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Planning commission deals setback to Castilleja's growth plan

Original post made on Apr 21, 2022

Castilleja School suffered a blow to its ambitious plans for increasing enrollment Wednesday when a divided Planning and Transportation Commission voted to cap its student population and further restrict special events at the school.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 11:29 PM

Comments (39)

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 7:38 am

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After a couple of years that Commissioner Hechtman has reviewed the Castilleja Expansion Project in PTC, I was very surprised that he said Castilleja's current CUP allows for 450 student enrollment while the year 2000 CUP clearly stated the enrollment limit is 415.

For each issue that was discussed in last night's PTC, it is frustrating to see Commissioner Hechtman and Templeton's continued to push for whatever Castilleja is asking without willing to consider any checks and balance measure that Chair Lauing, Vice Chair Summa and Commissioner Chang suggested to safeguard the potential negative impacts from the Castilleja expansion.


Posted by Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 9:10 am

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Bravo to Commissioner Hechtman for his diligent work trying to keep the conversation centered on facts and the law. Indeed, if there are no additional impacts from events (it has been studied, proven, tested that the traffic will need to remain level, there will not be additional noise, limited hours of operation, etc.), then it is unreasonable under the law to set more limits on events. And bravo to Commissioner Templeton for demanding clarity about exaggeration and rumors. She and Commissioner Hechtman proved their integrity last night. Such a shame for all of us and the city of Palo Alto that they were outnumbered. I certainly hope the City Council does better than the PTC on using the facts and law. The good news is that everyone seems to have gotten their heads around the fact that the garage is permissible. That will be a great benefit to everyone.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2022 at 9:36 am

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Good for the PTC for finally realizing that Casti's word can't be trusted after its many years of violating its enrollment cap. Why has it taken this long and how much has the failure to do so earlier cost the neighbors and the taxpayers?


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 9:42 am

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I have to say a BIG THANK YOU to Chair Lauing, Vice Chair Summa and Commissioner Chang who understand the role of the PTC is to determine what is best for the City. They studied the detail of all the projected impacts from the proposal and tried their best to balance the quality of life for the neighbors and allowing Castilleja to co-exist in the Single Family Neighborhood.

I am really puzzled by Commissioner Hechtman by trying to examples from business district underground garages to justify Castilleja's underground garage in Single Family neighborhood. Is there a zoning misunderstanding here?

Commissioner Templeton stated she was every alarmed to hear Vice Chair Summa pointed out the significant magnitude for increase from the current CUP that 5 plus several events. So she asked for Castilleja's lawyer to interpret the exist Year 2000 CUP to justify how Castilleja has violated the CUP for years by having over 100 of events per academic year. Isn't the City Attorney's job to provide clarification of the CUP ?

The behaviors of Commissioner Hechtman and Templeton lead me to question their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a Palo Alto PTC commissioner.


Posted by Longtime PA res
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 10:35 am

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Wasn't it already explained extensively that Kol Emeth was NOT a good comparison as part of the garage is actually under part of their building? Castilleja is planning on a garage under a playing field, not a structure which is NOT allowed in a R-1 neighborhood. Interesting that Commissioner Hechtman was pushing for this comparison. And though both Commissioner Summa and Chang mentioned the greenhouse gas emissions by building a garage, I am very surprised that they all voted for a smaller garage as it will create almost the same amount of greenhouse gasses to build and operate.

Yea to the vote to keep the enrollment at 450 students. For their size lot, the school is more dense than any of the other private schools in the Bay Area. Lesson as old as time... If the foot doesn't fit, then find a bigger shoe, or find the right size foot to fit the shoe. Clearly, if Castilleja wants to offer women's education to more girls, find a campus that fit its expansion dreams or stay with the size that can comfortably accommodate the students and the neighborhood. I wish more parents who are NOT comfortable with their daughters being shoved into basement classrooms and having larger class sizes would speak up! They are paying top dollar for a school that is compromising their daughter's and neighborhood's safety with density and increased traffic woes surrounding the school.

