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At Castilleja meeting, a call to 'reset' the project

Original post made on Jun 9, 2017

Residents who oppose Castilleja School's proposed expansion and even some who support the school told Castilleja officials during a Tuesday night neighborhood meeting to hit the reset button on their plans. But in an email to the Weekly on Wednesday, school officials said they won't go back to the drawing board.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by OPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 8:33 am

Ms. Layendecker's statement is thoroughly disingenuous. It is Castilleja that has NEVER made one single effort toward a compromise with the neighbors. A compromise is an agreement that results from give and take negotiation. Castilleja has never engaged in give and take negotiation. Yes, it is true that Castilleja has held many meetings where neighbors can speak. But those opportunities to speak meant nothing, because, in the end, Castilleja unilaterally decided what it would do, and it prepared and unveiled its massive expansion plan without first disclosing it to the neighbors. The meetings that were held with neighbors were worthless, except as Castilleja PR vehicles for the school to say that it met with the neighbors. Castilleja never engaged in any give and take negotiation. Never. Castilleja therefore never made any effort to compromise. For Ms. Layendecker to turn around now and accuse the neighbors of not being willing to compromise is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2017 at 10:39 am

I feel that Castilleja should look at finding a larger space to expand their campus. It is like what happened with PAMF; they needed more space and found a perfect new location to allow them to grow and expand. Being in a residential neighborhood and wanting expansion is not fair to anyone. I recommend Castilleja look for new space. I understand it is a great school and if growth is needed, find a new lot like PAMF did many years ago.

I feel if Castilleja does increase their student population without the approval of the city, they should be fined like Sand Hill Properties.

Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

Castilleja should NOT be allowed to expand at that site. They should be required to go back to their LEGAL CUP of 415.

Posted by BIll Glazier
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

I was a member of the Planning Commission during the initial proposed PAMF expansion, planned in the residential Professorville area in the mid 1990's. We spent an untold number of hours trying to navigate between competing residential and commercial interests, and in the end did not make anyone happy with the final approved plan. PAMF, despite their initial protestations that no land was available in the South Bay, found a far better location for their campus, and it made everyone concerned far, far happier. Can you imagine what Professorville would look like now had that initial plan come to fruition?

Please Castilleja, learn from that experience. Find a second campus - there is land somewhere, somehow. By the time you add up the costs of all the mitigation measures that will be imposed on you, you will see that your proposed expansion is a very poor alternative.

Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:39 am

@Bill Glazier - very good advice!

As far as a supporter being "opposed to forcing the school to start over because of the time and money already spent on the plans" - they should have gotten permission to expand BEFORE they started their plans.

Ms. Layendecker's comments that people are not willing to "offer suggestions as to how we move forward", they absolutely have offered suggestions. Open another site. Go back to your CUP. This is NOT just about parking and traffic, it is about being dishonest for years. Dishonesty should not be rewarded by the City.

Posted by Mr Waverley
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:50 am

As someone who's lived near Castilleja School since the 1950's, someone who knows the school for its excellence, I am saddened to see such blind ambition on the part of school leadership. In their drive to grow the school population, the school has gravely damaged its reputation by spending the first decade of this century willfully deceiving the neighborhood (and the City) about its chronic over-enrollment, well beyond its agreed-upon enrollment cap. Moreover, as an educator, I am concerned that the school's administrators and Board have again been trying to dupe not only our neighborhood but also it's current families. How is growing the enrollment good for current students? When the school population was in the low 300's, everyone knew one another on campus. Class sizes were smaller. And when the boarding program was abolished, the existing dorm building was converted to teaching and learning spaces. Now school leadership has evidently taken on a corporate mentality, confusing quantity for quality. And we neighbors get lip service along with the appearance of listening, while the money of school leadership and its backers with Edifice Complexes drowns out both neighbors and current students. Rethinking the expansion has been made necessary by Castilleja's disingenuousness since it began lying about its true enrollment 16 years ago.

Posted by Joe Rolfe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 12:43 pm

With all the contentious discussion going on, it’s indeed time for a total reset. How about this:
Stanford owns over 10,000 acres of prime valley and foothill real estate. Approximately 1250 acres is zoned for academic purposes. I suspect that Stanford would be willing to provide 10-20 acres for a totally new Castilleja Campus, on the condition that the existing Castilleja campus be available for Stanford to build faculty and staff housing. The housing would no doubt be a mix of single family houses and town houses. This strikes me as more in keeping with the atmosphere of the neighborhood than an expanded Castilleja. This would even let Castilleja increase enrollment to their goal of 550 or more students. (The county which controls zoning at Stanford might even be willing to add the 10-20 acres to Stanford’s Academic Preserve).
This avoids the total disruption to Castilleja’s academic functioning that would be caused by the present proposed demolition and construction - not to mention the probable parent displeasure with the resulting mess. I wonder if deep down the Castilleja Board is truly happy with the current major expansion plans.

