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As City Council prepares for decision, Castilleja plan continues to polarize

After 6 years of debate, compromise remains elusive in school's plan to rebuild campus, boost enrollment

The Palo Alto City Council is set to review Castilleja School's campus modernization plan at 1310 Bryant St. on May 23, 2022. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

​​As the Palo Alto City Council prepares to rule on Castilleja School's contentious proposal to rebuild its campus and increase student enrollment, both sides in the debate are raising fresh concerns about the prolonged approval process.

The attorney for Castilleja issued a letter on Friday arguing that the recent recommendation from the city's Planning and Transportation Commission to scale down the school's proposal is "arbitrary" and would leave the city exposed to litigation. Meanwhile, neighboring residents who have steadfastly opposed the school's expansion plan came out swinging against a suggestion from city staff that the council move ahead with the original plan, which has been more than five years in the making and which calls for gradually increasing enrollment from 422 students in the current year to 540.

Both sides will have a chance to make their case on May 23, as the council holds its first review of the city's most disputed development project since it considered it in March 2021. At that time, the council remanded the project back to the Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission, the two advisory bodies that had already approved the project, for a fresh round of reviews. Council members also agreed to scale back the school's proposed underground garage and specified that the structure should contain no more than 50% of the required parking spaces.

The proposal that the council will review on Monday includes several modifications from the one they considered last year, including changes to the building façade along Kellogg Avenue (this includes a new trellis and planter extension) and a new requirement for an oversight committee that will consist of both neighborhood and Castilleja representative and that will monitor the school's traffic impacts. Much like in the prior version, the project will be governed by a "no net new trips policy" that prohibits Castilleja from increasing its average daily trips from the current level of 1,198.

The restriction will require the school to beef up its transportation-demand-management program that includes shuttles, car-sharing services and policies restricting staff from solo driving. A failure to meet this policy in consecutive monitoring periods would require Castilleja to add further transportation measures. If those fail, the school would be forced to cut down its enrollment.

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Castilleja officials have consistently characterized the school's ambitious traffic-management plan, as well as numerous design revisions such as the reduction of its proposed garage, as concessions to neighbors. Nanci Kauffman, head of school at Castilleja, said in a statement Friday that the school has "made steady progress with our neighbors and with the city."

"This complicated process continues to stay on track, and we believe our CUP application is ready for approval," she said.

But as recent hearings on the project demonstrate, the Castilleja plan remains as divisive as ever. Dozens of residents, including many who live close to the school, support the project and have urged the commission and the council to approve it after years of debate. Some have submitted letters in the lead-up to the May 23 meeting urging the council to give Castilleja a vote of support.

Charles Stevens, a resident of Edgewood Drive, said he was "frustrated and disappointed that a small number of vocal opponents have so effectively slowed this process." He argued that facts support Castilleja, which would not be able to get to 540 students unless it can prove that it's traffic-reduction strategies work.

"The school will need to earn that number by meeting the strictest traffic monitoring in the Bay Area. The school is agreeing to a level of scrutiny that will absolutely assure that no new trips are added as students gradually join the community," Stevens wrote.

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Many others, however, continue to call the school's plan a massive overreach that flouts local zoning laws in the single-family residential neighborhood. The planning commission sided with the latter on April 20, when members voted to limit the school's increase to 450 students and to ban Castilleja from applying for further enrollment hikes until it completes the reconstruction of its campus at 1310 Bryant St.

The commission also voted to limit the number of events that the school is allowed to have to 55 per year, which includes five major events (those with over 500 people in attendance) and 50 "special events" with 50 or more attendees. That's a substantial reduction from its prior approval in 2020, when the commission had recommended allowing 74 events.

In his May 13 letter, Castilleja's attorney David Lanferman suggested that if the council follows these recommendations, it would put the city in legal jeopardy. The three commissioners who supported lowering the enrollment cap and the number of special events talked about neighbors' "lack of trust" toward Castilleja in explaining their decision. Lanferman argued that the recommendation is "arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence in the record, as required."

"Lack of trust is not a valid basis on which to make a land-use decision," Lanferman wrote.

He cited the nearly six years of reviews and argued that "no further substantial refinements to the project are needed nor would any such refinements be legally justified or supported."

Lanferman also pushed back against the arguments by three commissioners — Chair Ed Lauing, Vice Chair Doria Summa and Commissioner Bryna Chang — that the school needs to demonstrate a track record of keeping trips low before it applies for further enrollment increases.

"Such statements of subjective personal opinion and hearsay do not constitute facts, reasonable assumptions predicated on facts, or expert opinions supported by facts," Lanferman wrote. "Moreover, those assertions are belied by the actual evidence in the record, including the School's nine year 'track record' of successfully reducing peak hour trips and maintaining those reductions."

"It is noteworthy, and highly objectionable, that none of the Commissioners who voted to cap enrollment at 450 students provided valid reasons or evidence explaining why the procedure recommended by the Staff, implementing the Council's motion, was lacking," he added, referring to the council's directive in 2021 that the commission establish a procedure for allowing the school to achieve an enrollment increase beyond 450 students.

The proposal by the three commissioners would require Castilleja to file an application for a new conditional use permit if it wanted more students in the future, a process that school officials say is overly burdensome. In a new report, staff from the Department of Planning and Development Services suggest that such a procedure is not consistent with the council's direction from March 2021. As such, staff have not incorporated the planning commission's recommendation for a 450-student cap into its drafted record of land-use action.

During public comment at the council's May 16 meeting, several opponents of the Castilleja project strongly objected to this decision and accused staff of ignoring the commission's input. Rob Levitsky, who lives near Castilleja, called the planning commission's suggestions "perfectly reasonable" and told the council that planning staff appear to be "actively lobbying" against its recommendations.

"These boards and commissions should not be ignored and just railroaded by the planning department," Levitsky said.

Mary Sylvester, who also lives close to the school and who is affiliated with the neighborhood group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now (PNQL Now), also accused staff of bias and claimed that residents have been forced to fight a "two-front battle" against staff and Castilleja over the last six years.

"The very least citizens deserve is transparency, respect, fairness and a timeliness of response, not obfuscations and distortions by city staff," Sylvester said.

After hearing from the public, council member Tom DuBois objected to the personal attacks leveled by some speakers against city staff. While the public has a right to speak, DuBois said, he has the right to listen or not.

"When you make a personal attack, I tune you out and you lose the opportunity to potentially influence somebody who would support your position," DuBois said.

While Lanferman blasted the planning commission's recommendation, Andie Reed, a member of the PNQL Now, told this news organization in a May 16 interview that her group believes the planning commission came up with a good compromise. The school will have no problem getting approval for more students, beyond the 450 cap, if it could prove its ability to keep traffic levels from increasing.

"It's a methodical approach to having the school get their 8% increase and settle in for a couple of years and show that they can in fact have no net new trips," Reed said in an interview. "Then, if in fact that's the case — and they are adamant they can do that and swear they can do that — then we'd say, 'Yes. That's awesome.'"

In addition to considering appropriate enrollment levels for Castilleja, the council will navigate the various zoning dilemmas that are associated with the project and that it struggled to resolve last year. These include the question of whether the city should approve a variance that would allow the school to construct new buildings and whether its underground garage should be counted as square footage. While the council indicated last year that it would support a new zoning rule that would count underground garages as square footage, it did not establish the exact parameters of the new rule.

The law drafted by staff would apply only to parcels greater than 6 acres that contain a historic resource and that are developed with nonresidential uses. The only projects that would qualify under this criteria are Our Lady of the Rosary Church at 3233 Cowper St., located near Loma Verde Avenue, and Castilleja.

Lanferman maintained in his letter that creating new regulations on underground parking in residential neighborhoods is inappropriate. A text amendment of this sort would be illegal, he wrote, because the city had already approved an underground garage for a recent renovation project at Congregation Kol Emeth, where the garage was not counted as square footage. Denying the project or subjecting Castilleja "to different or more burdensome requirements than imposed on similarly situated property owners would deprive Castilleja of constitutionally protected rights to equal protection under the law.'

"Such apparently discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment would unnecessarily expose the City to the risk of litigation, and a potential award of damages and attorneys' fees," Lanferman wrote.

