Town Square

Post a New Topic

Castilleja plan creates rifts among neighbors

Original post made on May 26, 2017

Castilleja School's proposal to expand the campus and enrollment has created a division so deep that there are neighbors who no longer even greet one another when they pass by, residents said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 26, 2017, 6:54 AM

Comments (73)

24 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2017 at 7:29 am

I don't see any discussion of resident only parking permits. That seems to be something to consider.


66 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 7:30 am

If you walk or drive the neighborhood, you will see that the vast majority of those within a block of Castilleja oppose the expansion plans. The opposition trickles out for several blocks. The neighborhood may be divided but those who support Casti are definitely in the minority. I've seen inaccuracies on both sides, but, Casti neighbors have good reason to be upset. The administration has lacked empathy and failed to negotiate effectively.


40 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 26, 2017 at 8:09 am

The city Manager asked for compliance for the 2018/19 school year? after 15 years of willful non-compliance why the hiatus in enforcement?

The new expansion including a significant enrollment increase is more than likely to have gone through the city process and be approved or denied before the 2018/19 school year.

What kind of enforcement of the law is this? preferential enforcement for preferred individuals and institutions is no way to operate the city.
Just like the recent 17 day "give -away" to Palantir of the Cubberly field, track and parking lot this decision ignores the law to benefit a private institution/business. The rules for reserving space in a public park in Palo Alto do not include and do not have a pricing structure for the recent Palantir event and the laws that allow Castilleja to operate restrict the enrollment to 415. period.

from the article:
"The city, meanwhile, is likewise taking steps to ease the residents' suspicions of Castilleja and the city: Keene sent school officials a letter on May 23 informing them that enrollment reductions must restart, now that the conditional-use permit and other applications associated with its master plan have been submitted. Enrollment reductions must begin again in the 2018-19 school year at a pace of about four to six students annually, according to Keene's letter."


20 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on May 26, 2017 at 8:33 am

A Dutch proverb: "A good neighbor is better than a far friend."

Please do not let Castilleja become the reason to distance yourself from each other. Good neighbor relationships are critical for a happy life. Talk to each other, rather than assuming the worst in each other.


14 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 26, 2017 at 8:38 am

One question: How Many Castilleja seniors are graduating this year?

How many new students will be admitted in the fall?

Depending on the answer there could be a shift towards compliance with the use permit without kicking out any existing students????


72 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2017 at 8:57 am

Giving Casti its own access lane from Embarcadero is absolute insanity given current gridlock there which will only get worse.

Why the City is even wasting money evaluating that option is nuts. Are they totally unaware of traffic issues?


66 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2017 at 9:36 am

Castilleja should return to its legal CUP and stay at that size. Glad to see the City is requesting them to be in compliance. If they want to expand, they should build an additional campus. Keys School has 2, Nueva has 2, Crystal Springs Upland is building a second campus. Harker has 4 or 5 campuses.


24 people like this
Posted by Old PA neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 9:40 am

The City is moving to enforce the existing Castilleja CUP after years of public outcry.
Here a the link to the letter from the City Manager
Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by TopKek
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2017 at 10:06 am

This is the pettiest bitter argument ever. The fact that neighbors no longer hang out? This isn't a middle school friend group break up. The actual issue at hand is relevant but the headline and introduction of this article concerns an issue that belongs in small-town rural Idaho


46 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 10:28 am

C'mon people, you have to stay within the law. And if you don't, there should be meaningful consequences. The City Council needs to just say NO. 15 years of willful violations isn't staying within the law.

"The school exceeded a conditional-use permit, established in 2000, that capped school enrollment at 415 students. Current Head of School Nanci Kauffman alerted the city in 2012, when she took on her current position, that the school was violating its use permit, allowing 448 students."


3 people like this
Posted by nothing that a little money won't solve
a resident of Professorville
on May 26, 2017 at 10:30 am

How many homes are affected by this mess? 10? 20? Just split that $285,000 fine among the homeowners on that block and they will all be happy. What the school really needs to work on now is building a bigger parking lot on their property, instead of clogging the street with cars every day.


14 people like this
Posted by Casti Neihbor
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2017 at 10:32 am

I'd feel better about the existing over-enrollment and the new expansion plan if there were assurances that they are admitting only children of Palo Alto residents into the non-compliant spots / expanded spots instead of giving those to kids from nearby towns. Local trips, local benefits, etc seem more palatable.