I hope that the city council members will also take into account that they are supposed to make decisions based on the health, safety and well being of its residents. Granting them even 50 events when the school has skirted the "5 events and a few others" for years in the CUP should not be allowed. 20 at most on campus and the rest off site, not using public school facilities! It's been 6 long years of pushing their agenda with full page ads with their overzealous plans. The city council must ask for a CUP with very specific instructions that the school can NOT wheedle its way out of!


Posted by panative
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2022 at 10:38 am

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Happy to see this. I don't live near Castilleja but it's frustrating to see our city officials squander so much time and resources on the desires and demands of a small, elite private school when our town's public middle and high schools have significant infrastructure and other needs. Castilleja should buy some additional land elsewhere and separate its lower and upper schools as other local private schools have done.


Posted by commonsense
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2022 at 10:56 am

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They should just move. They have plenty of money/income to do so, even in this high cost real estate environment.


Posted by ZPS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 11:09 am

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Thank you to PTC Chair Lauing for his leadership and ethical clarity last night! The Chair made it abundantly clear that Castilleja has no entitlement under their CUP to all that they're asking for despite their misrepresentations to the community that they are being treated unreasonably and denied their legitimate property rights. The Chair and Commissioners Summa and Change were able to largely cut thrown the school's lies and obfuscations as to the CUP, enrollment, TDM, special events and tree protection despite the roadblocks the minority tried to throw in the way last night.
Castilleja has overplayed their hand for 6 years on this project, asking for far more than the school is legally entitled to, and now they're acting like spoiled children when the adults in the room finally set reasonable limits for them!
On enrollment, as Commissioner Chang wisely stated, Castilleja needs to first demonstrate they can operate within legal limits and build back trust with the community, "there needs to be a period of healing." Strangely, Commissioner Templeton questioned why Ms. Chang would imply that there was a trust issue with the school. This flies in the face of credulity, the school to this day is still overenrolled, and they say, "just trust us."
After 20 years of legal violations, from 2001 until today, if the City is going to trust on blind faith the word of such applicants, the community can have no faith in the city's financial, legal or administrative capability to responsibly manage public government! This community is VERY fortunate to have the integrity and intellect of Lauing, Summa and Chang (and Reckdahl, recused) who understand & appreciate their responsibilities as true public servants & not mouth pieces for the wealthy and well-connected Castilleja community. Sadly, for too many years, elected and appointed council members and those on boards and commissions haven't been able to say "no" to Castilleja's excessive requests and now, demands!


Posted by Younger PA Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 12:07 pm

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This is just maddening. As an active participant providing input to this process, I feel discouraged from participating in civic engagement when I see elected officials like Chang, Lauing, and Summa, who have wasted the public's time by reverse-engineering the same NIMBY conclusion that they always wanted to reach. Why should applicants bother assembling a careful accounting of facts, and why should supporters spend time making personal appeals based on our own experiences when the unreasonable grumblings of a few aggrieved neighbors will always reign supreme? In addition, the fact that this close and contentious vote hinged on a key board member being absent for one evening casts a real pall over the process.

As comments at public hearings and on articles like this one make clear, the "trust gap" still exists because neighbors have no interest in closing it. Have not acknowledged the extreme measures that Castilleja has taken to conduct itself with transparency and hold itself accountable? They don't want to impose event caps and enrollment limits in the name of coexisting with the school; many opponents have been very clear that their end goal is to drive Castilleja from the neighborhood altogether.

I can't count how many bad faith arguments I have heard where opponents cite the lengthy nature of the review process as cause for even more delay: another environmental study, an updated traffic survey. This has gone on too long already. By suggesting the school be required to come back again for any enrollment increase, the PTC knowingly hobbles any chance of progress. Many thanks to Commissioner Templeton for calling out this obstruction-through-process for what it is.

As a near neighbor of the school, I take no issue with the proposed enrollment increase and have experienced no disruption due to events. Here's hoping that the City Council sees through the PTC's nonsense.


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 12:16 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I join the huge and growing number of local residents in giving gratitude to Chair Lauing, Vice Chair Summa and Commissioner Chang, who were able to see through Castilleja's pricey and relentless campaign of propaganda, to act in favor of what is in the best interest of the public.