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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As City Council prepares for decision, Castilleja plan continues to polarize

After 6 years of debate, compromise remains elusive in school's plan to rebuild campus, boost enrollment

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 17, 2022, 12:05 pm

​​As the Palo Alto City Council prepares to rule on Castilleja School's contentious proposal to rebuild its campus and increase student enrollment, both sides in the debate are raising fresh concerns about the prolonged approval process.

The attorney for Castilleja issued a letter on Friday arguing that the recent recommendation from the city's Planning and Transportation Commission to scale down the school's proposal is "arbitrary" and would leave the city exposed to litigation. Meanwhile, neighboring residents who have steadfastly opposed the school's expansion plan came out swinging against a suggestion from city staff that the council move ahead with the original plan, which has been more than five years in the making and which calls for gradually increasing enrollment from 422 students in the current year to 540.

Both sides will have a chance to make their case on May 23, as the council holds its first review of the city's most disputed development project since it considered it in March 2021. At that time, the council remanded the project back to the Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission, the two advisory bodies that had already approved the project, for a fresh round of reviews. Council members also agreed to scale back the school's proposed underground garage and specified that the structure should contain no more than 50% of the required parking spaces.

The proposal that the council will review on Monday includes several modifications from the one they considered last year, including changes to the building façade along Kellogg Avenue (this includes a new trellis and planter extension) and a new requirement for an oversight committee that will consist of both neighborhood and Castilleja representative and that will monitor the school's traffic impacts. Much like in the prior version, the project will be governed by a "no net new trips policy" that prohibits Castilleja from increasing its average daily trips from the current level of 1,198.

The restriction will require the school to beef up its transportation-demand-management program that includes shuttles, car-sharing services and policies restricting staff from solo driving. A failure to meet this policy in consecutive monitoring periods would require Castilleja to add further transportation measures. If those fail, the school would be forced to cut down its enrollment.

Castilleja officials have consistently characterized the school's ambitious traffic-management plan, as well as numerous design revisions such as the reduction of its proposed garage, as concessions to neighbors. Nanci Kauffman, head of school at Castilleja, said in a statement Friday that the school has "made steady progress with our neighbors and with the city."

"This complicated process continues to stay on track, and we believe our CUP application is ready for approval," she said.

But as recent hearings on the project demonstrate, the Castilleja plan remains as divisive as ever. Dozens of residents, including many who live close to the school, support the project and have urged the commission and the council to approve it after years of debate. Some have submitted letters in the lead-up to the May 23 meeting urging the council to give Castilleja a vote of support.

Charles Stevens, a resident of Edgewood Drive, said he was "frustrated and disappointed that a small number of vocal opponents have so effectively slowed this process." He argued that facts support Castilleja, which would not be able to get to 540 students unless it can prove that it's traffic-reduction strategies work.

"The school will need to earn that number by meeting the strictest traffic monitoring in the Bay Area. The school is agreeing to a level of scrutiny that will absolutely assure that no new trips are added as students gradually join the community," Stevens wrote.

Many others, however, continue to call the school's plan a massive overreach that flouts local zoning laws in the single-family residential neighborhood. The planning commission sided with the latter on April 20, when members voted to limit the school's increase to 450 students and to ban Castilleja from applying for further enrollment hikes until it completes the reconstruction of its campus at 1310 Bryant St.

The commission also voted to limit the number of events that the school is allowed to have to 55 per year, which includes five major events (those with over 500 people in attendance) and 50 "special events" with 50 or more attendees. That's a substantial reduction from its prior approval in 2020, when the commission had recommended allowing 74 events.

In his May 13 letter, Castilleja's attorney David Lanferman suggested that if the council follows these recommendations, it would put the city in legal jeopardy. The three commissioners who supported lowering the enrollment cap and the number of special events talked about neighbors' "lack of trust" toward Castilleja in explaining their decision. Lanferman argued that the recommendation is "arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence in the record, as required."

"Lack of trust is not a valid basis on which to make a land-use decision," Lanferman wrote.

He cited the nearly six years of reviews and argued that "no further substantial refinements to the project are needed nor would any such refinements be legally justified or supported."

Lanferman also pushed back against the arguments by three commissioners — Chair Ed Lauing, Vice Chair Doria Summa and Commissioner Bryna Chang — that the school needs to demonstrate a track record of keeping trips low before it applies for further enrollment increases.

"Such statements of subjective personal opinion and hearsay do not constitute facts, reasonable assumptions predicated on facts, or expert opinions supported by facts," Lanferman wrote. "Moreover, those assertions are belied by the actual evidence in the record, including the School's nine year 'track record' of successfully reducing peak hour trips and maintaining those reductions."

"It is noteworthy, and highly objectionable, that none of the Commissioners who voted to cap enrollment at 450 students provided valid reasons or evidence explaining why the procedure recommended by the Staff, implementing the Council's motion, was lacking," he added, referring to the council's directive in 2021 that the commission establish a procedure for allowing the school to achieve an enrollment increase beyond 450 students.

The proposal by the three commissioners would require Castilleja to file an application for a new conditional use permit if it wanted more students in the future, a process that school officials say is overly burdensome. In a new report, staff from the Department of Planning and Development Services suggest that such a procedure is not consistent with the council's direction from March 2021. As such, staff have not incorporated the planning commission's recommendation for a 450-student cap into its drafted record of land-use action.

During public comment at the council's May 16 meeting, several opponents of the Castilleja project strongly objected to this decision and accused staff of ignoring the commission's input. Rob Levitsky, who lives near Castilleja, called the planning commission's suggestions "perfectly reasonable" and told the council that planning staff appear to be "actively lobbying" against its recommendations.

"These boards and commissions should not be ignored and just railroaded by the planning department," Levitsky said.

Mary Sylvester, who also lives close to the school and who is affiliated with the neighborhood group Preserve Neighborhood Quality of Life Now (PNQL Now), also accused staff of bias and claimed that residents have been forced to fight a "two-front battle" against staff and Castilleja over the last six years.

"The very least citizens deserve is transparency, respect, fairness and a timeliness of response, not obfuscations and distortions by city staff," Sylvester said.

After hearing from the public, council member Tom DuBois objected to the personal attacks leveled by some speakers against city staff. While the public has a right to speak, DuBois said, he has the right to listen or not.

"When you make a personal attack, I tune you out and you lose the opportunity to potentially influence somebody who would support your position," DuBois said.

While Lanferman blasted the planning commission's recommendation, Andie Reed, a member of the PNQL Now, told this news organization in a May 16 interview that her group believes the planning commission came up with a good compromise. The school will have no problem getting approval for more students, beyond the 450 cap, if it could prove its ability to keep traffic levels from increasing.

"It's a methodical approach to having the school get their 8% increase and settle in for a couple of years and show that they can in fact have no net new trips," Reed said in an interview. "Then, if in fact that's the case — and they are adamant they can do that and swear they can do that — then we'd say, 'Yes. That's awesome.'"

In addition to considering appropriate enrollment levels for Castilleja, the council will navigate the various zoning dilemmas that are associated with the project and that it struggled to resolve last year. These include the question of whether the city should approve a variance that would allow the school to construct new buildings and whether its underground garage should be counted as square footage. While the council indicated last year that it would support a new zoning rule that would count underground garages as square footage, it did not establish the exact parameters of the new rule.

The law drafted by staff would apply only to parcels greater than 6 acres that contain a historic resource and that are developed with nonresidential uses. The only projects that would qualify under this criteria are Our Lady of the Rosary Church at 3233 Cowper St., located near Loma Verde Avenue, and Castilleja.

Lanferman maintained in his letter that creating new regulations on underground parking in residential neighborhoods is inappropriate. A text amendment of this sort would be illegal, he wrote, because the city had already approved an underground garage for a recent renovation project at Congregation Kol Emeth, where the garage was not counted as square footage. Denying the project or subjecting Castilleja "to different or more burdensome requirements than imposed on similarly situated property owners would deprive Castilleja of constitutionally protected rights to equal protection under the law.'

"Such apparently discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment would unnecessarily expose the City to the risk of litigation, and a potential award of damages and attorneys' fees," Lanferman wrote.