11 people like this
Posted by al munday
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2017 at 11:03 am

wheather its a private or public school...they are sneaky when it comes to get what they want. In my neighborhood, they would only post items in the school office window, but if your kids don't go there anymore most will not walk down to the school office window to see what is going on...we should not have to.

as far as resident only parking...during drop off and pick up, parents DON'T CARE because they feel they are entitled to invade a pemitted areas space. The only way that would work if the school paid for fulltime parking enforcement


23 people like this
Posted by LongTimePAer
a resident of Community Center
on May 26, 2017 at 11:04 am

I am amazed at the vitriol and energy invested on this subject attacking this incredible institution and its noble mission of educating and advancing young women, WHEN, there are no signs around town complaining about cars constantly going 50 mph on Embarcadero, with no consequences.

And having lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, I have always found the real traffic problems are caused by Walter Hays and Paly. Makes one wonder what the real problem these people have with a school dedicated to education young women.


20 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:18 am

How very true LngTimePaer! Walter Hays and Paly do cause much more congestion than Casti. I can't see any way around this argument other than people being spiteful toward a private school. Children need schools. You were a child once. Get over it.


31 people like this
Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:32 am

What an unfortunate article title. These are serious public policy issues that extend to all of Palo Alto and beyond, but the title sounds like the read is about a cat fight between teenagers. On the other hand, it is a very well written article regarding a local issue.

Here is Nancy Tuck's quote, "We went from having neighborhood barbecues and going to baby showers to now it's 'their group' and 'our group' and we don't even look at each other to say hello," said Melville Avenue resident Nancy Tuck, who supports the expansion." Sounds like she is using a victim card. I live just a few hundred feet from her and I have no clue who she is or what she looks like. I don't believe we ever had cumbaya gatherings, it is Castilleja expansion that brought many neighbors together who did not know each other before.


15 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:42 am

I wish the PA Weekly had included some research about how other schools, private and public, in our area have addressed enrollment growth and neighbor concerns. Also, in the case of private schools, Casti is NOT alone in exceeding its CUP. We can learn from how other schools and communities have addressed these issues successfully.

And, let's do give Casti tons of credit for all the traffic mitigation they have already implemented. It is because of these impressive results that I am supportive of Casti's leadership and their expansion plans.


34 people like this
Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

Yes,
Castilleja is a great school

Yes,
Castilleja has violated its legal obligations as stated in 2000 CUP

Yes,
We do indeed support educating women (and men) in 21st century, in Palo Alto

Yes,
Most immediate neighbors, other than Nancy Tuck, John Stucky, Gerry Marshall, are against:
- Castilleja expanding enrollment by 30%
- Castilleja building an underground commercial size garage with 24/7 lights and ventilation noise on a R1 neighborhood
- Castilleja rebuildingthe entire campus over the next four years


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2017 at 11:49 am

Annette is a registered user.

"Tuck said that parking woes are not all Castilleja's fault. The neighborhood is impacted by traffic and parking from Stanford students and Palo Alto High School, particularly during those schools' events. Many of Tuck's neighbors also have second-dwelling units on their properties, and the additional residents park on the street, she said. "

BINGO! Tuck perfectly summarizes the unfortunate outcome of our City's failure to consider cumulative impact. We're dealing with problems of our own making and things are now such a gnarly mess that we will, necessarily, have to forego some opportunities IF we are going to engage in good management.

Another issue is the City's general failure to enforce. It's understandable that residents are concerned about any project that relies on enforcement to be successful. Why did Keene allow the "pause" in compliance in the first place? The school could have remedied the over-enrollment (and re-established goodwill with their neighbors) by now had the "pause" not happened. In effect, "pause" is synonymous with "unenforced".

As for the trust issue, what in the world does Keene mean when he writes that the school could "resolve the violation through higher authorized enrollment levels"? How, exactly, can an over-enrollment violation be remedied by higher enrollment? Is he planning to re-write the terms of the CUP?


19 people like this
Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:54 am

@ Ann

Castilleja did do an amazing job with their traffic mitigation in the last couple of years. But, hey did absolutely nothing in the previous 15 years and it was a disaster. What they have been doing in the last two years was outlined back in 2000 CUP, which the school ignored. Now, Casti is simply doing what was suppose to be done all along starting in 2000 not 2015.


6 people like this
Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Is the issue enrollment or traffic?

if it's the latter, then I see no reason to not allow larger enrollment if shuttle service were made mandatory for dropoff to the school from specific non-intrusive locations like the transit stations. Have shuttle service from Cal Ave, Downtown, and Mountain View. Only allow seniors to park on campus. Done deal.