One Castilleja mistruth that it spreads is that Castilleja expansion would increase opportunity for local girls. Unlike more civic-minded private schools that commit to full scholarships for needy local kids, e.g. Web Link , Castilleja's proposed CUP contains no promise to increase enrollment for local kids, much less *needy* local kids.

Castilleja's enrollment undeniably skews to the privileged. Castilleja's website describes tuition-plus-costs as almost $60,000/student/year and the school offers financial aid only to 21% of its students (Web Link ). This means that almost 80% of all Castilleja students pay full fare of post-tax $60K/year. Add that to the fact that Castilleja admits only a small fraction of its applicant pool, with no stated preference for local families, it is unreasonable for it to claim that it furthers the education of "all" girls - it's more accurately, mostly very wealthy girls, only a minority of whom live in the community.

Castilleja also continues to insist that its enormous construction project would not disrupt the community, but that claim belies rational belief. In part, they are empowered to make these claims based on their expensive lawyers' success in convincing City Staff and elected/appointed leaders that its huge underground structure should not be considered in the full analysis of its impact. That error continues to erode the fairness of this public process.

There are countless problems with Castilleja's plans, not the least of which include the resources it is draining. Castilleja should build a second campus, or move.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2022 at 12:51 pm

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I wish City Council and staff would dedicate the resources they are giving to wealthy Castilleja to our local Safe Routes to School program instead. (Castilleja made their bed with their neighbors. Let them lie in it.) PAUSD public schools have more than half of our local students (vast majority residents of Palo Alto) walking and biking to school. Providing safer school routes for these kids deserves the city's attention, staff time, and funding. Casti's woes were created by Castilleja when they betrayed previous agreements with their neighbors who worked with them in good faith on a formal document called a Conditional Use Permit which Casti and, sadly, the city ignored).

The city is prioritizing the wrong thing. This is an economic period when the city needs to spend resources more prudently. This expansion of a private school for the wildly wealthy (Casti has a $72,000,000 endowment for a school of roughly 500 students) is not an example of a project that deserves to move forward. (Tuition and fees at Castilleja exceed $56,000 annually according to their admissions page.) Let's focus on PUBLIC schools and LOCAL needs with city resources that are funded by LOCAL tax dollars. As a graduate of a women's college, I am not the slightest bit concerned that the young women whose families can afford Casti's exhorbitant tuition in high school will be deprived of an excellent education if we don't expand this campus. Please give the "women's education" spurious PR tag line a rest. AND, City Council, give them an answer. "No." They could build a high school in another community closer to San Francisco and Atherton. And use the Palo Alto campus as their middle school. Many other private schools have done this.

By doing this, they would not worsen auto impacts on local school routes to Paly and Jordan.


Posted by ZPS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 2:30 pm

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Actually I don't think Castilleja would be welcomed in any other local community given their poor track record on enrollment, the square footage of their new facility and failure to be straightforward on the school currently exceeding their legal limit on square footage. Frankly until City Council Member Lydia Kou requested an independent audit of Castilleja's current square footage in 2021, City staff was willing to accept the school's word about their square footage! And unfortunately, the PTC had earlier approved a variance based on the inaccurate data, a variance which should be set aside!
It's regularly suggested that Castilleja should establish a second site for its expanded enrollment. While a second site is a great idea to reduce Castilleja's local burden on Palo Alto, in actuality, what town would want an entitled private school in their community that doesn't believe they have to follow local laws and parades around their sense of superiority by regularly threatening to sue the local municipality if they are not granted their desired outcomes and demeans citizens for requesting that local laws be adhered to as for all residents.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2022 at 2:33 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I want to know how much the city has spent on this nonsense; shame on staff for not doing its homework and shame on the commissioners who tolerate such shoddy biased work. It's obvious they are NOT serving the residents.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 2:35 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Younger PA Resident, can you please provide the specific of the "input" that you have provided as an active participant? Can you please provide specific "facts" that the applicants has provided for this process?