Comments

Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 3:32 pm
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 3:32 pm

Castilleja's lawyer Lanferman questioned why the community has mistrust toward Castilleja. Lets see. Right after the current CUP was issued in year 2000, Castilleja started to violate the 415 student enrollment limit and went as high as 450. When the City requested Castilleja to reduce the enrollment to be in compliance with the CUP, Castilleja's lawyer fought the request initially and then later tried to claim hardship for the enrollment reduction. As of right now, Castilleja's enrollment is still above 415 students. Is this what we should be expecting from a trustworthy institution with 100 year of history? The PTC is correct that they require Castilleja to demonstration their ability to fully deliver on their promise before they will be given additional enrollment increase.


azr
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 4:43 pm
azr, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 4:43 pm

Castilleja's attorney, Mr. Lanferman's latest letter theatens a lawsuit if the school doesn't get everything they want. I guess he didn't read Palo Alto Deputy City Attorney Albert Yang's response to his earlier letters, where Mr. Yang straightens him out regarding what the city can in fact do, and that includes make decisions on conditional use permits. Further, Mr. Yang debunks the Kol Emeth project, stating that project was approved in error, and therefore can't be used as precedent. The school keeps touting it anyway, and that should stop. Here's the direct quote from Mr. Yang and the cite:
“Leading up to the March 2021 Council hearings, staff suggested an interpretation of the PAMC that would exempt underground parking facilities for nonresidential uses from GFA by treating them as “basements.” This approach would have harmonized the code with a prior project approval for the Congregation Kol Emeth. At its March 15, 2021 meeting, the City Council unequivocally rejected staff’s interpretation, directing staff to “treat the underground parking facility as an underground garage, not as a basement.” Therefore, staff’s failure to count the garage for Congregation Kol Emeth towards GFA was in error.” PTC March 20, 2022 mtg, packet pages 183-184: Web Link
I disagree that dozens of neighbors support the project; of the 28 homes immediately across from the school, 18 oppose the size and scope of the re-build, 4 support the expansion (of which 2 are parents) and 6 are neutral (of which 3 are homes owned by the school). Many so-called neighbors who speak or write letters are parents, trustees and employees. The school has many supporters (we all support the school) who haven't read the plans or the staff reports. As is common, only a few of us are loud, but we represent most of the actual neighbors.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 17, 2022 at 6:51 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 6:51 pm

Casti's lawyers must think this city is populated by morons when they say " Much like in the prior version, the project will be governed by a "no net new trips policy" that prohibits Castilleja from increasing its average daily trips from the current level of 1,198."

Funny, how we're told Casti's expansion will have "no net new trips" just like Stanford's never-endng ex[ansion will have "no net new trips." We're also told a protected tree's protected except for when it's not and a garage isn't a garage except for when it's a basement with cars.

Just say NO already. They can't be trusted. Casti's cost us a fortune with their threats and lies; the neighbors have spent too much REAL money on their own consultants, lawyers, arborists, engineers, etc.

Casti cares so little about the girls they'll happily stick them in underground classrooms just so they can make a few millions of dollars more each year while disrupting traffic and the neighborhood.

Write to the City Council and tell them to reject Casti's proposal and to condemn their hardball greedy tactics.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 17, 2022 at 7:52 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Mr. Lanferman is going to sue unless EVERYTHING Castilleja wants is granted. Any item denied will trigger a lawsuit.

So City Council: stand tall and vote for what is fair to the majority of Palo Alto residents. Your action will set precedent, which I promise you, will be used to compromise the quality of other neighborhoods.

Please consider the long term impacts of your actions.

And why were the expansion and enrollment increases ever coupled? They are separate issues; handling them separately might have avoided many of the issues both sides are discussing now. Was this for Staff convenience? Or how did this happen? Is this the usual process? Answers would be appreciated.

IMO, a project should never be approved just because it has been debated for years. Unfortunately that happened with the "Shady Lane" project and Castilleja has followed suit.
Their expansion plans could have been completed by now if they were less ambitious and so many "special requests" were not demanded..

The City would be wise to set aside some of our increased revenues and start a robust legal fund to educate Castilleja, other special interests and developers that residents are tired of our City rolling over every time the words "legal action" are threatened. In the last 2 weeks "legal action" has been threatened 3 times. Once by a developer who was asked to upgrade material and provide better quality construction!

I hope other residents will weigh in on this legal action fiasco.

And thank you City Attorney Yang for clarifying the situation for Mr Lanferman.

The issue of manner in which Castilleja's requests for expansion and enrollment increases have been promoted by City staff, the delay or refusal to timely release vital documents and the misinformation provided to the public, various Commissions, and City Council needs to be investigated. It is best referred to the Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury for a complete investigation.
Only good would come from this referral.



Chris
Registered user
University South
on May 17, 2022 at 8:40 pm
Chris, University South
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 8:40 pm

Rita,

A judge will not give either side everything they want. It will take people with more common sense than exhibited so far by the parties to settle this.

It is likely the decision will make neither side happy. You should be thinking about what you can sell to a judge or arbitrator. Don’t expect the city to pay your legal expenses though.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 17, 2022 at 10:28 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 10:28 pm

Chris...

"The Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury is composed of residents of Santa Clara County who apply for the position. Terms are for approximately 1 year.

The major function of the selected grand jurors is "civil watchdog responsibilities". Their duties include:
1. Inspecting and auditing books, records, and financial expenditures to ensure public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent,
2. Inspect financial records for over 25 special districts in SC Co.,
3. Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers, and
4. Inquire into charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.
Their "watch dog" findings are contained in reports describing problems encountered and making recommendations for solutions. The County Board of Supervisors must comment on the Grand Jury's finding.

As part of the civic function, the Grand Jury receives letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspensions of misconduct or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received form citizens are acknowledged ans investigated for their validity. Such complaints are kept confidential.If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, appropriate action is taken."

The Grand Jury system, both Civil and Criminal, is an important part of our Democracy. A form is completed providing the complaint and other information.

There is no judge, arbitrator or legal fees.

Hope this helps clarify your concerns. Thank you.



Becky Sanders
Registered user
Ventura
on May 18, 2022 at 11:06 am
Becky Sanders, Ventura
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 11:06 am

@Rita: Thanks for mentioning the Civil Grand Jury. That's an option I hadn't considered. I think you made my day!

I offer witness that the city often “caves in” to bullies out of fear of lawsuits, rather than standing its ground. Then we are stuck with miserable outcomes that chip away at amenities once shared by all. I think back to the great botch up of the President Hotel. Those absentee investors lawyered up to scare the city into setting aside its own zoning code and giving up a much needed affordable apartment complex, which resulted in turning people out of their homes with literally nowhere to go.
Web Link

Probably Castilleja watched that debacle and is thinking, yeah if we threaten a lawsuit, we can get what we want, too.

And like old Sobrato over there at Fry's site, they want to lawyer up so they can build more offices in an area that they own which is zoned for homes. Homes we need like crazy. They don't like that we are asking them to build using our current zoning standards. Well why did you buy the place to begin with, m’dudes?
Https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2021/09/15/sobrato-threatens-lawsuit-over-citys-plans-for-frys-site

Rich institutions and businesses can hire lawyers and try to bankrupt the city, but I think what we really need to watch out for is becoming morally bankrupt each time we cave to the vested interests. But that’s business, right?

Shouldn't our city be in the human business and invest in human capital with humane outcomes. Bullyboy tactics are discouraged in our schools but what are we teaching our young people, those young girls over at Castilleja? Where is the modeling in the adult world that backs up what we say? When we practice what we preach in our civic arena, we send a clear message: No bullies allowed. Bullies seem to be overrunning the world, but we can put a stop to it here.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2022 at 12:55 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 12:55 pm

I hope the city council realizes who pays taxes - I believe it is the residents not the non-profit. If my understanding is correct, over 70% of the students live outside of Palo Alto (I may be incorrect here so if so, please let me know). Seems like the residents living in Palo Alto should have quite a bit more say.

Also, I do have to share an experience I had with a Castilleja student. She parked on the neighborhood street and I said, do you know you are not allowed to be parking on the neighborhood street - her response, 'It's a public street'. So, when they keep saying students do not park in the neighborhood streets, perhaps they should have cameras to see what is really happening.

Honesty always wins and I certainly hope that money does not win here.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2022 at 1:07 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 1:07 pm

@Cmarg, first I believe the figure is 75% of the students coming from outside Palo Alto.

Second, I guess Casti's living up to its pledge that only they can educate young women -- in entitlement and that its pledges to the neighbors are only meaningless words.