3 people like this
Posted by QuestionsAndNumbers
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I have a few questions.

1. What is the distribution of students by city?
2. Same question in a different form, what is the distribution of students by radial distance from school? Maybe at 2 mile increments.
3. How many students: (i) walk, (ii) ride bicycles, (iii) take public transportation, (iv) are driven to/from school, (v) drive a car to school (which needs to be parked)?

Subdividing 1,2,3 above by grade might be useful.

4. Why must pickup/dropoff and parking be provided at the school location?
Why not, at appropriate times in the morning and afternoon, aren't there school buses which ferry students from campus to satellite pickup/dropoff locations? Such locations would need to be transportation hubs or sites with sufficient parking space for parents to wait (and not block the street).

Answers to questions 1,2,3 would give an idea of the size and number of such buses that would be needed.

5. Would such bus transportation be preferable over the current cars?

NOTE
Item number 4 should not apply only to Casti but also to other urban schools, such as the one on San Antonio (between Middlefield and Alma) and the one next to the Post Office on East Bayshore.


5 people like this
Posted by Old PA neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm

To the poster above,

You can find answers to some of your questions on this site
Web Link


57 people like this
Posted by Growler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Castilleja had some sort of event earlier this week, and cat's were parked up and down Emerson-- including the spots marked as "No Castilleja Parking".

How did they get around THAT?


24 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Why does Castilleja need to expand?


14 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2017 at 2:09 pm

@curious - they want to expand because they are losing money.


35 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 3:52 pm

The June 6 meeting should be interesting. Everyone should plan to be there. Castilleja has already invited the entire "community" in their recent print ad. Yet another violation of the CUP, which states that they must hold a meeting twice a year with neighbors to solicit feedback.

The November 2016 meeting was a shameless PR effort where Castilleja packed the room with parents and board members who do not live in the neighborhood, who shouted down the opposition and called them Nimbies.

Castilleja created all of the rancor with the neighbors well before their outrageous expansion plans to turn the neighborhood into their private driveway. As other posters have mentioned, Castilleja wants to take credit for their TDM measures, which were required by law, because they were breaking the law!

And yes, they are barely breaking even. The illegal enrollment has provided about $10,000,000 in revenue while they have been fined less than $300K.


13 people like this
Posted by Pushing It
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by sfvalley
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm

sfvalley is a registered user.

Castilleja gets a lot of mileage from the claim that head of school alerted the City of overenrollment. Memo dated Aug 5, 2013, from City to Head of School says "It has been brought to the City's attention that enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year will exceed the maximum occupancy of 415 students". It goes on to request a report showing actual enrollment for years 2000 to 2013. This does not sound like a letter to someone who has just come forward. Head of school had that position in 2010, after some years as a teacher and for 3 more years before claiming to have "alerted". It just doesn't add up. Some neighbors claim that it came out at a public meeting that the school was overenrolled. I guess it's all in the interpretation.


28 people like this
Posted by Old 55
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Old 55 is a registered user.

Generally accurate coverage as I live in the area and follow this issue. There are 3 points that could have been included: the trees slated for various detrimental actions would be better left alone (not transplanted or cut down). In addition the two homes on Emerson should not be demolished to "improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood" or make room for the underground garage. And, finally, more than 150 single car drop offs of one student per car occur daily. It does not seem likely that all these cars will queue up to be funneled into an underground garage entrance on Bryant Street. Parents in a hurry would most likely drop their child off 500 feet from the school on a side street. The garage is just not needed. Like the fellow quoted in the article- perhaps "a reset" on the school's plan is needed.


38 people like this
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm

The writing has been on the wall for years: Castilleja needs to move on to a larger parcel of land. They have been manipulating the system for years. Enough is enough!


28 people like this
Posted by Do This
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm

If Casti really is serious about expanding, why don't they buy all the homes and land that border them on three sides, at market rate!

This gives them sufficient room and gives the neighbors the annoy a chance to buy elsewhere.


6 people like this
Posted by NodsHead
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

@Dothis. Do you seriously think the disgruntled neighbors are going to sell their homes to the school for less than triple their fair market value? Unless there is a backlash. After all, who else would buy a house in a neighborhood full of tension (and train noise and McMansion remodels and airplane noise and PALY traffic).


