alto High School and other schools in the area will have an increase in students.

Streets such as El Camino Real, Embarcadero Road, Oregon Expressway, Alma Street and many others will be impacted, as well as the freeways.

Caltrain's electrification will also be taking place and road closures will be inevitable, plus major construction will occur.

Castilleja School also wants to expand by over 100 students. They want to build an underground parking garage with an entrance off of Embarcadero and Bryant Street and exit onto Emerson Street and Embarcadero.

Stanford expansion, Caltrain's electrification, Castilleja expansion: Wll any of these major projects alleviate any of our traffic problems that exist today?

Let us figure out how to reduce our carbon footprint for all of our futures.

Neva Yarkin

Churchill Avenue, Palo Alto

Support Castilleja


Having lived near Castilleja School for 40 years, I can attest to its many contributions to our community.

With respect specifically to environmental impact, Castilleja is a very respectful neighbor, having gone to great lengths to mitigate traffic and parking demands as the town has grown up around it. In my view, the school provides a park-like buffer for the residents that surround it. The school's master plan proposes a green and architecturally inspired design and asks for no additional square footage above ground.

Within just a few blocks of Castilleja, prodigious additions have been constructed at Stanford University, Palo Alto High School and Addison Elementary School. Why should one of our most historic and consequential schools, the 100+ year old Castilleja, be denied improvements and the chance to extend its reach to a modest number of new women students?

I found the latest headlines and articles regarding Castilleja to be front-loaded with negativity. You had to read well into the articles to find the many positives, which most readers won't do.

I am confused by the argument that "redevelopment would overwhelm their quiet neighborhood." Development, growth and increased traffic are the norm throughout town, given the extraordinary economic growth of the day.

The notion that Castilleja has no business being in an R-1 neighborhood is preposterous. Castilleja was there first and, if Sacramento has its way, there won't be any more R-1 zoning in the so-called "jobs and education rich" towns.

I ask the media to report on the treasure we have in our community. I implore the City Council to enthusiastically support the school's application to continue its century-long mission of educating young women and, in doing so, ensure that exceptional education continues as a foundational and timeless value in Palo Alto.

Barbara Hazlett

Emerson Street, Palo Alto

Castilleja should move


The Castilleja School expansion was reviewed by the Planning & Transportation Commission Wednesday night, Aug. 14. In the discussion of what stays, what gets demolished, etc., one huge question is not receiving attention. Castilleja has ambitious plans, and the resulting facility does not belong in the neighborhood.

We certainly believe in educating girls and young women, but Castilleja's disruptive proposal would change the neighborhood totally. There are far better ways for Castilleja to achieve its goals.

Castilleja would have the greatest student density of any public or private school in Palo Alto. Traffic and congestion impact on the neighborhood would inevitably be horrendous. The great majority of pedagogical theory recommends separating the middle and high schools for many reasons. However, any discussions about plans to separate the middle and high school campuses have been summarily rejected.

Castilleja would change the entire nature of the neighborhood. Is this right for a very old residential neighborhood? We believe that there are far better ways for Castilleja to realize their ambitions. The best solution is to move the campus completely to a new location.

Have solutions to building a new campus such as a land swap with Stanford been explored? Stanford would welcome the chance to build faculty and staff housing on 6+ acres five blocks from campus. Possibly, a third-party developer might be interested.

Also, Castilleja has shown that they are able to raise any amount of money for any project they would like to do. Castilleja has rejected any discussion of building a new campus or splitting the campus.

Finally, the Castilleja girls would be poorly served by the required temporary buildings and facilities needed during the demolition and reconstruction of the current campus. Preparation and relocation to a new campus can solve all these problems for Castilleja.

Joe Rolfe

Emerson Street, Palo Alto

Rebutting the Guest Opinion


Mr. (Leonard) Ely speculates (in his Guest Opinion published in the Aug. 16 issue of the Weekly) that if Castilleja School were to move, its current site would be developed into 38-42 single family homes. He builds his whole case to accept Castilleja's proposal to expand on this possibility, which may or may not actually come to pass.

But let's assume he is correct. There is one major flaw in his argument. The inconvenience of construction and a potential increase in traffic would be balanced by a substantial increase in property tax revenue, which would benefit the city as a whole.

Castilleja pays no taxes and the large majority of its students do not live in Palo Alto. At best, its benefit to the community at large is very small.

Richard D. Mamelok

Churchill Avenue, Palo Alto

Concerned citizens


We are writing as concerned citizens who oppose the proposed expansion of Castilleja School's current facility. The school's mission is of course admirable but should not be confused with its alarming proposal to build a huge underground garage in a quiet residential neighborhood.

We are in an era of changing times regarding the use of private vehicles. The last thing a school should be doing is expanding a parking lot and creating congestion.

Please encourage the school to abandon this plan and to look elsewhere for physical expansion.

Elizabeth Roth and Ronald Katz

Cowper Street, Palo Alto

Misleading Castilleja coverage


I was disappointed in the coverage of the Planning and Transportation Commission's hearing for Castilleja School's draft environmental impact report (DEIR).

The DEIR supports over 60 elements of the proposal and finds only three significant impacts. The project is 100% compliant with the Comprehensive Plan, improves aesthetics and enhances sustainability with LEED Platinum environmental measures, increased green space and a compliant tree plan that creates more canopy and replaces drought-damaged trees.

These many findings in support of Castilleja's proposal were all mentioned by speakers, yet almost none were highlighted in your article. As a result, readers who didn't attend the meeting were offered an inaccurate account of what happened.

Where is any mention of the resounding support for Castilleja, particularly among near neighbors who have no affiliation with the school, many of whom spoke of the school's success in managing traffic, increasing bicycle safety and improving the environment? Attendees in support of the project outnumbered opposition three to one. Even so, the quotes heavily emphasized critical voices.

Further, the headline was misleading, implying that the commission declined to approve the DEIR, but no approval was pending. The sole purpose of the hearing was to take comments on the draft before making revisions, which is a standard, monthslong process.

The mention of frequent accidents on Lincoln Avenue at Bryant Street was also misleading. Whether that mention is accurate or not, there is no indication that those accidents pertain to Castilleja.

As Castilleja Head of School Nanci Kauffman said, Castilleja is aware of the traffic issues raised in the DEIR and is fully committed to working with the community on a positive and constructive solution.

The Weekly had an opportunity to portray the hearing accurately but instead returned to the cliched "us vs. them" narrative that has darkened this debate. I hope for better in the future.

Kyle Bordeau

Alma Street, Palo Alto


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