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2022 at 5:56 pm
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 5:56 pm

I think it will be good to have a Grand Jury investigation with an unbiased view into all this. I am especially interested in hearing about the way the Planning Department has been (mis)handling information and facts for the last 6 years to push this expansion project along. Also we should look into the true relationships of some of the past and present PTC commissioners with Castilleja. We should look deep into why former commissioner Alcheck's blatant attempts to hijack the PTC meetings to give unconditional approval for Castilleja's expansion project. Also why current Commissioner Hechtman and Templeton were pushing so hard during the last PTC meeting without any good reasoning other than Castilleja is a prestige school. Commissioner Templeton repeatedly was asking PTC Chair to have Castilleja attorney Mindie Romanowsky to interpret the current CUP instead of asking the City Attorney's explanation. When the majority of the commissioners voted base on factual reasoning to limit Castilleja's enrollment, Commissioner Hechtman and Templeton were so frustrated that I thought they were the applicant of the project. As for Commissioner Roohparvar, she forgot to mute her mic during one of the PTC meetings last year via Zoom and exposed that she was having direct offline conversation with Castilleja attorney Mindie Romanowsky during the PTC meeting. It will be great of the City to look deep into why this unreasonable expansion project is allow to be pushed along wasting 6 years of city resources and public time instead of being shutdown from day one.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2022 at 6:36 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 6:36 pm

Mr. Lanferman, Really? I assume when you aren't being paid to spout words for the press, you think requiring a phased-in schedule is rational. It allows more students at Castie by tying it to actual achievement of City benchmarks.

For instance, seeing if the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) goal is achieved is smart. If it is, then more students would be allowed under the PTC vote. Good for Commissioners Lauing, Summa and Chang for the care they took. Other Commissioners seemed to make more faith-based decisions - that by definition is Irrational.




Neva Yarkin
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2022 at 6:42 am
Neva Yarkin, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 6:42 am

Thank you Becky Sanders and others for your well thought -out and factual comments!


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 6:46 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 6:46 am

Castilleja's proposal challenges Palo Alto in many ways. We will learn on Monday if Palo Alto values its Comp Plan, its established land use standards, its sustainability goals, its neighborhoods. And how effective threats are. And what money can buy.

This issue has shaped up to be a David v Goliath marathon. The school and many of its supporters enthusiastically blame the protracted process on a few vocal neighbors. That is beyond absurd. IF the school had proposed a reasonable, code-compliant plan that didn't require a significant variance and essentially warp code to achieve its over-reaching, overly ambitious expansion plan this would have been resolved years ago because there wouldn't have been reason(s) to withhold approval. That obviously didn't happen and the school was - is - the driver of that bus. Castilleja has, simply, asked for too much. And, in the process, repeatedly reminded us that they have, for years now, earned a reputation for non-compliance.


JP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 19, 2022 at 10:14 am
JP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 10:14 am

My family and I used to live at the corner of Embarcadero and Waverly. There was a huge beautiful eucalyptus tree and this week, it was taken down. I haven’t heard any neighbor complaints about that.
Meanwhile, whenever Castilleja had to take a tree down, loud criticism ensue!

To me this debate misses the forest for the trees. Here’s the forest:

1) Regulatory overreach: A minor issue like a girls school expansion is mired in a process that consumes more than half a decade of resources. This paralysis is a poster child of what people decry as the slide of CA as the place of opportunity to go be that is ungovernable. While the initial process helped to improve the school’s plan, now we’re just stuck in an endless loop of inefficient government.

2) Excessive tax burden: This is of course related to point 1, but just to highlight how our taxes are being wasted in this process and could be more efficiently applied for more pressing needs.

3) Women’s education: It is flabbergasting that in 2022 we’re having a discussion about denying more girls access to the highest quality education. Castilleja is a treasure for Palo Alto and it’s students form the next generation of leaders in our country. Surely, having more of that is a good thing.

4) Economic and racial privilege: A small but vocal minority is exercising privilege to prevent more girls from receiving a great education because of some minor personal inconveniences (trees, girls making noise (really), (I was going to write traffic but Casti has promised to not increase traffic. In fact, Castilleja’s project has so many mitigation measures in place to limit impact on neighbors)). It is the neighbors right to do so, even if I find it morally questionable. However, our elected leaders should be able to make decisions based on a vision for our city with a view of the greater good.

It’s time to wrap up this process in favor of Castilleja’s plans and move forward in a way that demonstrates vision.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 19, 2022 at 12:22 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 12:22 pm

I am very disappointed in the Weekly's reporting on Castilleja's request for expansion and enrollment increases. There always, IMO, seems to be the "lean" towards Castilleja; sometimes it is subtle; sometime not.

Even in this article the informational sequence is unfortunate, if maybe not misleading. Right after Ms. Sylvester is quoted, Councilperson Mr. DuBois' comments on his personal reaction to what he considers attacks on City staff are described.

One, who did not listen to ALL the public comments, most of which were about campaign finance "reform", would have missed a very personal and vitriolic attack made by a speaker on Councilperson Cormack.

I do not know which speaker Councilperson DuBois was referring.

I believe there were over 30+ speakers. I am unclear if Gennady, who I respect, clarified with Mr. DuBois to whom he was referring. But this news article, IMO, seems to imply it was Ms. Sylvester who was near the end of the speakers. And is therefore misleading.

Gennady could have written "after 30+ public comment speakers, Mr. Dubois voiced his personal reaction to what he considers personal attacks on City staff".

It takes, IMO, tremendous courage to prepare a speech, get up in front of the City Council, staff and the public and make your best presentation. We are all not debate club alumni.

Many times time allotments are reduced at the last minute which is understandable if there are many speakers. But then the mental scramble begins. What part should I say? What if my points were already mentioned?

The Public Comment portion of each City Council meeting is just that. It is an important part of our Democratic process as most residents have limited access to city staff or officials.

Interestingly when making a complaint to the Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury, one must list their efforts to resolve the complaint. These efforts could involve naming names and making complaints before the City Council. Also seeking answers via email, etc.



Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2022 at 3:35 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 3:35 pm

1) I think it's interesting how many of the above posters are Casti grads and/or Casti parents and they STILL oppose the expansion as dishonest and not in keeping with the values that Casti USED to hold and USED to promote.

2) I'm very tired of hearing that only Casti can promote girls' education when we can plainly see the sorts of values they're pushing: threaten to sue the community and neighbors if they deny / question anything! Maybe they need to change the Casti "C's" to Crocodile Tears.

Also and I think more critically, Ms. Vrtel and Ms Sanders do a fine job of calling out the city for its values (or lack thereof) for letting obviously biased commissioners like Mr. Alchek drag this on for so very long. We desperately need OBJECTIVE and HONEST Staff.

So thank you for opening up the discussion about a grand jury.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 5:55 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 5:55 pm

If memory serves me, I believe it may have been Aron James who directed vitriolic comments toward Alison Cormack concerning her perceived support of the Police Department.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 19, 2022 at 6:17 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 6:17 pm

As a Castilleja parent I am concerned that the general public and even perhaps city appointed or elected officials remain under-informed regarding Castilleja's history of privileged treatment by Palo Alto.

Did you know in 1992 Castilleja asked Palo Alto to "abandon" the 2000 block of Melville Ave (0.6 acres) to them and allow them to join of 0.8 acres of their own property to their campus? This added 1.4 acres to their campus.

But when the PTC recommended a permanent bike/pedestrian path be located somewhere in this 1.4 acres, Castilleja refused indicating a path would impact their planned athletic field configuration(s). The public did not receive a path even though public land was vacated.

The City retained a 25-ft-wide public utility easement (PUE) which "would accommodate the existing water and waste water systems, a new 12-inch storm drain and underground existing power lines".

Now Castilleja is requesting a "permanent 10-foot wide encroachment into the City retained 25 ft wide public utility easement and also requesting permission to shift the PUE 15 ft south. It seems to me this essentially reduces the original PUE by 50%. Please correct me if I am wrong!

The above is requested so Castilleja can build their highly contested underground garage into the original PUE and under the vital Melville St. sewer line.

6.2 acres of campus and the garage MUST be built into the existing easement in land "given" to Castilleja and under the City sewer?

Well if you want subterranean classrooms, a new and much deeper pool and other expansion requests, I guess why not? Ask for the moon!

I have been told, our City Manager has stated he is willing and able to authorize Castilleja's encroachment request.

Does our CM have the "legal authority" to do so? What is the City Council's role?