2 people like this
Posted by QuestionsAndNumbers
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2017 at 7:54 pm

A post by: Old PA neighbor said:

You can find answers to some of your questions on this site
Web Link

I see no information about these questions:
1. What is the distribution of students by city?
2. Same question in a different form, what is the distribution of students by radial distance from school? Maybe at 2 mile increments.
3. How many students: (i) walk, (ii) ride bicycles, (iii) take public transportation, (iv) are driven to/from school, (v) drive a car to school (which needs to be parked)?

I don't know that Castilleja has these numbers (well, certainly they have #1) or can be persuaded to obtain and provide them. But I think they would be invaluable.

Now the trip down "When I was ..." nostalgia lane.

When I was in the 7th and 8th grades (13-14 years old), I went to a Jr. High School outside my district. It was 8-9 miles away from our house. I rode public transportation and had to transfer to a second bus. Then walked 2 blocks from the bus stop to the school. School/homeroom started at 8:15 or so (I think). The trip was 45-60 minutes; longer in the morning due to traffic. I walked 1/4 mile from my house to the bus stop, so left home a little after 7 a.m. each morning. Got out of school around 3pm and took the bus back home. No way my parents would have ever considered driving me. So why aren't we expecting the same thing of kids today? (And please, don't give me the 'my child is going to be kidnapped' excuse). I look back on that as a time of freedom + responsibility; it was an extremely valuable and growing/maturing experience in my life. I think kids are missing that today.


40 people like this
Posted by not an expert
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 8:38 pm

looking at this objectively a wealthy school like Castijilla should seek a second campus. Please don't impose the consequences of your expansion plans on the ordinary citizens of PA. Or send your kids to our fine public schools or is that below you?


43 people like this
Posted by Sorey
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Let's keep in mind casti kids are coming from wealthy families who have decided our excellent public schools aren't quite good enough for them. Sorry not feeling the compassion to support you you on his one.


33 people like this
Posted by not an expert
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 9:32 pm

@sorey

has a good point. Stop and think about this citizens of PA, a private school with a TINY student body of kids whose parents can't stomach their kids going to Paly, Gunn, Jordan, etc. are causing such angst. Really? find another solution versus imposing impacts on us


37 people like this
Posted by Old PA neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 9:59 pm

How is this for privileged arrogance, a Casti dad spoke up at the last neighborhood meeting about the school's superiority to such a level that he made an offer on an Old Palo Alto macMansion with a condition that he would go through with the offer only if his daughter is accepted to Casti. Neighbor's interpretation of his words is, the horrible education alternative for his daughter would be going to our Palo Alto public schools.
Another lady, Nanci's BFF, spoke up at he same meeting and told the neighbors to suck-it-up and deal. She said the same thing on record at the public hearing, see attached. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by one who seeks^^^^^^^
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2017 at 10:11 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


7 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2017 at 11:05 pm

When traffic started getting truly bad on Embarcadero by Castilleja thanks to the new buildings on Stanford land and other growth all over Palo Alto, too, the City of Palo Alto put up concrete berms on Emerson and established the bike cooridor on Bryant which stopped left turns onto Embarcadero from Castilleja. So, Castilleja got impacted on 2 corners limiting its traffic mitigation possibilities.

Castilleja's dorm was never the home of a majority of its students. As I said in another post: count the windows of the old dorm's top two floors where students lived at most 2 in a room. The dorm students accounted for less than 10-20% of enrollment since the founding of the school. As long as Castilleja is paying for ads here for us to have facts, before this is over, we'll have more facts with tables and graphs of actual enrollment numbers, maps student hometowns, and commuter/dorm ratios over the past decades as enrollment increased.

Since many are making the arguments here of, "Theyre all rich, don't trust anything they say, they don't like OUR schools, Us v. Them, make them move away, we hate them!" we'll likely soon get facts about what percentage of students get financial aid, and how many applicants want to attend (and from where!) but there is no room for them since enrollment is capped by the use permit.

It will be interesting to see the conditions of the new use permit when it is granted.The City could demand a higher percentage of students living biking distance or required to use mass transit nodes and shuttles. Castilleja might then buy more houses and reopen its dorm by spreading its students around the neighborhood. Dorm parents could be the students' legal guardians and R1 rules would be satisfied.


