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Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 29, 2022

News Digest

Castilleja: Commission's votes on project 'shocking'

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Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2022 at 6:12 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Ms Kauffman is shocked by the alleged "lack of trust" after years of violating the law and then saying, "trust us, we won't do it again"???

And this is after she worked so hard to disqualify a commissioner who happens to be a member of PAN which takes many positions on many issues. Maybe she needs to disqualify everyone who votes!

And my heavens, the PTC dared to consider "public" comments, even from Casti parents who disagreed with the expansion plans -- after they spent a small fortunes educating their daughters at Casti!

What's the world coming to?

Posted by EYC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2022 at 6:29 pm

EYC is a registered user.

So tired of our city spending so much time & effort in this case for so many years. It's such a waste of resources! Casti should move to somewhere else if they want to expand. With the families are paying over $50k tuitions per year, they can afford anywhere.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 22, 2022 at 7:26 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Castilleja was founded in 1907 by Mary Ishbel Lockey. She was a Stanford graduate originally, from Montana, who believed in preparing young women for higher education. Castilleja delivers this for local and commuting young women. Keeping Castilleja small is essential for the future of this local private school. Small really is better!

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 22, 2022 at 8:51 pm

Annette is a registered user.

"Once again, the high quality of education we offer is being threatened on the basis of intangible and immeasurable factors," Kauffman said, "This is no way to govern any city, let alone the birthplace of Stanford and the heart of the global technological industry."

Huh? Drama and conflation continue. Absolutely nothing is threatening the quality of education that Castilleja offers. At worst, the school's expansion and modernization plan and enrollment growth plan will simply be less than what the school is seeking.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

JR is a registered user.

Is Castilleja not aware of the long-standing CUP which already limits their enrollment? Or maybe they think the rules don't apply to them? I'm trying to understand how they could reasonably be shocked by the fact they are not allowed to enroll infinite students, but maybe it's all theater.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 22, 2022 at 10:30 pm

chris is a registered user.

Does anybody expect this to be settled by the city? This situation has all the earmarks of a long protracted legal battle. It probably should have gone to the courts a long time ago because it is not clear what progress the city has made in the last five years.

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

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

"Shocking" is this article reads more like an Op-ed by Castilleja. I thought Palo Alto Weekly takes pride on providing a balanced reporting with both sides point of view. I just see Castilleja venting
without reporting from the neighbor's view. This type of venting is more appropriate for a paid ads.

Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2022 at 8:03 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

This issue is an excellent reflection of our civic personality.

Ego, entitlement and self-absorption on the part of Castilleja's leaders led to a bad idea colored by years of lying and bad faith. Weak-kneed public officials have refused to resolve the controversy for five years thereby wasting public resources better spent on important matters.

Both of these problems virtually guarantee years of litigation which means more wasted public resources and unseemly displays of bad faith and selfishness on the part of the school's leadership.

A plague on both of them.

Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 8:27 am

Palo Alto native is a registered user.

One sided reporting from this piece. Why hasn’t the Weekly presented “the facts”…..LISA Grote, Chief Planner and the City said that after CUP of 2000, that the there would be no future enrollment increase. Stuffing more girls, staff, administrators and all the daily activity/traffic to support this endeavor is not in the best interest/ well being of the girls or of the community . Commissioners Hechtman and Templeton were in no way fair minded in their bias toward Castilleja . They are supposed to represent us, the citizens who have had to take on Castilleja and the biased/incompetent City Planning staff.

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:39 am

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

PTC supposed to be unbiased and stay with the facts and determining what is best for the city. Commissioners Hechtman and Templeton were more like the applicant by displaying the level of frustration when the majority of the PTC voted to limit the enrollment and events. In addition it is very weird to see Commissioner Templeton was keep asking for Castilleja's Attorney to explain the definition of events defined in the CUP instead of asking the city attorney. Time to do an in-depth conflict of interest check on these two commissioners.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 10:30 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I cannot imagine that current and former Palo Alto-based Castilleja families are happy with the behavior and words of Nancy Kaufman. At least one of them - a high-profile, well-respected attorney who lives on Tennyson - spoke out at a recent public meeting, explaining her frustration and disappointment with Kaufman. This well-known local mother of three girls had sent all of her daughters to Castilleja, where they received an exceptional education, but she opposes the overreaching nature of Kaufman's demands. I don't want to use her name w/o permission but it is there in the public record.