Or is this like our previous City Manager who unilaterally chose to ignore the detailed enforcement clause in Castilleja's 2000 CUP written to address any over enrollment?





mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 7:47 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 7:47 pm

Castilleja appears to believe that with influential friends and connections their persistence would ultimately prevail.

How else to explain Castilleja’s false sense of entitlement and dogged determination to pursue a precedent setting development that would blow right through Palo Alto’s zoning and codes.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 19, 2022 at 7:48 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 7:48 pm

typo! it was the 200 block of Melville.

My apologies.


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2022 at 8:30 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 8:30 pm

99% of Palo Alto’s daughters get no value from this elitist institution. 100% of Palo Alto citizens are being disrespected by Castilleja’s lawyer. Can we vote them all out of town?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2022 at 8:52 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 8:52 pm

"Castilleja appears to believe that with influential friends and connections their persistence would ultimately prevail.

How else to explain Castilleja’s false sense of entitlement and dogged determination to pursue a precedent setting development that would blow right through Palo Alto’s zoning and codes."

And now that they're being questioned and may not get everything they want, they react like a spoiled kid or a cornered animal, stomping their feet and threatening to sue.

An inspiring teaching moment for the community and their impressionable young women that only they can provide.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 9:30 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 9:30 pm

When I graduated from Castilldja in 1972 the identity of the school was solely on education. There was NEVER any friction with neighbors. There were boarders and day students at that time. The school fit perfectly into the neighborhood. Now there is a shift in concept and ATTITUDE. A corporate shift from the original nonprofit where entitlement and profit is the GOAL. The city needs to rein in this school’s excessive expansion and not permit excessive demands including violating the CUP.

Once the precedent is permitted the CC will have unleashed a mega storm in Palo Alto where regulations and code will be discarded. Do not fear the bully Lanferman. Respect residents and follow the wise path to maintaing the integrity of the neighborhood and the city of Palo Alto. Otherwise the city will be weakened further and known for not standing up to legal threats and bullying.


Old Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2022 at 12:03 am
Old Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 12:03 am

Thanks to Rita for pointing out the bias Castilleja coverage from Gennady. This has been going on for the last few years. But it is much more obvious in the recent coverage. After the April 20th 2022 Weekly article covering that night's PTC meeting, Gennady had a second article on April 22th 2022 covering the same PTC meeting. This article was solely devoted to Castilleja to vent their compliant on the PTC decisions without any input from the neighbors against the project. When I read the article, I thought it was a paid ads that Castilleja routinely buy in the Weekly. For a more balanced coverage, please read the May 16th 2022 Daily Post article by Elaine Goodman which covers Castilleja's violation and the project exceeds the FAR. This provides a better perspective into the basis of the PTC decisions.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 20, 2022 at 4:45 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 4:45 pm

I am hoping to see the Palo Alto City Council make an unbiased, fact and code based decision. This is a signficant decision that will impact the school, the neighborhood, traffic in the immediate and surrounding areas, and public opinion regarding the Planning Department. This decision should not be influenced by legal threats, PR Spin, newspaper articles, or any particular bias.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2022 at 5:55 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 5:55 pm

At the very least, the City Council make them increase enrollment gradually until they can prove themselves and their claims that traffic won't be impacted, that there will indeed be "no net new car trips" and that construction isn't totally disruptive to the neighbors and cars, bikes and pedestrians.

This MUST be done gradually because Casti until Casti has established some credibility.

Also the city owes us a full and unbiased investigation of how biased commissioners like Mr. Alchek and staff allowed this to get this far and to cost us the taxpayers this much in staff time and personal disruption.

How many people do you know who've spent money on their own consultants and even decided to move out of Palo Alto because of this long-running fiasco?


community member
Registered user
University South
on May 20, 2022 at 6:08 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 6:08 pm

I have long been mystified by Stanford's use of the phrase "no net new traffic" and Castilleja uses the same phrase. They claim to be able to add Hundreds of people, and huge events, and not increase traffic. It's a miracle!

Can someone please explain what "no net new traffic" means?


Richard
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2022 at 7:53 pm
Richard, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 7:53 pm

Casti’s claim that splitting the campus for younger and older students would not be good for the overall well being and education of their students has been asserted but no evidence to support this claim has been provided. Splitting the campus would obviate the need for expansion.

Their claims to the contrary, the school is not a community resource in the usual sense of the term: The large majority of students do not live in Palo Alto . Events featuring guest speakers are not open to the public. They pay no taxes to the city

Their behavior is contrary to what a well-meaning member of the Palo Alto community would be: Their willful violation of their Use Permit in the past and their threat to sue the city if they don’t get their way is not a sign of of cooperative citizenship. Hopefully the Council will not be intimidated by this threat, as capitulating would encourage other well funded outfits to flaunt and challenge the values of Palo Alto.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2022 at 8:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 8:06 pm

"Casti’s claim that splitting the campus for younger and older students would not be good for the overall well being and education of their students has been asserted but no evidence to support this claim has been provided. Splitting the campus would obviate the need for expansion."

Absolutely true. I've never understood why unsupported claims like this are allowed to stand unchallenged. We certainly pay staff enough that they should be able to ask for evidence but they repeatedly fail to do so and/or to even define terms like "medical/retail" before proceeding.

Examples abound. Conflicts of interest abound. Enough already.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm

I would like to continue providing the community unbiased information by posting verbatim from the two (2) Use Permits Castilleja received in 2000. One was granted on 3/17/2000 (Use Permit 99-UP-48) and one was granted on 11/2/200 (Use Permit 00-CUP-23).

Sections of these permits have, IMO, been minimized or forgotten in the discussion of whether to grant Castilleja's current requests for an enrollment increase and expansion; but form the basis for the objections voiced by close neighbors and concerned residents to any further concessions to Castilleja.

Reviewing these documents it took me quite awhile to realize here were 2 separate but related Use Permits issued within a 9 month period. I wonder if my confusion has been shared by others?

Use Permit 99-UP-48 was signed on 3/17/2000 by Lisa Grote, Chief Planning Officer. This 9 page document lists 36 detailed conditions of approval titled "Planning Department" and 10 detailed conditions titled "Fire Department".

This Use Permit also states under section "Note": "In any case in which the conditions to the granting of a Use Permit have not been complied with, the Zoning Administrator shall give notice to the permittee of the intention to revoke such permit at least ten (10) days prior to a hearing thereon. Following such a hearing and if good cause exists therefore, the Zoning Administrator may revoke the Use Permit."

The first paragraph of Use Permit 99-UP-48 states: "Use Permit 99-UP-48 is approved to allow Castilleja School to decommission 1,328 square feet and add 1,885 square feet, 557 of which is to meet handicapped accessibility requirements at the campus administrative building. There is no new increase in Floor Area associated with the project. The request to allow 40 additional students has been withdrawn and is therefore not approved. Maximum enrollment allowed is 385 students as approved in 1996. Any additional increase requires a request for an amendment to this Conditional Use Permit."






Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2022 at 2:20 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 2:20 pm

Incredible. Thanks, Rita.

I guess our highly paid staff, city commissioners, city attorney and city manager are so eager to push this through they couldn't be bothered to read those documents and/or to see the terms under which they could have simply revoked the use permit and/or denied any further expansion.

Thanks for your herculean efforts in doing THEIR jobs for them -- and for us. Too bad your compensation doesn't begin to approach what this fiasco has cost the residents/taxpayers.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 21, 2022 at 3:36 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 3:36 pm

Continuing....
Use Permit # 00-CUP-23 was approved on 11/2/2000.

It states "Use Permit 00-CUP-23 is approved to allow Castilleja to increase the number of enrolled students from 385 to 415 students and add two full -time faculty members. The School is located at 1310 Bryant Street, within the R-1 (929) Single Family Residential Zoning District. Project is based on the following findings and is subject to conditions listed below."

Three Conditions for Approval were listed including # 3 which stated "No approvals for any physical improvements to the site are implied or given through the approval of this Use Permit."

Again this Use Permit stated" In any case in which the conditions to the granting of a Use Permit have not been complied with, the Current Planning Manager shall give notice to the permittee of intention to revoke such permit at least ten (10) days prior to a hearing thereon. Following such a hearing and if good cause exists therefore, the Current Planning Manager may revoke the Use Permit."

John Lusardi, Current Planning Manager, who issued the Use Permit also attached a letter (dated 11/2/2000) to Ms. Georgia Bond @ Castilleja School.