3 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 11:27 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


14 people like this
Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Oldster also assumes that the City will undoubtedly grant Castilleja a new use permit. Despite Castilleja's powerful connections, the City's approval of a new use permit is not, by any means, a certainty, and, in fact. based on Castilleja's current proposal, there is a good chance the City, like the vast majority of Castilleja's neighbors, will just say no. Even if the City were to grant a new use permit, if that permit allows for a 30% enrollment increase, a commercial garage with ingress on Bryant and egress on Emerson, and a massive construction project over many years, there is a high probability that this issue will go to a citywide referendum, and it may well meet the same fate as the Maybell referendum. Given the intense controversy and the significant risk to Castilleja that the new use permit will be rejected, one has to wonder whether Castilleja's leaders have seriously considered a Plan B? As stewards of the school, it would seem that they have an obligation to their constituents to do so.


10 people like this
Posted by Another Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2017 at 1:26 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by 650 Neighbor
a resident of Professorville
on May 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


9 people like this
Posted by Casti neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2017 at 2:37 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


20 people like this
Posted by LuLu
a resident of Los Altos
on May 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm

This argument is typical of Silicon Valley where pampered kids and parents fee entitled to drop their kids off or drive to school. I don't see any solutions proposing that kids take Caltrain and ride a Castillejo shuttle to school, with parking only for those who live far from transit. Yes, it takes longer but hey, that is the sensible thing to do. An even more intelligent thing to do would be to partner with other private schools and team up on buses.


6 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Ok, in more simple language with bullet points, if the heck-no-changes/close-the-school/move-it-elsewhere/no-construction-near-me arguments result in a new or reissued use permit with no enrollment change but with a loophole allowing an incremental enrollment increase after a proven reduction in car-trips to and from campus, watch Castilleja:
- slowly and noisily remodel over many, many years its older buildings,
- convert the several rental houses it owns now to dorms,
- obtain more land to expand by buying up houses as they come to market bidding directly or with proxies just slightly over market to get them, and
- in 50-75 years Castilleja will own all the houses in view of its campus on Emerson, Melville, and Kingsley including the one house it does not own yet on its City block and then,
- wait for a City Council to allow it grow and evolve as it hopes to now.

Castilleja is over 100 years old. Like Stanford University, it is not leaving town and it has an ever expanding local old girls network who love and cherish it, and will fight for it as hard as those who want it never to change or leave town.

I'm a 50+ Old Palo Alto resident who has friends who have gone to every public and private school in Palo Alto and every neighboring town, too. I've been on the campuses of every single school around here. Not one has been forced never to grow nor never tear down and rebuild on their campuses. Every time I've seen Castilleja tear down and rebuild parts of its campus each time it looks better with ever more curb appeal. I look forward to a better-looking Castilleja campus and using its planned public park on Emerson.


48 people like this
Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

LongtimePAer and PA Mom, apparently you believe that the "real problem these people have" is "with a school dedicated to educating young women." It is a ridiculous and tired old trope from Castilleja's supporters to contend or insinuate that those opposed to Castilleja expansion are doing so because they are opposed to educating women. Anyone who has taken any time to study both the long history of Castilleja's CUP violations and the massive scope of expansion being proposed can understand that there are legitimate reasons for neighborhood residents to oppose expansion, regardless of whether one agrees with those reasons. As should be abundantly clear, the opposition is to the school's expansion, not to the school. It is difficult to have reasoned discourse over a complicated issue when one side continually engages in these type of ad hominem arguments.


49 people like this
Posted by Oppose Royalty Traffic Lanes
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2017 at 3:13 pm

I'm all for educating and empowering girls and women.

I'm TOTALLY opposed to giving anyone a dedicated access ramp off Embarcadero since that inconveniences all the rest of us, including residents, commuters and public school students.

Perhaps Casti could educate their supporters that Embarcadero is one of three exits to/from 101 in Palo Alto, along with University and San Antonio. Unless Casti want to start fighting against the onerous traffic burden all of us deal with daily, their sense of entitlement to their very own Embarcadero lane is as absurd as is the fact that the city is even spending OUR money considering it.


36 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2017 at 7:05 am

Keene's letter includes this paragraph: "This has been because the City allowed the school to pause its enrollment reductions in 2015 while access from Embarcadero was studied and based on the expectation that Castilleja would file a CUP application that would propose to resolve the violation through higher authorized enrollment levels."

So the City allowed the continued violation of the existing CUP b/c it expected Castilleja to ask for more. Huh?

Reasoning aside, Mr. Keene has provided a hint as to the City's position on the new CUP application. More than likely this is a done deal.

I know Castilleja has done well on some aspects of TDM (I see the girls on the shuttle when I use it!) but it is high irony that the City is considering such R1 and traffic circulation upheaval to accommodate a parking structure for cars for a demographic (young students) that can easily use bicycles and public transportation while at the same time doing all it can to make car usage an expensive sin for the working population and residents.


