As the Castilleja vote draws near, I want to share some observations about two often debated issues. First, the talk about traffic and congestion. I encourage readers to consider Castilleja School's very limited impact here. Over the past 20 years, Palo Alto High School has added more students (500+) than the entire Castilleja student body. Town & Country Village, with reworked egress, challenging traffic circulation and the addition of a 12,000-square-foot grocery store, routinely backs up the traffic on Embarcadero Road. Stanford University is a huge traffic generator. To say that Castilleja is to blame for the congestion in this corner of Palo Alto is patently ridiculous. A second commonly voiced complaint is noise. Specifically, whistles being blown during eight or 10 swim meets each year. I struggle to understand how this can be plausibly raised as a complaint when Caltrain runs 104 trains daily through the neighborhood, from 4:51 a.m. to 1:09 a.m., with warning horns blaring and rail crossing bells ringing. In between those train trips, there are 60,000 cars and trucks traveling Alma Street and Embarcadero every day that keep noise levels consistently high. If the school were to relocate, people would realize no reduction in traffic or noise because Castilleja is a small participant in a large suburban ecosystem. The school has agreed to a traffic cap, reduced events and limited hours. This means that when you factor in all those days and evenings when there is no activity on campus, Castilleja might actually be the best neighbor ever. Yes, the Old Palo Alto neighborhood is feeling the effects of growth. But Castilleja, with more than half of its students walking, biking and ride sharing, is not the issue. It's time to let the school gradually increase enrollment toward 540 girls and shift our focus to more important matters.
Northampton Drive, Palo Alto
Castilleja needs and deserves expansion
I live 407 feet from Castilleja School on Melville Avenue. As another near-neighbor expressed last week, I believe the city commissioners have ignored my voice in support of Castilleja's enrollment increase and renovation.
Castilleja's traffic design plans have addressed the local concerns about both volume and flow. The architectural designs will enhance our neighborhood. The enforcement of the dozens of new restrictions on enrollment, events and parking has been incredibly apparent for the past six years and comes with transparency going forward.
How can this city in the midst of Silicon Valley, bordering Stanford University, turn its back on one of the top high schools in the country? Which commissioner believes that we don't need to make accommodations for the growing population and demand for single-gender education? How many voters in Palo Alto respect the rights of Castilleja to host its student plays, softball games, Founders Day?
Castilleja does sit in the middle of a residential community — my community. It is why I moved here. Please, fellow community members, join me and my neighbors at the city council meeting on May 23 and help us protect this educational gem from the minority who shun progress and the opportunity for more girls to benefit from the unique institution.
Melville Avenue, Palo Alto