It stated
"Attached to this letter is an approved Conditional Use Permit ( 00-CUP-23) authorizing Castilleja School to increase its enrollment from 385 to 415 students and add two full-time faculty members."

"Castilleja School's request for 30 additional students was outlined in a letter to Lisa Grote dated August 28 ,2000. The request was also reviewed at a public hearing held on October 19, 2000. At no time did Castilleja School indicate that it was their intent to submit a later application for additional students."

"The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the approved Conditional Use Permit does not provide for an increase in students of 415 students, and that any subsequent request for additional students will not be favorable looked up by the City." (quoted verbatim)

to be continued.....


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 21, 2022 at 3:43 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 3:43 pm

The school’s trustees counted and still count on a favorable relationship with some of the planning staff. Let’s not forget how some councils and Planning & Transportation members including Alchek, Templeton, Hechtman, Riggs and Roohparvar exacted their influence to ensure Castilleja’s demands be met in my opinion. The school is situated in a lovely neighborhood. Now the business model for this commuter school is threatened as neighbors and other residents have properly made the case to not expand at this level. The city council needs to follow the astute assessment by the planning commissioners Summa, Chang and Lauing. If the council caves under pressure from Lanferman — then Pandora’s box will be opened and Palo Alto neighborhoods will no longer be protected.


ZPS
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 21, 2022 at 4:38 pm
ZPS, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Castilleja would have their project approved and under construction by now if they had only submitted a code compliant plan. Instead the school likes to distort the facts and complain that they've been at this for 6 years and that this is no way to run a City. Castilleja is acting like an indulged child who never has had limits set and now that the City is trying to the school is having a tsunami of a tantrum and threatening to sue the City.

How long is Castilleja going to be rewarded for their failure to be truthful:

1. Over enrollment: Castilleja began over enrolling their campus after 1 yr of receiving their new CUP in 2000, reaching an over enrollment of 35 more students than legally allowed. The highest over enrollment took place during the years the current Head of School at Castilleja, Ms Kauffman, was in charge of the school. While Castilleja states that they reported this "mistake" to the City, neither Castilleja nor the City has produced any paperwork demonstrating that claim.

2. Square Footage: As Ms Vrhel points out, Castilleja was never approved for adding over 53,000 sq ft on their campus per the terms of their 2000 CUP. However, the school is now stating that they will reduce 7,000 sq ft of that illegal sq footage which is a drop in the bucket considering the school is still asking for 47,300 sq ft over what the City code allows of 87,000 sq ft. Castilleja failed to report their 53,000+ overage to the City when applying for their building permit, should they be rewarded for their untruths? This information was discovered thanks to Councilperson Kou's 2021 motion requiring Castillejhave an independent audit conducted of the square footage of their buildings.
The community needs to know:
1. What assurances were made to Castilleja by the City abt "giveaways" the City would allow as to enrollment, sq footage, traffic and the environment?
2. When were these "assurances" made?
3. By whom in the City--current and past?
4. And why?


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 21, 2022 at 5:06 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 5:06 pm

continued.........
The 11/2/2000 Use permit (00-CUP-23) also stated:
"The City Staff greatly appreciate Castilleja Schools demonstrated willingness to work with their neighbors to address existing traffic and parking problems, as well as any impacts related to increasing the student population. However, the City is not willing to continue to approach increasing school enrollment for Castilleja School in an incremental manner. Please contact me at 329-2561 if you have any questions regarding this letter." "John Lusardi, Current Planning Manager."

Now I know why Castilleja did not return to the Planning Manager for additional student enrollment increases but quietly started increasing their students without the required Use permit. It sounds like Mr. Lusardi was clear in his intentions NOT to offer additional enrollment increases.

So for 19+ years Castilleja has exceeded their legal enrollment. Yes, they paid a $265,000 fine but best guess calculations indicate this over enrollment earned Castilleja 12 Million dollars.

I am very concerned that the defined process was NOT followed.

No special hearing, no discussion of non-compliance, no determination of "in any case in which the conditions to the granting of a Use Permit have not been complied with, the Current Planning Manager shall give notice to the permittee of intention to revoke such permit at least ten (10) days prior to a hearing thereon. Following such a hearing and if good cause exists therefor, the Current Planning Manager may revoke the Use Permit."

What I do remember is that then City Manager Jim Keane advised Castilleja to apply for a new CUP. Did he have the authority? What happened to the hearing? Did it ever occur? Answers please!

Castilleja is a perfect example of the increasing lack of transparency in our City process.

Residents do not benefit when a major expansion plan is not required to provide an accurate sq. footage at the start of the process. And this is the mess we are in.





Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 21, 2022 at 5:14 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Palo Alto needs to revisit the whole process so that multiple improvements are achieved. As is, applicants can submit non-compliant plans over and over and over again. No limit. And as this Castilleja application has taught us, an applicant might well get a non-compliant proposal approved by a certain type of city planner UNLESS a resident objects. Residents should be able to rely on City Staff to both know PA codes and require applicants to follow those codes. Always. Non-compliant plans should never be approved and residents should not have to monitor applications to make sure this happens and variance requests aren't rubber-stamped.

Staff should also make clear that there is no tolerance for badgering the City with repeat submissions that do not comply. This is a huge waste of City resources. And if, after badgering the the City with repeat submissions of non-compliant plans the applicant claims that their non-compliant plans must be approved because the process has dragged on too long, the answer should be: TOO BAD, try submitting compliant plans. How about 3 strikes and you're out? Or significantly increased fees after the 3rd non-compliant submission?

Another needed change: not giving the applicant last ups. That allows applicants to have the final say which can be (and often is) well-crafted spin that can include ANY assertion that is not subject to rebuttal. Fake facts can easily be asserted.

The money that runs Palo Alto is ours and this application has cost us too much in numerous ways, including in Staff time that might otherwise be dedicated to relevant issues such as approving solar permits. Or enhancing public safety. There are much better ways to use resources than going in circles with a very wealthy applicant who will not respect City code limitations which exist for good reason. What hubris; the City should approve only what the code allows.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 21, 2022 at 6:00 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Many thanks to Rita for setting the record straight.

Although it speaks volumes about the culture of the Planning Department, under the leadership of the former and current city manager, that it takes a private citizen to point out the huge discrepancy between the terms the city permits Castillaja to operate and the expansion plans the school has spent six years attempting to lobby for.




rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 22, 2022 at 10:03 am
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 10:03 am

And when will The Weekly, elected officials and others acknowledge that the Planning and Transportation Commission, for the majority of the time Castilleja's expansion plans and request for additional students were being considered, had at least 1 Commissioner who came under intense public scrutiny because of close ties to Castilleja. And for their professional ties with Castilleja's lead attorney Ms. Romanowsky.

Letters regarding this Commissioner's need to recuse were read at the PTC and CC. I even emailed our City Attorney asking why this Commissioner had not been asked to recuse himself from voting on Castilleja.

The response I received seemed to support my reasons for seeking this Commissioner's recusal.
I guess i should have asked the FPPC; but frankly after the 4 year they required handling athe complaint filed regarding campaign contributions made to Liz Kniss, I held little hope of a timely resolution.

Old Palo Alto Resident's post above calls out another PTC Commissioner for being on a direct call with Castilleja's attorney Ms. Romanowsky during a Zoom meeting when Castilleja's requests were being discussed. It is all on tape!

To my knowledge neither Commissioner or attorney were, what is the appropriate word? Chastised? for their inappropriate actions. Just 2 attorneys illegally? chatting away.

And yet, at the beginning of each PTC meeting, before an agenda item is discussed, each Commissioner is solemnly asked if they have had any contact with any parties related to the item being discussed. and usually the answer given provides no information on the scope of the contact; only whether any occurred.

So when Gennady writes ...the council (in 3-2021) remanded the project back to the Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission, the two advisory bodies that had already approved the project, for a fresh round of reviews..." one must question whether Castilleja's plans were FAIRLY reviewed with UNBIASED eyes.

to be continued


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2022 at 10:17 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 10:17 am

Thanks, Rita, for asking the salient question, "And when will The Weekly, elected officials and others acknowledge that the Planning and Transportation Commission, for the majority of the time Castilleja's expansion plans and request for additional students were being considered, had at least 1 Commissioner who came under intense public scrutiny because of close ties to Castilleja. And for their professional ties with Castilleja's lead attorney Ms. Romanowsky."