37 people like this
Posted by David vs Goliath
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]



35 people like this
Posted by Casti's plans
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Castilleja hired former Deputy City Manager Emslie to advocate for them.

Given Emslie's disgraced departure following the 27 University Arillaga proposal which evoked the critical County Grand Jury report, Castilleja may indeed have a secret done-deal. At least Manager Keene's buddy makes more bucks in the process.


39 people like this
Posted by Friends in high places?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm

I'm troubled by the solicitous tone of City Manager Keene's letter to Castilleja's Nanci Kauffman. (Web Link)

Despite Castilleja's history of repeated violations and cover-ups, and despite the Planning Department's stated policy of enforcing the letter of the law (see, for instance, its recent stern and uncompromising penalties levied at Edgewood Plaza), the City Manager stops barely short of gushing and apologizing to Ms. Kauffman. "Castilleja has paid a significant fine" "We will allow the school another year to pause compliance" "Many thanks for your understanding and for the commitment you've expressed". There have long been rumors that Ms. Kauffman and school trustees have friends in high places at City Hall--including Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, and Planning Chief Amy Ffrench. The City Manager's oddly friendly letter certainly lends credence to those rumors.

Is the City extending equal patience, flexibility, and geniality to the neighbors that it shows here to Castilleja? I certainly hope it's a level playing field. Perhaps the PAWeekly could explore this in its future investigative journalism.


9 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Not to defend the City, but Castilleja has already accepted their class of students for next year and it would be unfair to the students to rescind their offer. That said, any students who leave should NOT be replaced.


28 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2017 at 6:34 am

Timing is everything. Acceptance of this year's class shouldn't even be an issue; the "pause" should never have been allowed/accepted and Keene could have written the letter long before the admission process ended. Also, neither the young women nor the quality of education should be used by the school or the city as shields in this debate; this is a land use issue.

Seems to me this City has mangers and Council members who are causing problems rather than solving them.


12 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2017 at 11:51 am

Indeeed, it is not about girls or private education it is a about a 100+ year grandfathered commerical land use surrounded by R1. It's about floor area ratio and what setbacks and building heights can be grandfathered in a major redevelopment such as three stories in a neighborhood with several nearby old houses with three stories, and what public use concessions there can be from a large commercial property owner like the proposed public park on Emerson and bike service station on Bryant to offset any variance requests or requests to erase old lot lines.

Maybe the neighbors don't want a public park and would prefer something else like bigger setbacks. Maybe they don't want a bike service station on Bryant. Maybe they'd prefer buildings which looked more like the Arts & Crafts houses of the original campus. Maybe an orchard and vegetable gardens to screen new driveways to an underground garage? The school moved its first proposed garage entrance away from a neighbor's fron yard view and added a public park instead when asked after the first draft of its plans went public.

Castilleja has two old three-story dorm buildings which are grandfathered in but which they plan to pull down to 2 stories by having a basement floor open to a lowered central open space. Giving up their grandfathered three story above grade buildings is something most property owners would never give up but the school knows that 2-story buildings would be more compatible with their nearest neighbors and current ordinances demand such compatibility.

We're just on Round 2 of the plans. Before this is over I bet there will be at least 4-5 draft plans and some neighbors may be happy and some never will as long as Castilleja is open.


36 people like this
Posted by Embarcadero Lexus Lane
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 30, 2017 at 11:53 am

It's more than just the land-use issue; it's the fact that the city's considering giving CASTI its own Lexus lane off Embarcadero which is already totally jammed.

Absolutely ludicrous the city's wasting OUR money evaluating this plan and may waste more of OUR money building CASTI a Lexus lane.

This has got to stop.


27 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm

@Oldster - Most people are not unhappy with the details of the project (park, setbacks or architectural styles). They are unhappy with the school expanding at ALL at that site when they are already over their CUP. If they want to expand, they should add another site.


5 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm

No upside,

Castillja has purchased more land to expand.

Isn't the underlying issue that Castilleja bought 2 houses contiguous to its campus and wants to use the allowable FAR from those residential properties to expand its school facilities and thus also student enrollment providing any more students don't add more vehicle trips to their property?