The following are the facts that I know
1. Castilleja is operating under a Conditional User Permit(CUP) within a Single Family Neighborhood
2. The year 2000 CUP clearly stated that Castilleja can have a maximum of 415 students and Castilleja has exceeded that limit since 2002 and went as high as 450 in 2012. When they were asked by the City to reduce their enrollment to comply with the CUP, they asked their attorney Ms Mindie Romanowsky to pushback back.
3. The year 2000 CUP stated that Castilleja can have 5 major events plus several. But Castilleja regularly have 100 plus events each school year for number of years. And they used their violation to the CUP as the justification to apply for 90 events by claiming it is a reduction of what they currently have.
4. Castilleja traffic studies only accounted for cars that entered into the school driveway. It is public knowledge that many students are being dropped off and picked up in the surrounding areas which were not being counted in any of the traffic study.


If Castilleja can really manage the traffic issue, then why are they fighting so so hard to get the garage? Why Castilleja students should be entitled to drive to school instead of being shuttled in everyday?


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 2:56 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto
"Indeed, if there are no additional impacts from events (it has been studied, proven, tested that the traffic will need to remain level, there will not be additional noise, limited hours of operation, etc.), then it is unreasonable under the law to set more limits on events."

Can you please let me know what study are you referring to regarding impacts from events? The community repeatedly requested event traffic impacts to be studied in the EIR. However, it was rejected as it was claimed to be out of scope. Traffic studies were done only during peak commute hours. As a neighbor, we have seen hundreds of cars coming into our neighborhood during many evenings and weekends creating disruptions to our daily lives. So I really don't understand how Commissioner Hechtman, who does not live in the neighborhood, can claim there is not impact to the neighbors.


" And bravo to Commissioner Templeton for demanding clarity about exaggeration and rumors."
Can you please provide details on the exaggeration and rumors? Are you referring to Commissioner Templeton was alarmed when she heard 90 events is several factor higher than the CUP allows 5 major events plus several? And she has to ask Castilleja Attorney to provide her legal definition of what "several events" means? Or is it Commissioner Hechtman's claim that Castilleja allows to have 450 students instead of the CUP enrollment limit of 415?


Posted by eyeswideopen
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 21, 2022 at 3:01 pm

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BRAVO!! BRAVO!! BRAVO!!
I also join "the huge and growing number of local residents in giving gratitude to Chair Lauing, Vice Chair Summa and Commissioner Chang, who were able to see through Castilleja's pricey and relentless campaign of propaganda, to act in favor of what is in the best interest of the public". (to quote a writer above).


At this point, I'd like to wave goodbye to this


Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2022 at 3:55 pm

staying home is a registered user.

Happy to hear that some limitations have finally been recommended. The school is not here to benefit Palo Alto residents, it is to benefit those that can afford to attend. No one is against education women. Please see recent surveys that rank Gunn and Paly at the top of the state (Web Link It is evident that the Palo Alto community values excellence in education. Using "Castilleja's laudable mission of educating young women" as justification for expansion is a joke.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2022 at 5:27 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Castilleja seems to have managed to get some level of City buy—in for the underground garage, albeit a smaller one. If the garage wasn’t necessary for a larger expansion (per the school’s own consultant) why is it necessary for a capped expansion?

The City had the spine to say NO to the business community when CC voted against the promised downtown garage. This CC should do the same. Or admit that the S-CAP goals apply only to those who do not have the resources to work around them for some gain that matters more to them than the environment.

As for the slick PR, the biggest take away from that is that it goes to show that if something is repeated often enough, a good number of people will believe it. The part of the recent ad that amazes me is the clever way the school boasts of the reduction in the above-ground footprint, skirting completely the fact that this is achieved by moving the classrooms (and thus the girls) below-grade.

And why is Staff engaged in the business of promoting a zone change to get this project to work (for the school)? That doesn’t seem right.


Posted by ZPS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 5:58 pm

ZPS is a registered user.

NO MORE GIVE AWAYS TO CASTILLEJA

Neighbors and concerned community members have fought for years the seemingly endless gifts to Castilleja by Palo Alto's governing bodies! It's time to write and speak to City Council Members and tell them NO MORE GIVE AWAYS TO CASTILLEJA before the Council hears the school's expansion request on May 23rd!