Tick tock, tick tock. Time passes.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm

"As for Commissioner Roohparvar, she forgot to mute her mic during one of the PTC meetings last year via Zoom and exposed that she was having direct offline conversation with Castilleja attorney Mindie Romanowsky during the PTC meeting. "

Wow – assuming this is accurate, that's just plain wrong. Where's the City Attorney on this? Open mics that reveal inappropriate conduct should not pass without consequence. This is a prohibited ex parte communication and the two participants, both lawyers, must know better. Why is Roohparvar still allowed a vote on this? Not only does she engage in inappropriate conduct she also fails to acknowledge the contact. And Staff gives her a pass. Just like Alcheck got repeated passes. Why? The comments about Staff bias in this are adding up, badly. And the concept of a level playing field (fair hearing) is eliminated.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 22, 2022 at 2:04 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 2:04 pm

As Gennady indicates, Castilleja's Expansion plan and request for increased student enrollment has been discussed, reviewed, and commented on for 6 very long years.

Everyone is fatigued, especially those not being paid to promote Castilleja. Residents have spent years and considerable funds to defend their homes, neighborhood and quality of life.

IMO, the process has divided Castilleja's neighbors into 2 camps: those who live close enough to the campus to be impacted on a daily and permanent basis and those who live further away and will be less impacted.

I live next door to a school. My daily experience is vastly different from my neighbor 2 doors down or even across the street. Fortunately, for the most part, this school has treated the neighborhood with respect.

Castilleja's has not respected their neighbors.

Their expansion plans were cleverly framed and promoted as a fight " for girls education". This politicization of girl's education was unnecessary. It was insulting to all girls receiving a quality education at area public schools.

Such a implication also insulted our hard working public school teachers, support staff, administrators and School Boards.

Over the past 6 years, I wondered how Castilleja students viewed their school's expansion plans, the use of fellow students in full page promotional ads and in appearances to "tell their story".

Students who had graduated and older students presented an excellent case for single sex education. They described personal growth and benefit from attending Castilleja.

Many of the younger students looked, IMO, rehearsed and uncomfortable. I questioned why parents would subject their daughters to such a choreographed and sometimes videotaped performance.

I also wondered how students reacted to the continued vilification of those neighbors who objected to Castilleja's expansion?








Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2022 at 3:35 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 3:35 pm

Re being paid to promote Casti's expansion, Casti's got a lot of money at stake by not being allowed to increase enrollment from its current 418 girls ($25,080,000 @ $60,000 tuition) by 122 girls to 540 girls ($7,320,000 more to $32,400,000 a year).

(Even a limited increase of 32 (or 25 girls) gives them a nice chunk of change and certainly explains why they so cavalierly violated their enrollment cap for so many years.)

So of course they have the money and incentive to spend heavily for full-page ads, pr coaches to prep the students to give prepared speeches, pr firms to recruit non-residents to claim to be Casti neigbbors, for lawyers to threaten residents who dare to object, for lawyers to threaten to sue the city to which they pay NO taxes if they don't get each and every thing they want ... all so their girls won't have to suffer the ignominious fate of riding shuttles like their teachers.

We the taxpayers deserve an explanation for why a PTC commissioner had to recuse himself for the horrible sin of belonging to PAN (Palo Alto Neighbors) while another commsssioner who was in regular contact with Casti's lawyers was mot.

Yup, only Casti can educate the girls. They'll have great futures as lobbyists and politicians, community members not so much.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 22, 2022 at 6:03 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 6:03 pm

Online neighbor: Wow! I forgot about all those high paying lobbyist, who spin it well and in the process are being paid to destroy our Country.

But as my daughter attended, for 5 years, a very different Castilleja, I do wonder want the girls are thinking when the vitriolic drum roll continues unabated. Could be a wonderful critical thinking exercise sorting thru the verbiage.

I just sent a comprehensive letter based on an extensive review of the 2 Use Permits Castilleja's received in 2000 and Dudek's 11/17/2021 Castilleja School Building Survey and Gross Floor Area Assessment to each City Council member. I do hope they read my letter even though it is being offered at somewhat the last minute.

My letter represents over 30 hrs of research and composition. All numbers and quotes were carefully checked for accuracy by multiple residents.

My letter acknowledged the difficult position of Council members in tomorrow's 5/23 City Council deliberations. I believe anything less than total victory will cause Castilleja to sue.

But if Castilleja is granted what they seek, I believe City Council will lose considerable public respect as the process has been so flawed in that the vast majority of all Architectural Review Board , Planning and Transportation Commission and City Council decisions were based on incorrect Gross Floor Area as provided by Castilleja and never verified by Staff.

That so many decisions were based on incorrect an Gross Floor Area number, is, IMO, a valid reason to ask Council to rescind or at least reconsider their 3-29-2021 motion related to Castilleja's underground parking garage.

All City Council members were thanked for their service to our Community. It is not an easy job , taking hours each day and more on the weekends when Council packets are distributed. Many times the information is not organized requiring additional time.

While I do not agree with some Council members views, I want to thank them and recognize their service to PA.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2022 at 6:47 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 6:47 pm

Rita: Wow to you! You accomplished all that in only 30 hours?? I'm impressed; that's the equivalent of sitting through 6 CC and/or PTC meetings -- or just one each year.

One has to what our highly paid city staff's been doing all these years if you can accomplish so much in so little short time.

I hope you also copied the City Attorney, City Manager, Planning Department and Transportation Dept. and that they take time out of their busy schedules of pleading poverty and blaming under-staffing to see what they've evidently missed.

Or willfully chosen to ignore.

Remind me again how many staffers we have making $300K+ a year and benefits forever.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 22, 2022 at 8:31 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 8:31 pm

I want to share letter the letter I emailed to all City Council members today. I will also email a copy and attachments to City Staff as requested above. Please read.

Dear City Councilmembers:

Re: Castilleja Agenda Item on 5-23-22

I believe our City Policies, Procedures, Rules, Regulations, Codes, Ordinances and encompassing Plans were developed to provide a detailed and legal framework for asking and answering questions, addressing issues, and settling disputes arising within our City limits; all while promoting public trust by providing consistency and transparency.

To me, they also provide a framework for our daily life where residents will not be at a disadvantage when speaking against developers, businesses, organizations or individuals with more money or power.

Dear City Councilmembers:

Re: Castilleja Agenda Item on 5-23-22

I believe our City Policies, Procedures, Rules, Regulations, Codes, Ordinances and encompassing Plans were developed to provide a detailed and legal framework for asking and answering questions, addressing issues, and settling disputes arising within our City limits; all while promoting public trust by providing consistency and transparency.

To me, they also provide a framework for our daily life where residents will not be at a disadvantage when speaking against developers, businesses, organizations or individuals with more money or power.

When numerous variances, considerations or the appearance of special treatment not supported by our legal framework are granted, public mistrust and anger can result.

On 5-23, you are being asked to determine the fate of a neighborhood and likely other neighborhoods in Palo Alto. Whatever exceptions, variances, encroachments, etc. you decide to grant Castilleja will become precedent and be demanded in the future.

to be continued......



Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 22, 2022 at 9:09 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 9:09 pm

@rita vrhel - the information you have shared today is a staggering exposure of wrongdoing, by both the applicant and our own Planning Department. One could easily argue that this application has much more to do with the influence money can buy than it does the education of young women. It is extremely disappointing to read what Staff on this project has done to the benefit of the applicant and the detriment of the City.

City Council needs to decide this on the basis of the applicable land use rules and regulations and whether there's substantial evidence in the record to prove that those standards have been met and NOT on claims of benefit that aren't even at issue and are irrelevant to land use decisions.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 22, 2022 at 9:30 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 9:30 pm

Sorry about the double paragraphs above.

Letter continued.........

Neighbors and other residents have joined together for six (6) long years to oppose Castilleja’s current request for a significant student increase and a large expansion of their campus.

Castilleja listed, as required, existing sq. footage and proposed sq. footage on their original and on each subsequent set of plans. As the existing sq. footage was not consistent on their plans, it was investigated by a resident.

For some time, residents repeatedly reported these discrepancies (in Castilleja’s stated existing sq. footage) to City officials and to the City Council.

Finally, on 3-15-2021, Staff was directed to hire an outside consultant to determine the accurate sq. footage of Castilleja’s existing buildings.