The City has an interesting history with owners of several contiguous residental lots such as the Jobs Family and the Chan-Zuckerberg Family not allowing them to tear down houses for larger gardens or a cluster of smaller houses. The Jobs' tore down one house for a larger garden but weren't allowed to tear down a second when there was political outrage that a family wanted such a large garden. The house they could not tear down was instead extensively remodeled and is now partly behind a wall contiguous with their garden so they were at least able to add that house's sideyard to their garden. I guess it is a staff/guest/pool house - so the political idea at the time that preventing the Jobs' Family from tearing down a house "to save single family houses" for single family use or to prevent them from having a larger garden didn't work.

One of the Castilleja houses the school wants to tear down is an unremarkable shingle modern house and the other is a pre-WWII house that has been rotated and extensively renovated. The City wants more park space and more housing. Is the political will now to favor parks over housing at the site of those 2 houses? If those houses become dorm or staff apartment space (the later easier with the new ADU rules), it will be easier for Castilleja to reduce its commuter car trips.


9 people like this
Posted by Statistician
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hi all,

Paly and Gunn are expected to grow another 16% and add 632 students in the next couple years before the growth trend slows. Meanwhile PA has added tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade, with barely a hiccup.

So when Castilleja wants to add ~100 students, that is just peanuts compared to the growth that the town has already handled, and has negatively affected traffic and parking.

My point is that Castilleja appears to be held to standards that other institutions in PA are not. Look at the big picture. Growth stinks when you're out of space, but don't take all the anger and retribution against a single school (regardless of how well they communicate).


13 people like this
Posted by Midtown Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Midtown Citizen is a registered user.

The hypocrisy of the neighbors opposing the Castilleja expansion is breathtaking.

The school has been on that site since 1910; therefore, every single one of them moved into Castilleja's neighborhood, not the other way around.

More than half the houses in the neighborhood sporting the anti-Castilleja signs have themselves been torn down and rebuilt recently; I saw one of the signs on a house in the middle of such a rebuild. Those "Palo Alto rebuilds" always involve many, many trucks and workers burdening the neighborhood for weeks/months as the existing house is demolished, a new foundation is built, and a monster, multi-story house is constructed from scratch. Essentially, the neighbors are saying "We want the freedom to completely burden everyone else but don't want to let Castilleja do it."

The argument that Castilleja committed some huge public fraud by violating the CUP is pretense. In the 12 years between the establishment of the CUP and Castilleja's own exposure of their violation, enrollment "exploded" by 33 total students (less than 3 a year). Castilleja was punished more than $8,500 per extra student for this violation. Since then, the school has gone above and beyond to minimize its impact on the neighborhood.

During the twice daily pick-up times (between 7:45 and 8:00 am and again between 3:00 and 3:30 pm), the moment the cars back up onto the streets, they are sent around the block; at worst this means a neighbor wanting to travel east on Bryant, south on Kellogg, or west on Emerson might be forced to drive behind a few extra cars for 3 minutes at those times. The proposed underground parking will eliminate that congestion and actually improve the neighborhood's quality of life.

One of the reasons your homes are grossly overvalued is that Palo Alto is known as community of good schools. Castilleja is a part of that. Like all successful businesses, schools expand over time. Paly and Gunn have grown to the point we are considering re-opening a 3rd public high school. As a private school, Castilleja can not claim it provides a public benefit the way PAUSD schools can, but it would be expected to grow like any entity.

The Castilleja neighborhood's traffic and parking is far more impacted by Paly students, Stanford students and employees, and the inexorable growth of the city. We have lived in Midtown for 12 years and the impact on our morning commute (both within Palo Alto and to and from it) has gotten progressively worse. Picking up my son from Paly or attending a meeting downtown is almost always compromised by construction or gardening trucks and street closures. It is one of the prices we all pay for living in a city that is desirable for business and for living. [Portion removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 30, 2017 at 4:57 pm

@Statistician says "Paly and Gunn are expected to grow another 16% and add 632 students in the next couple years before the growth trend slows. Meanwhile PA has added tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade, with barely a hiccup."

Barely a hiccup?? Surely you jest. The gridlock is horrendous. Many of us can't back out of our driveways during morning and afternoon rush hour and during school pickup and drop-off times. The city still continues to do traffic surveys at off hours and then tells us there's no problem.

Many of us have given up visiting friends across town because of the length of time it takes to get there and the fact that we can't park near our friends when we do get there!

The city doesn't even have enough parking permits for residents of an area. They forget to issue parking permits to employees of doctors, dentists and opticians, forcing us to end long-term relationships with trusted professionals.

And the city council wants us -- the RESIDENTS -- to pay for this atrocious growth and preferential treatment for Casti and the developers.