Why have a Sustainability Planning Process yet have a private commuter school allow students, parents and staff to drive when other private school have shuttling for students to get to campus (e.g. Nueva, Harker, among others)? Building an underground garage is a magnet for families and staff to drive to campus through narrow neighborhood streets. As is said, "Build it and they will come." Additionally, threats to the community's groundwater, air quality, and tree canopy pose threats to our natural environment. Castilleja is requesting of the City donate to them our precious--and irreplaceable--natural resources!

What are the specific giveaways to Castilleja :

* Gift of the 200 Block of Melville. In today's dollars probably worth over $1m.
* Donation of underground easement.
* 20 Years of Overenrollment with a paltry fine from the City. What has happened to the unaccounted for millions? When you do the math, easily over $10 million!
* Underground Garage in a R-1 Neighborhood...Establishing a new precedent for P.A. neighborhoods.
* Allowing 48,000 Square Feet Over What is Legally Allowable to Expand their Campus.
* Destruction of a Protected Redwood and a Request for Further Destruction of Mature Trees that are essential for the City's tree canopy. Castilleja touts that they will replace these mature trees with saplings that will take years to grow, provide shade cover and collect dangerous CO2 gases.
* Palo Alto's Groundwater: Construction of a the school's new pool threatens our groundwater, which occurred when Castilleja built its gym.

IS THIS PROJECT IN PALO ALTO'S BEST INTEREST?






Posted by Trisha Suvari
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Trisha Suvari is a registered user.

@YoungerPA. Yes! Yes! Yes! Well said. Of course the opponents of this project want to continue to drag this out by asking Castilleja to go through the CUP process once again after the construction project is complete. What a waste of city resources and time that would be to land us right back to where we are today, even after 7 plus years of this back and forth. And Bravo Commissioner Templeton for recognizing that. Thank you Commissioner Templeton for bringing up a very important point about limiting student special events. After covid and the lingering mental health concerns our youth is now facing, this is not the time to take away dances, sporting events, and student gatherings for community building. This is just as important as academics and cannot be overlooked. By limiting special events, you are hurting the students who we should be looking out for and protecting as members of a broader community.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2022 at 10:25 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Annette asks a very important question:

"And why is Staff engaged in the business of promoting a zone change to get this project to work (for the school)? That doesn’t seem right."

I've never understood why they can order commissions what to review and what not. Staff is supposed to be objective.

And I'd like the city to give me a block of Melville, too, and I too would like it to be tax-free just like their gift to Casti.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2022 at 11:31 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Trisha Suvari
The year 2000 CUP that Castilleja is currently operating under clearly states 5 major events plus several. Castilleja has been violating it for many years with over 100 events per school year. Should we just change the law to allow all violators in the City to grandfather in past violations? The school has the sole power to decide which events to keep on campus. If they prioritize fundraising event to expand their $72M endowment instead student special events, what does it say about the priority of the school administration? To reduce impact to the neighbors, why can't they hold additional events offsite?


Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2022 at 4:38 am

Roy M is a registered user.

@OldPaloAltoResident. You are mixing up the definition of Major Event vs Event when you compare 5 major events with over 100 events, something that I have continually seen by those opposed to the Castilleja proposal. As disappointed as I was with the overall direction from the PTC, the event cap is an unreasonable hardship. To give just one example, the school has 9 theater performances a year. Does that get cut? What about the 3 performances of Arts With a Heart, a dance production that benefits a different local non-profit each year? I have just listed 12 events without getting into athletics, Back to School Night, or teacher conferences. It is absolutely ridiculous.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2022 at 8:00 am

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Roy M
"@OldPaloAltoResident. You are mixing up the definition of Major Event vs Event when you compare 5 major events with over 100 events"

It is pretty clear from the following text of the existing CUP that Castilleja has been in violation for having over 100 events for years. Yet Castilleja continues to use their lawyer to try to interpret it their own way to justify their violation and asking for more. Just as when the neighbors uncovered the over enrollment at 2013 with 448 students, Castilleja was trying to spin it as they were interpreting the 415 enrollment limit as student daily attendance. As one of the Castilleja parents stated in previous PTC Oral Communication that the over enrollment was a public knowledge for the school and parents prior to be uncovered by the neighbors.