On 3-29-2021, the City Council passed a motion which, among other items, “directed Staff and the PTC to review an underground parking facility alternative that allows a maximum of 50% of the required on-site parking to be below grade without counting against the project floor-area. No more than 50% of the required on-site parking may be located below grade…”

Not until Dudek’s 11-17-2021 Castilleja School Building Survey and Gross Floor Area Assessment was it revealed that Castilleja’s current total Gross Floor Area is 138,000 sq. ft. Their allowed Gross Floor Area is 81,000 sq. ft., a difference of 47,000 sq. ft. or 58% over what is allowed per code. Dudek’s report is attached.

When voting on Castilleja’s expansion plans, no City Council member, ARB or PTC Commissioner ever knew Castilleja’s accurate sq. footage prior to Dudek’s 11-17-2021 report.

Based on the above information documenting Castilleja’s current over development as 47,000 sq. feet over allowed Gross Floor Area, I ask:

1. How can a reduction of 7,000 sq. ft from what currently exists be described as legal and code compliant?
2. Does not moving required parking below grade to a controversial and incompatible underground parking garage and not counting its sq. footage towards Castilleja’s FAR promote if not subsidize Castilleja’s sq. footage non- conformance?

to be continued.....







Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 23, 2022 at 5:47 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 5:47 am

@rita vrhel - please do continue. Thank you.


ZPS
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2022 at 7:26 am
ZPS, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 7:26 am

Rita,

Thank you for your in-depth research on the Castilleja debacle. As Annette stated, "it's staggering" that the City Planning Dept and City Manager has allowed the Castilleja project to get to this point, it sounds like negligent decision-making all around.
It begs the question, "How is this City being run?" and "Is anybody truly in charge?" Will the City Council step in tonight and have the courage to deny the school's request for additional square footage? After the over enrollment debacle, Castilleja should not again be allowed to profit from its wrongdoing!


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 23, 2022 at 7:41 am
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 7:41 am

Letter to the City Council members continued........

Because during this entire project, Castilleja INACCURATELY represented their actual existing sq. footage (GFA), I am requesting that you, the City Council, not feel bound by Part B of your 3-29-2021 Motion directing Staff and the PTC to review an underground parking facility alternative and not count the garage’s sq. footage as part of the project.

Your Motion was, unfortunately, based on GROSSLY inaccurate information and therefore should be reconsidered.
I am also attaching the two (2) Use Permits (No.99-UP-43 on 3-17 and Conditional Use Permit # 00-CUP-23 on 11-2) granted to Castilleja in 2000. A review of these documents clearly establishes what enrollment increases were allowed by the City and a nineteen (19) year pattern of over enrollment by Castilleja.

A clause in each Use Permit exists and clearly defines corrective actions to address any non- compliance. Unfortunately, the conditions in the CUP were not followed or enforced.

Use Permit # 99-UP-43 was for minor sq. footage adjustments to meet handicapped accessibility requirements. “There was no new increase in floor area associated with the project.” Thirty - six (36) conditions of approval were listed.

On 11-2-2000 a second Use Permit (00-CUP-23) was issued, which allowed for an increase from 385-415 students. Three (3) conditions of approval were listed; one of which stated “No approvals for any physical improvements to the site are implied or given through the approval of this Use Permit.”

Both contained a Note which indicated: “In any case in which the condition to the granting of a Use Permit have not been complied with, the Current Planning Manager shall give notice to the permittee of intention to revoke such permit at least ten (10) days prior to a hearing thereon. Following such hearing and if good cause exists therefore, the Current Planning Manager may revoke the Use Permit.”

to be continued.... almost finished

thank you


Bill Bucy
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 23, 2022 at 7:58 am
Bill Bucy, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 7:58 am

Even for Palo Alto the number of nits picked during the debate on this issue is staggering. It's time for the city council to suck it up and decide.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 23, 2022 at 9:58 am
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 9:58 am

Letter to the City Council continued.......

In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the City process concerning Castilleja has been flawed for decades. Castilleja has been allowed FAR exceptions not granted to other entities.

Please do not allow Castilleja to proceed with their ambitious expansion plans which continue violations and erode public trust.

Please follow the PTC’s recommendation for incremental student increases based on quantifiable performance criteria monitored at regular intervals by an independent entity which is funded Castilleja.

The public’s respect for our elected City Council and confidence in our City governance asks that this well- intended motion regarding Castilleja’s underground garage and its FAR exception be reconsidered. Sincerely

Rita Vrhel

We have at least 1 attorney on the City Council and several Council members who are experienced in business negotiations and contracts.

If as a private individual they were consistently provided vastly incorrect information CRUCIAL to negotiations, would they not reevaluate those negotiations once ACCURATE information was received? Elon Musk did with Twitter!

It is no different with Castilleja.

It may be "politically embarrassing" "uncomfortable" or even "dangerous" to one's political career but City Council members were elected to serve residents not special interests.

Do not "give" Castilleja a variance for gross floor area, an encroachment into a Public Utility Easement or a text amendment which is really spot zoning for an (illegal in R-1 neighborhoods) underground garage.

Let them modernize their private campus by adhering to our existing Codes and Plans without special concessions.

Every concession you give Castilleja is a TAKE AWAY from the neighbors. It is not a sum neutral equation.

And unfortunately, based on 20 years of documentation, Castilleja will not be satisfied with a fair outcome, but will have their attorney demand more by suing. Will it ever end?





Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2022 at 10:08 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 10:08 am

Thank you, Rita, for your posts and hard work. I hope you'll be speaking tonight so this makes it into the public record.

Also, I hope Palo Alto Online will do an investigative report like the one they did for the solar permitting fiasco. That type of reporting was widely praised by the community, with calls for more.


rita vrhel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 23, 2022 at 1:11 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 1:11 pm

thank you Online Name.. i think we will be very limited in the amount of time each speaker is given tonight.

the above is too long..BUT as I indicated, each City Council member were individually emailed a copy of what I posted above as well as all the supporting documents .Our City Manager also received a copy from the City Clerk.

Hopefully they read my letter!

Yes I wish the Weekly would do an investigative story as to how we got here.

Over 5 1/2 years of deliberate??? or at least sloppy information which amounted to Castilleja being 58% OVER heir Code allowed gross floor area.

And this by a school that states they are the only school able to provide a quality STEM education to girls! Ironic.


Susie
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2022 at 4:33 pm
Susie, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 4:33 pm

There are many compelling statements of opposition here. Unfortunately, City Council will NOT make its decision based on this online forum. It will primarily consider the official record before it--including public comments from all of you. Please submit your very articulate comments (one paragraph is fine), NOW, before tonight's hearing.

* By email before 5:15 pm today: [email protected]
* In person at City Hall, 250 Hamilton, today at 5:30pm (Castilleja project is being discussed at 6pm)
* Or by or commenting on Zoom in today's hearing, starting at 6pm: Web Link
Meeting ID: 362 027 238
Phone: 1(669)900-6833

Castilleja has submitted to City Council a list of Palo Altans--addresses unknown--who purportedly support some version of expansion. Web Link

It's a long list of names. If you don't want City Council to think this represents a majority sentiment, please put your position on record.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2022 at 5:41 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 5:41 pm

Susie,

Interesting. More dirty tricks.


community member
Registered user
University South
on Jun 6, 2022 at 12:47 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on Jun 6, 2022 at 12:47 pm

Thanks to the well-informed neighbors for their excellent comments.

I'm still wondering what "no net new traffic" means or how it is calculated. Can't find any explanation.
Could it just be a meaningless PR phrase they picked up from Stanford?


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2022 at 1:31 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jun 6, 2022 at 1:31 pm

When Stanford conducts its required traffic counts, if they go over they pay a small fine and no one hears about it. So Stanford goes on its merry way.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2022 at 4:39 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jun 6, 2022 at 4:39 pm

"I'm still wondering what "no net new traffic" means or how it is calculated. Can't find any explanation."

Once the CC FINALLY asked that very same question after 6 years of hearings and staff time. Mayor Pat Burch called the proposed Transportation Demand Management" system the CIRCUMVENTION system because it was so obviously designed to game the system by circumventing oversight and by the way they were going to "count" traffic.

"Could it just be a meaningless PR phrase they picked up from Stanford?"

Yes. And an equally laughable one, too.


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