32 people like this
Posted by do your job, Keene
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm

"Isn't the underlying issue that Castilleja bought 2 houses contiguous to its campus and wants to use the allowable FAR from those residential properties to expand its school facilities and thus also student enrollment providing any more students don't add more vehicle trips to their property?"

OMG - seriously!? They want to up-zone two R1 houses into part of their school?
WHY is the city even considering this?
First they want their own lane on Embacardero and now they want to up-zone properties they purchased to be part of their school in an R1 neighborhood. No wonder the neighbors are up in arms.

Oh, and moving the garage entrance a few feet down doesn't do @#$#% to dumping their cars onto the neighborhood streets.

Sheesh! This has got to stop NOW!


24 people like this
Posted by near Casti
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2017 at 11:09 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


14 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2017 at 9:48 am

So Bowman school is adding 55,000 square feet of land to their site and NOT asking to increase their CUP, yet Casti would add 18,000 square feet (of R1 zoned land) to their school and add 135 new students to their Conditional Use Permit (their permit is for 415 students). That's an extra $5.6 million of tuition dollars a year.


20 people like this
Posted by Private School Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2017 at 12:34 pm

To Midtown Citizen:
I do not think you realize all the history or traffic problems the Neighbors of Castilleja have been putting up with for the last 15 or so years. All one has to do is read the Palo Alto Weekly to understand the history of the expansion efforts by Castilleja. I do not believe for 1 second that Castilleja is willing to work for a compromise Plan to satisfy the neighborhood and their student population. This is the reason that the "Neighbors" have now hardened their position. Basically they want it THEIR WAY. It seems that the Board of Trustees is backing a losing position, and wont give one inch, until they are forced by the City to give up on their ridiculous expansion plans.


9 people like this
Posted by Private School Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2017 at 12:37 pm

typo: This is the reason that the "Neighbors" have now hardened their position. Basically Castilleja wants it THEIR WAY.


15 people like this
Posted by Check those Stats
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2017 at 12:48 pm

@Statistician - checks your stats - the growth in Palo Alto public high schools is expected to be more than offset by decline in the middle and elementary schools.

Better find another way to rationalize Casti's plan!


19 people like this
Posted by @statistician
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2017 at 1:13 pm

You got you statistics wrong, since fewer kids are attending the local middle schools. That means fewer entering the high schools.

Also, Gunn is not in an R1 residential district. Paly has an R1 residential district on one side only-- and that is a 4-lane road.

Casti is smack dab in an R1 residential district, surrounded on three sides!


8 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Drove by Castilleja, and saw there is only one three story building, not two as I'd written above. (I'd thought both buildings on Kellogg were three stories but they are not.) There used to be a second three story building on Emerson which was torn down in the late 1970's along with the ancient 3+ story gym and a single story house to make space for a new gym/art building.

Was there significant ground water pumping when Castilleja dug a basement for an underground gym about a decade or so ago? Whether digging a new basement hits lots or little ground water depends on whether a projects are on or away from an old creek channel:
Web Link

Changing zoning from R1 to a commercial use is considered down not up zoning because RI generally has the highest land value. However, given the City's new ADU and granny unit rules, is any RI lot still one-family or are all now potentially R2?


17 people like this
Posted by Unleashed
a resident of Professorville
on May 31, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Why are so many students off-campus during lunch time?

We have spotted them from Addison and Bryant to Rinconada and Waverley. It isn't as if they were eating lunches on residential streets [portion removed.]

My own children go to a private school, and they are not allowed off their campus at all.


7 people like this
Posted by Casti PR fiasco
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2017 at 12:30 am

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Old Stats
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 1, 2017 at 7:18 am

People really need to pay attention. Those school stats that say elementary and middle school enrollment is declining is old data. It DOES NOT include 3M new sq ft of residential development at Stanford, which will free up an enormous amount of Palo Alto housing. It DOES NOT include greatly expanded housing suggested by the expansionist council in the new Comprehensive Plan. These two major changes when factored by school personnel have led them to point out that we need at least 5 acres to build another school building. Our schools will be packed.

Please before you repeat old tropes based on outdated assumptions - check your facts


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Nobu Palo Alto eyes next-door expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,391 views

I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE AND I BRING YOU
By Laura Stec | 34 comments | 2,058 views

Are We Really Up To This?
By Aldis Petriceks | 3 comments | 1,400 views

Joe Simitian talk: Listening to Trump's America: Bridging the Divide
By Douglas Moran | 13 comments | 838 views

Don't be a ghost
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 580 views