It's ludicrous to claim that Castilleja cannot operate at any other location. Castilleja operates a budget of more than $25 million, and it has $120 million in assets, according to its tax filings:

Web Link

According to its website, Casti raised $100 million in a capital campaign, apart from the rumored multi-million dollar ($50M?) donation made by John Arrillaga (of memory, z''l) : Web Link

I don't think this includes its $72M endowment.

No one wants to interfere with Castilleja's mission to education women. Rather, we question whether that is its mission, given its almost-$60,000/year/student (post-tax) price tag, of which almost 80% of all students pay without financial aid. Web Link . Of these female students, almost all of whom pay almost $60K/year to attend, only a minor fraction live in the community, to which Castilleja pays ZERO taxes, even though it is NOT charitable! - or even opens its gates to let in, *ever*.

Castilleja takes but gives nothing back. They now seek to harm our neighborhood and natural environment by killing more trees and planting only concrete. They seek to overrun our only N. PA bike boulevard with cars. We cannot allow this.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 23, 2022 at 12:04 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Rebecca Eisenberg, the mother of the 3 Casti girls is named in this article as a target of Kauffmann's resentment for having criticized Casti and for one of the Commissioners daring to cite her comments when stating her (the commissioner's) the Casti's expansion plans.

It shows Kauffmann total disregard of public opinion, including that of Casti parents and neighbors.

"In a follow-up interview, Kauffman said that what particularly stood out for her were the numerous instances in which Commissioner Bryna Chang quoted a public comment from an opponent of Castilleja's plan as justifications for her decisions to rule against Castilleja. At one point, Chang talked about the lack of trust between Castilleja and the neighborhood and cited a comment from a parent, Susie Hwang, who spoke on March 30 and who suggested that the school's overenrollment was "commonly discussed among Castilleja parents and staff" even before the city learned about it in 2013. Palo Alto fined Castilleja $285,000 that year for exceeding enrollment restrictions in its permit and forced it to gradually reduce enrollment figures.

Chang also cited anecdotal evidence from neighbors who complained about the noise impacts of Castilleja's special events. ...

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2022 at 4:24 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Online Name, thank you for clarifying. I confess, I only skimmed, having developed a lower tolerance to hearing the falsehoods and misrepresentations constantly being made by Nancy Kaufman. And, even worse than hearing these lies, is hearing our appointed and elected leaders believing them.

I am appalled on behalf of Susie that Nancy Kaufman would criticize her as such. Anyone who knows Susie and her family know them to be honest, caring, kind, and extremely generous people who go out of their way to help others. Although I don't know this for a fact, I am guessing that Susie's family made generous donations to the school that provided such an excellent education for their daughters -- an excellent education that no one questions, as well as an excellent education that has nothing to do with Castilleja's demands to expand their campus in such an unprecedented, unreasonable, and environmentally toxic manner. Shame on Nancy Kaufman and the rest of the Castilleja leadership for ever conflating those issues (and continuing to do so).

In another thread, a commenter mentioned that after this long list of ways that Castilleja is treating our community and its individual members with arrogance, intimidation, and lies, they doubt that Castilleja will have an easy time moving into any other neighborhood. If that is the case, Castilleja has no one to blame but themselves.

What a shame for a school that once stood for the best principles of community service and integrity. Again, I do not understand how the Castilleja community -- to the extent that they have been able to see through the spin campaign to recognize the truth -- stands for the behavior from their leadership. These families pay a *lot* of money for their daughters' education. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2022 at 9:26 am

Annette is a registered user.

I agree with Bill Bucy that this issue reflects our civic personality. And will add that this issue dares the City to make clear what it does and does not value.

We say we value our neighborhoods. Castilleja's plan challenges that significantly.

