After a brief reprieve in 2020, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose by over 6% in 2021. This is a direction in which we cannot afford to go. As the Palo Alto City Council prepares to define their priorities on Feb. 5, I urge them to continue to make climate change mitigation a top priority for 2022.
Despite a laudable commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHGs) 80% by 2030, Palo Alto has yet to move the needle in a way that matches the severity of the crisis.
Given the rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we urge prioritization of the items that will give us the most dramatic GHG reductions in the near term — building electrification and transportation. We need to make rapid and significant progress in these two areas, representing our largest emitters, if we are to have any hope of meeting our 2030 targets. Furthermore, we need annual goals and benchmarks to stay on track.
Climate change is here. Scientists are reporting that devastating changes are happening at a pace faster than predicted. In Palo Alto, smoke, fire, drought and heat waves are becoming the norm. The longer we wait to fund and initiate programs, the harder (and more expensive) it will be to meet our climate commitments. 2030 is less than eight years away.
The governor's proposed budget for climate action reflects a deep understanding of the crisis we're facing, and I implore our council to act with the same courage to promote a healthy and safe world for present and future generations.
Byron Street, Palo Alto
Castilleja deserves better
Let me start by saying I have no connection at all to the Castilleja School. I am not a close neighbor, either. I'm just a retired tech CEO who's lived in Old Palo Alto for 29 years. My girls went to Palo Alto High School. My wife worked there for 10 years.
I'm appalled at how my city has dealt with the Castilleja School proposal.
Five years. Micromanagement. Inability to compromise. What are we doing? It's embarrassing.
It seems our representatives have forgotten that the school is a Palo Alto resident and stakeholder, too. It's not just the nearby neighbors who matter. The school provides essential services to many city residents and jobs, too. It's an asset to our city. Would any resident put up with running this gauntlet of inquiry and abuse for so many years? Would any business CEO put up with this? The fact that they are still trying to make adjustments to their plans to win approval is amazing and a sign of how committed they are to our city.
And how about the micromanagement of the institution's business plan by people who know nothing about running a private school? Are our planning commissioners and council members really qualified to determine the right enrollment levels? Are their fears about traffic anything more than guesses?
After responding to so many change requests over so many years, it seems to me that this school is a great and loyal Palo Alto neighbor. It seems like a straightforward decision to me. Does the city want to support this neighbor or force them to leave?
I hope my representatives will stop this endless and embarrassing process and approve the Castilleja proposal without further delay.
Webster Street, Palo Alto
Let's talk about facts
Kol Emeth doesn't compare to Castilleja School. The small synagogue on 1 to 1.5 acres has an underground garage that qualifies as a basement (it's under the building). That's not the case with Castilleja. The synagogue did not ask for, nor did they receive a variance allowing them to not count their underground garage square footage.
It has been discovered, due to new information supplied by a report on Nov 17, 2021, that the "findings" that the Planning Commission voted on (split vote) in late 2020 were based on square footage that is significantly higher than the school had presented in their plans -- so no, the Planning Commission hasn't "approved" the Castilleja project.
Environment Impacts: The "Underground parking garage adds around 2,175 tons of concrete, which emits (653 tons) of carbon dioxide." Carbon dioxide from concrete causes climate change, which in turn creates economic disasters.
Another major issue with Castilleja's expansion is traffic impacts on Embarcadero Road. How can you have a parking garage, with the entrance and the exit on Embarcadero? Makes no sense to me. I've said this for years. If I had a daughter at Castilleja, I would never go into a parking garage while rushing off to work. Instead, the city should require major shuttling, which several other schools in the area use.
In summary: Kol Emeth has a basement; get the right figures for the square footage of the school; solve the traffic issues; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are my four main issues with Castilleja's expansion.
"This process has bitterly divided next door neighbors" is a great sound bite for Castilleja School's expansion, but it's baseless. These kinds of statements come from the school's overactive PR machine to insinuate that the neighbors are torn -- that half the neighbors love the plans.
Walk around the perimeter of the school! We neighbors know our neighbors, and of the 28 houses directly across the street from the school or next door to it, 18 oppose the scope of the plans, six support the plans (three of those houses are owned by the school, one is a parent) and four are neutral.
The plans purporting to only rebuild the same amount of square footage as currently exists were way off in calculating that number. So the City Council (March 29, 2021) required a new, official third-party count, which occurred between city council meetings in March 2021 and Planning and Transportation Commission meetings in December 2021 and January 2022. The new, professionally calculated numbers show that the school is extraordinarily overbuilt by 47,300 square feet. This is vital information; it changes where the goalposts actually are. Nobody moved them.
Neighbors would like the school to rebuild and modernize. The school could reduce the scope of its expansion, use the "circle" to accommodate their own growth needs instead of moving a pool into a parking lot, taking away all the surface parking and causing a need for a garage that doesn't currently exist. This would allow many more options than the proposed 77,400-square-foot building along Kellogg Avenue that neighbors think is too large and doesn't fit into the neighborhood. Had the school submitted reasonable demands, it could have been rebuilt years ago.
The only bitter division is between the school and its close neighbors. The rest of us neighbors, whether we agree on specifics or not, get along just fine.
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