Letters to the editor | May 27, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - May 27, 2022

Letters to the editor

Students' mental health needs greater care


To Tone Yao Lee's family, I offer my sincere condolences. He was by any measure an extraordinary young man. Your pain is surely as profound as human pain can be.

My condolences, too, to the loving teachers who worked with him at Gunn High School.

And I'm sorry for the effect that his death may have on so many Palo Altans — who may be feeling post-traumatic stress from our tragedies of the preceding decade.

This young man's death by his own hand at age 22 shows that our local high schools — which over the years have touted "connection," "resilience" and "grit" — are still failing to cultivate lasting coping skills and mental well-being in the most vulnerable of their students.

Years of blindness to the real problems — years of neglect by superintendents, the school board, school principals — have left us scarcely better off than we were in 2009-2014, when 11 Palo Alto teenagers took their own lives. It is heart-breaking.

What are the answers? Unfortunately the healthy, simple, practical solutions proposed by the "Save the 2,008" campaign were treated with disastrous disdain by our officials. Over the years, the welcome mat rolled out for "Challenge Success," which too has been ripped and ragged.

Anyone who read the recent, lengthy front-page articles in the New York Times on the epidemic of at-risk teens in this country surely grasps that we are a long way from understanding this crisis, that it continues to threaten us and that it will not solve itself.

May Tone Yao Lee's legacy be unforgotten, lasting.

Marc Vincenti, former English teacher at Gunn High School

Leland Avenue, Palo Alto

Castilleja: Let's stop and ask why


In response to Castilleja School's newest tagline, "More Opportunity. Less Traffic. Why not?" Instead, we should ask "why?"

Why should we allow Castilleja to grandfather extra square footage over allowable square footage because more recent additions were vastly undercounted?

Why should we allow Castilleja even 50 events when they grossly exceeded the conditional use permit that mandated "five major events and several others," which has impacted residents for years?

Why should we allow Castilleja to build a garage that encroaches on utility easements and poses environmental hazards to the neighborhood? How does this "Advance Palo Alto's sustainability goals?"

Why should we allow Castilleja to drive more traffic onto the bike boulevard and threaten the well-being of residents, including children on bikes?

For the future of Palo Alto, let's not nonchalantly shrug our collective shoulders and ask "Why Not?" Instead we should be asking ourselves, "Why?"

Why let Castilleja overdensify, overbuild and over enroll to the detriment of the neighborhood? It is time that the city set limits of what is allowable within its borders and give affected residents a seat at the table to set proper safeguards from future violations!

Kimberly Wong

Emerson Street, Palo Alto

Is Castilleja expansion safe?


As a Castilleja parent, I thank the city council for allowing themselves

additional time to review documents related to Castilleja's expansion plans

and increase for enrollment.

Last weekend, I reviewed the two use permits granted to Castilleja in 2000 and the Nov.17, 2021, report by consulting firm Dudek. I also briefly reviewed documents related to the city's abandonment of the

2000 block of Melville Avenue (0.6 acre) to Castilleja and allowing Castilleja to

connect adjacent owned land (0.8 acre) to their campus for athletic fields.

What I overlooked on page 8 of the Environmental Report (91-EIA-37)

under Section 1 (b, c, f) Earth was:

"The project site is located in a seismic area of moderate risk, and would be

subject to a very strong ground shaking in the event of an earthquake. The

proposed improvements do not consist of structures or other features that

would pose a threat to human life during an earthquake. The project is not

expected to increase the number of school attendees or significantly alter

their access to and around specific areas within the site."

Chapter 12 of Dudek's July, 2019, Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) pertains to geology, soils,

seismicity and paleontology. It includes Valley Soil Engineering of San

Jose's 2017 Geotechnical Investigative Report. The proposed parking garage

is not listed in this report except on page 22, Drainage #50.

This report also listed 11 detailed, site-specific recommendations. Ten

of these recommendations detail "the need for additional expert consultants,

testing or analysis, which needs to be completed before the project begins."

The findings of the Geotechnical Report are invalid after Dec. 16, 2016, when

core samples were taken or after Feb. 3, 2020, based on the report's declared

three-year validity.

I ask the city council to review the above noted documents before deciding

on Castilleja's request for an underground garage.

Is Castilleja's proposed underground garage safe?

Rita C. Vrhel

Channing Avenue, Palo Alto

No more giveaways to Castilleja


Why have a sustainability planning process when the city allows a private commuter school like Castilleja, 75% of whose students are from outside of Palo Alto, to let students, parents and staff drive to campus while other private schools have robust public-transit and shuttling programs (e.g. Nueva, Harker, Notre Dame)?

Neighbors appreciate the City Council questioning Castilleja's much touted Transportation Demand Management Program (TDM) when we can see students parking and being dropped off beyond the view of traffic monitors. As a result, the school and city are unable to establish an accurate baseline of neighborhood traffic.

Castilleja is further requesting: 48,000 in additional square footage over what they are legally allowed; destruction of mature trees; and construction of a new pool, threatening Palo Alto's groundwater.

Giveaways Castilleja has received:

* The 200 block of Melville Avenue worth over $1 million.

* After 10 years of over enrollment and grossing well over $10 million in revenue, Castilleja paid a one-time fine of $265,000 to the city, or about 3% of what was illegally taken in.

*Castilleja has remained over-enrolled, resulting in additional revenues without fines

Mary Sylvester

Melville Avenue, Palo Alto


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