27. Castilleja has 5 major functions each year ...
28. Additionally, there are several other events during the year,


I understand that some of events are essential for the students to have a complete education experience. The neighbors have been paying for that experience with the impact to our quality of life because we do support education. But we don't live in the world of unlimited resources. As Palo Alto Medical Foundation outgrew their original site in University South neighborhood, it moved to the El Camino to originally expand and continues throughout the Bay Area to serve many more new patients outside of Palo Alto. Many companies around Palo Alto and across the world have done the same to expand. So I am not sure why Castilleja is still stubbornly insists on expanding within the small confines of this location that limits their ability to educate hundreds of thousand more women!


Posted by Broken Broker
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 22, 2022 at 8:31 am

Broken Broker is a registered user.

So disgusting, these remarks and this years-long effort to run out of town one the nation's best schools. And, y'all say you are compassionate and liberal? What you are really are super self-centered millionaires taking care of yourselves and resorting to any tactic you think might work. How can you look in the mirror?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2022 at 9:32 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Broken Broker, thanks for the giggles! I guess you forgot what Casti's tuition is and that 75+% of Casti students live outside PA and commute to the PA campus from much wealthier communities.

As for those "super self-centered millionaires taking care of yourselves and resorting to any tactic you think might work," want to borrow a mirror to present to Casti admin and their pr firm who "compassionately" insist on inflicting years of construction, disruption and traffic on their less fortunate residents?


Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2022 at 12:29 pm

Roy M is a registered user.

@OldPaloAltoResident. I believe I only addressed the event limit which is a massive reduction from the present number regardless of any enrollment increase. PNQL has been very misleading in counting number of events going back to a chart I remember comparing Castilleja with other schools that was laughably low on the number of events for a school like Pinewood that has athletics. And are you seriously comparing a small private school to a corporation like Palo Alto Medical (part of Sutter Health)?

What has always been frustrating over the years of this dispute is that many of the opponents keep changing what they want.


Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2022 at 12:48 pm

staying home is a registered user.

Schools embedded into a residential neighborhood only make sense when the neighborhood attends. Students can walk and bike to school. Casti is not a neighborhood school, so maybe it is time they realize they have ambitions greater than the space allows.


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Apr 22, 2022 at 12:59 pm

community member is a registered user.

I am grateful to the active neighbors for their intelligent, articulate advocacy for the neighborhood.
Clearly, they put in countless hours of study, writing, and testimony.
And they stay the course.
Many thanks for your good work for the community.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2022 at 11:38 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Roy M
"And are you seriously comparing a small private school to a corporation like Palo Alto Medical (part of Sutter Health)?"
PAMF was also started as a small clinic that out grew their original location. Castilleja is in the same situation right now. If they truly want to educate more women as they claimed, then they should move to a bigger location that can house 10X or even 100X more enrollment to fulfill their promise. Otherwise, please stop using that excuse to justify 540 enrollment.

"What has always been frustrating over the years of this dispute is that many of the opponents keep changing what they want."
Nothing was changed. It was just Castilleja didn't listen to the neighbor all these years. They are just keep pushing the same agenda and blaming the neighbors. For example, the neighbors submitted written letters to the school objecting the underground garage from the beginning but it was just ignored.



Posted by Cindy Chen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:25 am

Cindy Chen is a registered user.

I remain shocked at the vitriolic comments going back and forth on these forums. Can we remember that at the end of the day, this project is about a school that wants to modernize and provide more opportunities to educate girls. It’s not a for-profit institution that is looking to take over Palo Alto. Also, let’s recognize and remember the immense privilege each of us has just by living in this town. Our quality of life will hardly suffer due to such a small school. Please, let’s stop talking over each other and re-focus on the heart of the matter: more girls wish to go to Castilleja. This is possible if the school is granted a larger enrollment (but remember, it’s a GRADUAL increase over SEVERAL years). At the end of the day, opposing this project harms those children who just want to go to school in an all-girls, non-sectarian environment. Don’t let your privilege get in the way of that.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:28 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Cindy Chen
It is a bit contradicting to argue Castilleja is a "small school" but at the same time limiting enrollment will greatly prevent many more women from being educated by them. If Castilleja truly wants to educate many more women, they should build another campus that allows them to expand enrollment by 5X, 10X or more.