We put a lot of time, effort, and money into developing codes and a Comp Plan that are supposed to govern development. Castilleja’s plan challenges our resolve to stand by our plan. The school has done well with TDM, but it has failed when it comes to compliance with the existing CUP. Does the City reward non-compliance by granting the requested variance for even greater growth? If yes, is that not confirmation that applicants with deep pockets can circumvent the Comp Plan?

We say we value our canopy. Castilleja's plan calls for the removal of many mature trees.

We say we value the environment and have dedicated resources including staff time and effort to the City’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Castilleja’s plan calls for the relocation of its swimming pool, removal of mature trees, the construction of an underground garage, and the construction of below-grade classrooms. The plan boldly dares us to demonstrate whether we stand by the sustainability and climate action plan or not.

Presumably we value integrity. Shouldn’t that include valuing objectivity over bias?

Castilleja would have positioned itself much better for approval if it had submitted a code-compliant plan. It did not and repeatedly has not. As a result, the school and the City have been thrown into this years-long debate about how the school can modernize and grow at its current location. And while this debate has gone on, climate concerns have escalated exponentially. When it comes to real estate and land use, location matters. So does timing. Seems to me it is time for both Castilleja and the City to acknowledge the limitations of the school's location and approve only a plan that does not require a variance.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 24, 2022 at 10:05 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Annette calls it above with her comments on staff bias in the Casti decision-making process -- and unfortunately others where they failed to define even the basic criteria of the issues before them like "what is medical/research" when a landlord proposes to convert an entire shopping center to medical/research right WHEN the Covid lockdown is ending.

How much time has the city wasted on transparent fiascos like these when our libraries and other services still haven't been fully restored WHILE the city continues to plead poverty? When are residents finally going to be considered "stakeholders" in our own community?

Again, congratulations to the residents who've opposed this poorly conceived and ridiculously vetted expansion plan over the years. And shame on Casti for trying to dismiss them as a "mere handful" when even Casti parents and grads oppose them.

It's high time for the mayor and city council to start forxing staff to work smarter and more objectively.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2022 at 3:31 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Having watched Wednesday’s Planning Commission, I can only congratulate Casti for their ardent advocate on the commission, Barton Hechtman, who has been single minded in his steadfast and passionat lobbying of his fellow commissioners on behalf of the school’s interests.

Posted by Stephen Peeps
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2022 at 11:34 am

Stephen Peeps is a registered user.

Lauing, Summa, and Chang -- here we go again...

I’ve lived in Palo Alto for almost 50 years, and this foolishness seems to have gone on this entire time.

Castilleja is more an asset to this community than a nuisance yet has consistently been denied its reasonable requests for constantly renegotiated expansion. I observed the same pattern by NIM-by neighbors against Allied Arts in Menlo Park after its seismic restoration which has resulted in AA’s diminishment at the expanse of a great many more residents who had adored and embraced it for decades.

And Commissioners Summa and Chang, don’t pretend that you actually support the education of young women because your action undisputedly refutes that.

Posted by cr
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2022 at 11:36 am

cr is a registered user.

Kaufman statement that “…we have earned our right to be trusted at this point” seems laughable. The determination of whether trust has been earned is not made by the one who wants to be trusted but rather by the community residents in this case. If goals like limiting noise levels and car trips are met over time with the enrollment caps and other provisions outlined by majority PTC commissioners then maybe the community will grant trust at some point in the future. Trust is easily destroyed and hard to build (not exactly a news flash).

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2022 at 11:43 am

Enough is a registered user.

I have to laugh at Kaufman's false sense of outrage and her theatrics. I remember when the school was caught going above the agreed upon enrollment limits. They knew what they were doing and they chose to ignore it for profit. They certainly did not care about the impact they were having on those that lived around them. Why have they "Earned" any right to be trusted?

I think it is the planning commissions responsibility to listen to the stories and the experiences of those that live in the vicinity of the school an take those concerns and examples to heart. It is a sure bet that the school tried to ignore or whitewash those concerns as much as they were allowed to. Hold them accountable. I agree with the others that if Castillega has outgrown their current location they should find a second campus or a single larger campus and move. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2022 at 11:52 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"And Commissioners Summa and Chang, don’t pretend that you actually support the education of young women because your action undisputedly refutes that."