Posted by UC grad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm

UC Davis was sued for violating a slow growth clause with Davis, CA in the 1990's.

Is this how lawsuits are formed? Castilleja school has to pay for current interest accrued for past unpaid violations before considering expansion. Expansion has only brought to light the violations of now and the past.

Have consideration for your Old Palo Alto neighbors.

Posted by Eyes Wide Open
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Mr. Waverley makes the most sense by far. He has both historical and moral perspective.

Posted by Concerned citizen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Obviously a giant Castilleja expansion is going to be disastrous for the immediate neighbors, but the bigger issue for everyone who lives in Palo Alto is traffic. Almost all of Castilleja's students reside in other cities. They claim that 70% live outside of PA, but given their history of not telling the truth, it could very well be 85-90%. Bottom line, almost all of these new students along with the existing students drive down every street imaginable in Palo Alto, all working their way toward school. Do we really want traffic in this town to keep getting worse? Let's hope the city council votes no to any sort of expansion.

Posted by over expansion
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2017 at 6:40 pm

I would get an injunction, wait for June and pending interest rate hikes, then see if their project is derailed by over-cost projections.

Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 9:55 pm

Palo Alto Weekly discussion regarding Castilleja:
Web Link

Posted by Learn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2017 at 8:17 am

I don't know this situation, but I both respect the school and my neighbors to the North. I want to remind the school that it is important to really hear the neighbors, they do have the power of referendum and initiative, and the local public is daily impacted by accelerating development. Anytime in life I have heard someone lead with the term "good faith", it has always been because they are themselves not acting in good faith.

During the Maybell debates, there were some nonstarter issues that proponents had become attached to early in the process: three story homes on lots nearly a third the size of the smallest allowed by code (for the benefit of a for-profit developer), a four-story building with traffic going into the neighborhood on a substandard street that was a crowded school bike route, etc, instead of out onto Arastradero. Few people ever even realized that neighbors suggested repeatedly that if the City was going to approve such a major development there, the traffic should come out onto Arastradero with a new traffic light there. The City would not even debate that, they just said No, no, no. Neighbors didn't want that, but they were willing to compromise to try to get to something that would keep the affordable housing. The planners had gotten so attached go certain nonstarter issues early on, though, so the eventual conflict was inevitable. The City had some nonstarter issues, too, such as a light at Araastradero, because they knew it would bring in more of the public outcry - especially in the neighborhood on the other side who had once blocked the City from putting a road through their neighborhood from the Cabana to El Camino - to understanding the development was too much and increase the clamor against the lane changes at Arastradero.

Here, just as at Maybell, the major streets are already so impacted, the City seems to think it's better to push the traffic into the neighborhood. Clearly, the neighbors have some nonstarter issues. What I would suggest to the neighbors is to not just gripe in these forums, because planners seem pretty stuck on their original plans. Make your own survey based on what you see as important and really work to understand how everyone in the neighborhood feels, so you can speakk as one voice around those issues. That happened at Maybell. I would note that the preferred undeveloped land use was to preserve the orchard, and the preferred developed land use was for an all-affordable development closer to zoning (which might have been possible had everyone been on the same side). The reason that could never be was that proponents locked into certain plans early that required nonstarter aspects, and the compromises for those aspects couldn't even be explored because they were nonstarters for the City, such as simply ponying up a similar amount per unit as at 801 Alma so that selling the zoning to a for-profit developer for 60% of the property (along with the high density) wasn't necessary, and putting a traffic light at Aratradero. The damage because the planners thought they could push things through if only residents would open their hearts to the sugar coating of the smaller portion of the development that was affordable in a four story building, remains with us to this day.

My recommendation to the school is to, not restart, but let go of the plans in your minds for a moment and think of what your priority is here. Is it an expansion? Is it remaining at that school site? Is it a high quality girls education for existing students, or for some larger number of students associated with growth? What is the priority? If anything too specific like a garage with an outlet on Emerson ends up on your list, then you are headed for a battle you will probably lose, because it sounds like a nonstarter issue for neighbors. Al though I hope neighbors will really take the fime to discern that. You can't come up with creative solutions to meet your priorities if you don't first atart with your priorities and then use the parameters you have given the realities of where you are. If growth is more important than ataying there, you have a way to compromise. If staying there is more important, then you may see a path to listening better to neighbors concerns.