I suggest each Castilleja parent to look into the eyes of Ms Nanci Kauffman and ask her why Castilleja can't just simply expand with another campus to education many many more women such as splitting the middle and high schools into two campuses. Here are examples of some of the myths that Ms Kauffman used in the past to argue against it.

Myth: The high school and middle school must co-locate because the middle school students are being mentored by the high school students.
Truth: A number of middle school students stated that there is hardly if any interaction between middle and high school students. Please do you own investigation if you want to verify it.

Myth: There is no land close to Stanford that is available.
Truth: There were many sites available since 2016. Cubberley Community Center would be a good example. BTW, the old USGS site with 17.36ac in Menlo Park on Middlefield by Willow is available right now. The is about 3X the size of Castilleja current campus. Just image how many more women can be educated if they decide to purchase and build on that site now. Why continue to fight the community to expand on a site with so much limitations?


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2022 at 11:59 am

Annette is a registered user.

The "we just want to educate more girls" argument is a campaign slogan. That Castilleja wants to do that is laudable and there's no questioning the school's ability to educate young girls. But that has NOTHING to do with code compliance and land use decisions. Facebook, Google, Apple, and Stanford are all good at what they do. Your neighbor is probably really good at what he or she does. Does that mean that building applications and variance requests from any of them should be rubber-stamped APPROVED? Of course not.

Palo Alto City Council, City Staff, the ARB, and the PTC have a set of rules to work with; their job is to apply those rules accurately, objectively, and fairly regardless of the name on the application. Sometimes that means sending the applicant back to the drawing board. And sometimes it means saying NO.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2022 at 3:49 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Watching Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting I was struck once again how consistently and passionately Commissioner Hechtman advocates on behalf of Casti’s interests.

To date, listening to Commissioner Hechtman during his current tenure on the Planning Commission, you might be hard-pressed to think he was appointed to represent the interests of anyone other than the deep pocket applicants whose projects come to the Planning Commission.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2022 at 1:25 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Further, Mr Hechtman, who is a practicing lawyer, admits to at least one prior private meet with Casti’s lawyer. That he appears to be vociferously arguing on behalf of Casti’s legal team has all the optics of completely ignoring the ethics and conduct expected of a Planning Commissioner appointed to represent the public rather than private interests.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@mjh, interesting. Then why wasn't he forced to recuse himself as well as the commissioner whose only "sin" was belong to PAN (PA Neighborhoods) which merely sent a letter on the Casti issue? Hechtman's offense seems much more serious. What am I missing?


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2022 at 8:58 pm

mjh is a registered user.

The current city lawyer appears to interpret “conflict of interest” very loosely when it comes to our representatives, leaving it up to the individual whether or not to recuse him or herself. Which to those who are aware when this happens has sometimes led to a lack of confidence in the city’s standards.

The new member of the Planning Commission who recused himself did so out of an abundant sense of propriety. Also, if Casti does not achieve (all) their goals through regular channels they may well file a legal case in an attempt to achieve their ambitions through the courts. So what may appear to be perhaps as an over abundance of caution may turn out to be the wisest course of action in this situation.


Posted by Richard
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2022 at 9:17 pm

Richard is a registered user.

Agree about Hechtman. AT the meeting of the planning commission he kept citing "evidence" that the casti plan would work (or lack of evidence that it wouldn't). Neither is true since there is no evidence to date, only predictions. Evidence has to be derived from data from a given situation, which in Casti's case, has not yet occurred. Hechtman was really referring to projections based on studies of what goes on now, which must use some sort of statistical model to make a projection on what will occur in the future, given some set of assumed circumstances. Such projections are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. That is why any expansion of Casti on its present site MUST proceed in a stepwise manner, if at all , with new evidence (measurements of effects on traffic, parking etc) collected before approving any further expansion. My own view is that Casti should look for an alternative site to accommodate all or some segment of its student body for the reasons cited by many others.


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2022 at 5:13 pm

community member is a registered user.

Around 100 events a year! In a residential neighborhood.
It boggles the mind. They submitted a list, I couldn't add it all.

100 events!! with traffic, parking, and noise for the neighbors.
Good neighbors? I don't think so.
100!


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