What nonsense. Casti's not the only place where young women can get a quality education. For example, Gunn was just named the best high school in the state.

Re women's education, do you support teaching young women it's just ducky for them to keep violating the law re enrollment caps to get what's yours regardless of the effect on those around you? Is that that the type of entitlement you want young women -- and men -- to learn?

I'm still waiting for Casti to start a major political campaign supporting the long-overdue Equal Rights Amendment and/or campaigning here in Sillycone Valley for equal pay and an end to discrimination since most of the big employers like Google, Facebook, various VC firms etc. have faced lawsuits.

Posted by Nancy Peterson
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Nancy Peterson is a registered user.

I am interested in how much staff time has been spent on this matter, and how that translates into our tax dollars. There are far better ways for our time and money to be spent with far greater benefit to our community. The return on investment simply isn’t there for Palo Alto.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2022 at 1:17 pm

mjh is a registered user.

What I find interesting is that a member of the planning Commission who is a lawyer, Bart Hechtman, has had at least one private meeting with Castis lawyers. And then during Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting vociferously restates and defends the Casti lawyer’s legal arguments.

The optics of a commission member meeting in private with a professional colleague who represents the applicant to discuss their legal position and then steadfastly and for all intents and purposes representing and advocating on behalf of the applicants legal arguments reeks of disregard for the ethics of conduct expected of a member of the Planning Commission.

Posted by Longtime PA res
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Longtime PA res is a registered user.

@S Peeps
"Castilleja is more an asset to this community than a nuisance yet has consistently been denied its reasonable requests for constantly renegotiated expansion."

Perhaps you should ask why Castilleja requests have been denied and constantly renegotiation if reasonable. Bowman School (west) was unanimously approved almost 5 years ago by the City Council. They expanded to a second campus and did not ask for increase in enrollment.

Asking for 47,000 over allowable square footage, 30% increase in student enrollment, and holding 90 events when only "5 major events and a several others" as specified in the 2000 CUP is NOT reasonable. Asking neighbors to put up many years of harmful construction and traffic woes for the project is NOT reasonable. Asking for an underground garage with entrance right on a Safety Bike Boulevard and endangering bicyclists of the community is NOT reasonable!

"I observed the same pattern by NIM-by neighbors against Allied Arts in Menlo Park after its seismic restoration which has resulted in AA’s diminishment at the expanse of a great many more residents who had adored and embraced it for decades."

Kudos to Allied Arts neighbors for standing up for their neighborhood right to safe and peaceful city streets: Because of them I can ride my bike to the Guild without worrying about having to ride around giant tour buses or swerve into oncoming cars!

"And Commissioners Summa and Chang, don’t pretend that you actually support the education of young women because your action undisputedly refutes that."

So many of the Casti supporters refuse to understand the difference between support of Women's education and trying to preserve the health and safety of a neighborhood. If Castilleja truly wants to offer its great education to more women it should have explored satellite campuses, mandatory shuttling, and abiding by its Conditional Use Permit.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2022 at 8:45 pm

mjh is a registered user.

I too have been struck by Mr. Hechtman’s arguments in favor of Casti claiming, insisting, that projections are hard facts. Any questions, concerns, or challenges are to be dismissed as completely without foundation.

In addition, Mr. Hechtman has also stated, misleadingly, several times that as Casti has existed in the neighborhood for a century there is no justification for anyone raising any objections about the schools impacts.

Except, as Hechtman should well know, for the vast majority of those decades Casti was a much smaller boarding and day school with a significantly smaller neighborhood footprint.

A few decades ago Casti switched to a day school only, but enrollment at that time was much lower so the corresponding increase in daily traffic was accepted.

However, it’s important to understand that In the intervening years Casti began to increase enrollment, as well as the number of evening and weekend events. With a corresponding growing, and for some now substantial, impact.

Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Apr 30, 2022 at 3:24 pm

community member is a registered user.

Thanks to people who were able to decipher Mr. Hechman's bias. I found it difficult to follow his very long speeches.
Very, very long.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2022 at 3:40 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Listening to Mr. hechtman I was reminded of previous commissioner, Michael Alcheck.