Before the development proposal at Maybell, neighbors successfully blocked a school from going into that spot, yet they are working with another school on Arastradero quite collegially over their expansion on Arastradero. The neighbors blocked what was described as an affordable housing proposal at Maybell yet the very same neighbors saved Terman school from development while ensuring affordable housing that was to go there got built nearby. The point is, demonizing the neighbors, believing they were just cranks, complaining they had plenty of notice - didn't work. Understand where their hard boundaries are (neighbors, I strongly recommend honest internal surveys). Understand your own priorities. Either you will come up with a solution there that meets both, or you will realize your priorities are incompatible with that location. Don't get stuck thinking, well, we can achieve our priorities if only the neighbors would open their hearts to this idea that can be achieved by pushing the other side's boundaries further and further. It will not end well.

Posted by No upside for palo alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:21 am

@learn, very well written post. Your suggestion to focus on what is the priority in this case is excellent. I assume Castillejja's priority is to expand and rebuild. The community's priority is for them to return to their CUP. And thanks for the reminder that this can be put to a referendum, just like Maybell.

Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:26 am

Mr. Waverley,

Very interesting proposal you have on Castilleja and Stanford perhaps working together for mutual benefit. They both helped each other long ago when David Starr Jordan asked Ms. Lockey to start her school after Stanford had trouble finding enough female high school graduates truly prepared for college. Every early Castilleja graduate had automatic admission to Stanford as a result.

Stanford is now desparate for faculty housing - especially housing for its doctors who must live within 10 minutes of the hospital but are now cut out of leasing houses on campus due to some internal Stanford politics. Would Stanford trade land with Castilleja? Would the owner of the "Grateful Dead" low income student housing contiguous to Castilleja sell to Stanford to increase the size of the parcel suitable for redevelopmemt?

Castilleja has moved its entire campus before. It started in a three-story apartment building on the 1200 block of Bryant north of Embarcadero - a still standing building. It's proposed plans would only preserve the current school's admin building (an old house which could be converted back to housing?), the remodeled old chapel/theater (which could become a multistory apartment house) and the gym with a massive basement (which could be parking for dense housing on the City block).

The school could get approval from the City for its current plans and then roll the dice for how many years the project would be delayed or opposed. The City has clearly said it must reduce enrollment starting in 2018 unless it gets a new CUP which is plenty of time to do a Maybell-style referendum by those who want Castilleja never to grow on its current site even if the school can prove it could reduce vehicle trips below the current CUP enrollment numbers.

Posted by Devide N. Rule
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2017 at 11:22 am

Castilleja isn't the only school planning an over sized expansion that will disrupt a Palo Alto neighborhood and increase traffic.

Stanford University is asking for Santa Clara County's permission to add 1,600 new housing units or beds for students along its border with the College Terrace neighborhood. This comes on the back of the giant 250+ unit Mayfield project on the south side of College Terrace that is not completed, and who's full impact has yet to be realized.

My question for the opponents of the Castilleja expansion: where do you stand on Stanford's even larger and more disruptive expansion plans? [Portion removed.]

"New Stanford housing would abut neighborhood"
Palo Alto Weekly 6/6/2017 Web Link

Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2017 at 1:10 pm

I'm a supporter of the school, but calling Castilleja a place that "educates girls from all economic backgrounds" is a wee bit of misrepresentation.

Posted by Learn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2017 at 1:38 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.] I don't think anyone in that neighbirhood is saying, yes, Castillejo should expand but it should be in Crescent Park neighborhood backyards instead. Again, I don't think anyone has any hidden prejudices about rich smart girls going to school nearby, as they might if the students were all Muslim or all African American boys. The school exists there without lots of controversy, just as the Maybell neighborhood had several low-income developments in that neighborhood, many spots of which were built because the same people worked for them to be built. [Portion removed.]