Posted by mally
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2022 at 4:28 pm

mally is a registered user.

No progress since 2017 : Web Link

How about some fresh ideas, like a remote site for parent pickup on East Bayshore. So the students can bike or get bussed to the pickup location.

Posted by mally
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2022 at 4:32 pm

mally is a registered user.

How about some fresh ideas, like a parent pick-up spot along East Bayshore.
The Casti students could bike or get bussed or at least carpool to this pickup location, and save us from this long lasting Palo Alto civil war.

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2022 at 5:48 pm

Pat Markevitch is a registered user.

Castilleja has for too long, been weaponizing women's education. They claim that they and only they have women's educational needs at heart, that no other school can compare. Total BS. PAUSD is by far superior in my opinion.

Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2022 at 9:34 am

staying home is a registered user.

Serious question: what is the benefit to Palo Alto that Casti provides? Are there benefits aside from the private school education? I am open to change my mind on this if there is a benefit to the community.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2022 at 10:54 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

I sincerely hope all the writers of the above comments will speak at the 5/23 City Council meeting and make their concerns and outrage known!

You can start commenting in the Public Comment period of each CC meeting starting tonight.

Ms Kaufman had no problem exceeding enrollment for years and having Castilleja benefit to the tune of 12M$.

Castilleja is 48,000 sq. ft over built; no complaints from Ms. K.

88,000 sq ft of below ground subterranean classrooms is planned. This does not count towards their sq. footage. Thus the claim of no new sq ft.; just a 5 year construction plan.

Every Palo Alto school does an exceptional job of educating male and female students. Our schools serve as a magnet for parents seeking a quality education for their kids. Castilleja has no "real claim" on offering girl's a quality education.

Why was Jim Keene allowed to override the enforcement clause specified in Castilleja's CUP to deal with possible over enrollment?

Why was their request for a new CUP linked to their expansion plans?

Why were the 2 issues not handled separately?

Who on City Staff made that decision?

What is the administrative process for granting the Melville Public Utility easement as requested by Castilleja?

Why was the inadequate and incomplete DEIR ever submitted by Staff? And not challenged?

Why won't Staff release all records related to the easement process to me as requested in 6/2021?

Why has Castilleja only paid a fine for 3 years of over enrollment rather than for every year?

Why are do non- Palo Alto residents not required to identify themselves when speaking on any Palo Alto matter?

Why do both newspapers appear, IMO, to favor Castilleja over the neighbors? I do not recall any lengthy interview with PNQLNow leaders after any PTC meeting.

Thank you PTC Commissioners Suma, Chang and Lawing for making previous wrongs right.

Making Castilleja rebuild the trust they squandered in such a caviler manner is only fair to everyone. Thank you.

Posted by Former resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Former resident of Palo Alto is a registered user.

So the debate is between:
(1) Providing more young women a high quality education
(2) Some marginal impact on traffic and inconvenience for wealthy, nearby residents at limited hours because of pickup and dropoff

I'm sure all kinds of partisans can bring up obfuscating complexity about process or individuals, but ultimately the tradeoff is benefits of quality education vs. costs of higher density.

Really?! This has generated a multi-year debate?!

It's amazing to read the parochial grievances from residents who want Palo Alto frozen in time, who are in complete denial about regional growth and increased demands for housing and education, who never thought that a city at the heart of Silicon Valley and a high quality school founded in 1910 might grow [portion removed.]

The clear solution BTW is for aggrieved neighbors in the top 0.1% to sell their $10-$20 million properties, take the proceeds and move somewhere more isolated. I'm sure MANY buyers will be happy to oblige; new home owners may even view a nearby school as an asset! New students, new home owners, and existing aggrieved residents will all be better off!

It's entirely clear where the region is headed: higher density. The question is whether municipalities can make the proper investments in public transit, services (including schools), bike lanes, etc... to make density function better.

[Portion removed.] Change is inevitable. I don't understand why people make themselves miserable fighting inevitable change instead of embracing the new and working to make it better.

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