@No upside,
Yes, you can referend, but my strong advice is not to threaten. That would be like waving around a loaded gun. Only use the loaded weapon as a last resort; if it isn't loaded and your opponent figures that out, you are a gonner. And you will hurt the power of your voice in the future (see the last school tax debates) Never threaten something like that unless you personally are ready to see it through. Note that residents at Maybell never threatened. They put tons of time and energy into finding an alternative. They kept showing up at City hall, writing, etc. they met with City Councilmembers and others to express a unified opinion about what would work and what was a nonstarter, and to volunteer to create something winwin. This does not happen spontaneously, and it required a sustained effort. If the neighborhood is against a certain level of development impact enough to referend, you need to know that, because it requires leadership, good direction, and commitment. People in this town are very big supporters of education. Castilleja has an advantage. However, most residents are also fed up with development impacts. Nevertheless, a referendum should only be a last resort and would only win as a last resort. At Maybell, residents were already thinking ahead to plan b, c, d, including referendum, once it was clear they were being snowballed. But they never threatened referendum, and they hoped until the end they would not have to. Both Castilleja and the neighborhood have better things to do with their time and money. My advice to Castilleja was to get them out of the trap of thinking, We do such good, this thing we want is good for us, so therefore if you just open your heart you will see it us good for you too. Castilleja would do better to really examine its priorities, look at the hard boundaries of neighbors' concerns, and see if there is a way forward for everyone.

Referendum is only a last resort, and you have to be truly committed to it. Neighbors have to be willing to be involved over the long haul. Neighbors at Maybell were more concerned about safety than was even part of the public debate, and knew they would be ridiculed but despite the smears had a noble cause at the heart of the effort, so there was a commitment you might not find in this circumstance. Again, if you make empty threats, you will only hurt your cause. If you are thinking it may cone to that, you probably should be laying the just-in-case groundwork now.

Posted by Devide N. Rule
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm


Maybe it is just me, but I think NIMBY also means, or at least implies, someone who is adamant about an issue in their immediate neighborhood (backyard) but who is indifferent about the same issue or a similar issue, happening in someone else's neighborhood.

Posted by Learn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2017 at 12:40 am

I wish you would consider leaving @Devide's comment and my reply. I don't believe either rose to the level of moderation, and I think it is very important to be able to talk about rhetoric dispassionately, as I believe this did. If you are going to leave all those in-your-face comments by someone calling themselves YIMBY, it seems only right to let us discuss what the word NIMBY actually means and when it is being misused as a foil for overdevelopment.

Posted by Devide N. Rule
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2017 at 1:06 am


Thank you for defending my comment. I was surprised to see my post edited and disappointed to see your thoughtful response mangled by the moderator.

Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

@learn - Thanks again for another thoughtful post. I don't take the idea of a referendum lightly at all. I was just glad that you reminded us that there is another option if the City decides to approve the project and allow Castilleja to grow. They don't seem to be open to return to size they are legally allowed to be. There is a lot of money and a lot of generous current and former Castilleja parents who aren't used to being told no.

If Castilleja wants to grow, which it has every right to do, they should either add a site or find a new one for the whole school. With an endowment of 90 million or so, they have the funding.

Posted by Just Curious
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I am just curious. Didn't the last time Castilleja come to an agreement with the residents and the city, to limit enrollment, they not only violated that agreement they basically said they were not going to abide by it at all? Hardly sounds like a good neighbor to me. I also seem to recall when residents were having problems with parents clogging their streets, parking in front of driveways, using driveways as places to turn around, etc. the School and the city pretty much did nothing.

It is fine to say you are taking input from residents but if you listen to it then ignore their concerns and move forward with what you want it is hardly compromise and really does not deserve to be approved.

I am curious why the city would even consider approving this expansion for a school that seems to have gone out of it's way to alienate their neighbors and the community?

Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm

@Just curious - I think neighbors have been happy (or at least happier) with Castilleja's management of car traffic than than they were in the past.

Posted by Just Curious
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm

No Upside,

Based on the comments here I would have to conclude that the neighbors are not happy. I don't blame them, having Castilleja as a neighbor must be like having that next door neighbor that doesn't care about any one in the neighborhood but themselves and ignores city rules to do what they want no matter who else is negatively impacted. Were the school actually a resident the city would have fined them significantly for this kind of behavior.

Posted by No upside for palo alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 14, 2017 at 8:05 am

Just curious, what i meant was that neighbors are happer with Casti's traffic management than in the past. They are NOT happy with them ignoring their legal CUP. They are not happy with their arrogance in asking to expand and being totally unwilling to go back to what they are legally supposed to do.

Posted by Next Door
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2017 at 2:55 pm

There is an extensive discussion on Next Door, in which some folks who are completely UNrelated to the Castilleja debate are complaining that some homeowners in the Castilleja neighborhood are illegally placing cones to discourage parking on the public street in front of their houses and incidents of cars being keyed and nasty notes left have been quoted. The nasty notes quoted do not mention Castilleja at all, but rather show general unreasonable entitlement plus contempt by those homeowners for anyone who does not live in the neighborhood. I wonder, could some of these people be the same who are attacking Castilleja with dubious arguments such as the one that some 23 additional girls are destroying their quality of life?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Well, what do they expect when you keep packing people in like sardines? And it's only going to keep getting worse so long as the city council continues its uber-growth agenda.

Posted by Next Door
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

@Online Name:
If what you wrote is in response to my post, I really fail to understand how packing people like sardines in some neighborhoods gives an excuse for some people in the Castilleja neighborhood, to act entitled and even to break the law.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Actually they're complaining about all of the RV's parked on El Camino near Stanford. They seem to be housing Stanford construction workers, patients and their families visiting Stanford Medical and workers at Stanford medical who can't afford to live here.

Do you think housing any of these people will become part of the negitiating /approval process for allowing Stanford to expand its housing for grad students? Of course not. Our uber-development council wouldn't want anything to stand in the way of their developer buddies.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2017 at 3:29 pm

@Next Door, isn't Casti the one breaking the law by going over its legally allowed CUP? Also, there's a lot of spillover parking into neighborhoods by workers who don't want to buy their parking permits.

Again, the discussion I saw on Next Door is about all of the RVs on El Camino, not near Casti, but I'd expect to see a lot more Parking Wars as the uber-development continues. I can't tell you how many times people parked right in front of my driveway and prevented me from backing out and then got mad when I left a note on their car drawing an arrow pointing at the driveway.

Posted by Next Door
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

@Online Name:

You must be looking at the wrong discussion.
Please refer to the discussion which references Emerson street. It was started by a Palo Alto resident, and is unrelated to Castilleja or RVs on El Camino.

Again, the Castilleja CUP issue and anyone parking on public streets (where, by the way parking is legally allowed) does not give an excuse for some people in the Castilleja neighborhood, to act entitled and even to break the law.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2017 at 4:33 pm

@Next Door, you're probably right that I'm looking at the wrong discussion since I Next Door doesn't consider Emerson one of "my" neighborhoods. Can you see the one to which I'm referring.

Very frustrating smf that NextDoor doesn't think people would ever leave their immediate neighborhoods and/or that I'd ever venture downtown or as far away as Emerson.

Posted by Just Curious
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm

"anyone parking on public streets (where, by the way parking is legally allowed)"

Parking on public streets is allowed unless other wise noted (color curb, signage, etc.) parking in front of someone driveway, even partially is not legal. If someone is that considerate and feel entitled to break the law, as you would say, they deserve to have a note left, in fact that is kinder that I would be. I would call out the police to give them a ticket and get a tow service out there and have their car towed away.

The bottom line as I see it is that Castilleja has been a poor neighbor, has broken their commitments and has pretty much given the neighborhood the equivalent of the middle finger, now they want to do something and don't want those same neighbors to have a part in the decision making. The only questions is if the city council will have a backbone and say no or if they will roll over.

Posted by Next Door
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2017 at 8:33 pm

@Just Curious
Please refer to said Next Door discussion before posting uninformed conjectures. There have been no blocked driveways and even the quoted nasty notes have not been a result of blocked driveways. There is however, a posted photo showing that entitled persons have illegally put cones on the public street, (which does not belong to them) and where parking, as you yourself note, is legal. I am also pretty sure that a homeowner keying someone's car for parking in front of their house is breaking the law.
The person who has exposed this behavior does not appear connected to Castilleja and the way he and others have been treated there does not appear to be a reaction to the Castilleja dispute, if you believe the nasty notes. However, the exposed behavior itself says something about some of those who are attacking Castilleja and let me give you a hint - it is not helping their credibility.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2017 at 10:37 pm

@Next Door, maybe that hasn't occurred or been referenced in your ND discussions but there sure have in the ND discussion I was referencing that started off talking about the RVs and then got more into parking problems. One person said her car had been keyed after leaving a note on a parked car.

Re calling the police and having a car towed, often the car will be gone in 30 minutes, at least in front of my house when it's parents dropping off/picking up their kids.

Posted by Just Curious
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Next Door,

Try reading this discussion. I am not referencing what is in another discussion on a different platform, I am referencing the comments above. and you are right, putting cones out is not the say to go, I would just park my own car in front of my house early in the morning and leave it there.

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