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As Castilleja revises redevelopment plan, some neighbors remain firmly opposed

Original post made on Aug 18, 2020

The latest proposal from Castilleja School calls for a smaller garage, preservation of two homes and new limits on special events at its Bryant Street campus. One thing, however, remains the same: neighborhood skepticism.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 5:31 PM

Comments (16)

40 people like this
Posted by azr
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2020 at 9:58 pm

azr is a registered user.

Thanks, Gennady, for the well-written story. Just need to add that the school's current CUP allows "5 major.... and several other" events ONLY, which over the past 10 years has morphed into 100 per school year. The school claims in the EIR and their PR that they are allowed limitless events, which is factually inaccurate. Granted the Conditions of Approval are poorly written. What's "several"? I don't know, but it's not 100. Then the school asks the City of Palo Alto to legalize those numbers and frequencies of events because they've been holding them (despite years of complaining to the City by the neighbors). All other private schools in residential neighborhoods are strictly limited - from zero to 10 events, or they have Hours of Operation and close up shop at at 6-pm. The school wants the City to bend their Conditions around a new business model to accommodate a 30% increase in students, staff, faculty, volunteers, parents -that requires huge modern buildings, an industrial underground garage and 1477 car trips per day (see EIR, MR 2-76). It's too much, too big, too commercial for 6 acres in a small old neighborhood. Rebuild, utilize mandatory shuttling of students, and become a good neighbor.

40 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:22 pm

ALB is a registered user.

The city of Palo Alto needs to support the residents who live around and next to Castilleja School.
When I graduated from the school in 1972 there was a balance regarding parking and traffic generated by this private school. Now Castilleja wants to expand further in an inundated residential neighborhood. The city has already given the school a pass with increased numbers in the past. The neighbors are crushed by the already increased trips from parents and students. Therefore it is high time for the school's board to find a site elsewhere for expansion. Do not harm the integrity and the character of Palo Alto. This comportment on the part of the deciders at the school is selfish and gives the appearance of entitlement.

18 people like this
Posted by Inaccurate Final EIR
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2020 at 10:45 am

Inaccurate Final EIR is a registered user.

This is just an example of inaccurate findings in Final EIR. Web Link

Page 44 of Castilleja EIR Appendix E Traffic Impact Study for Castilleja School Expansion_July 2020.pdf (Web Link)

Bryant Street Collision Analysis
The collision history for the segment of Bryant Street between Embarcadero Road and Kellogg Avenue was reviewed to determine the number of collisions during a recent three-year period and to potentially identify trends based on the collision history. This information is based on records available from the California Highway Patrol as published in their Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) reports from March 30, 2015 to March 31, 2018. A single non-injury collision occurred along the study segment during this period. This collision occurred between a vehicle and a fixed object and did not involve a bicycle.

Finding –
Given the relatively small number of documented crashes and the lack of any crashes involving bicycles along the segment of Bryant Street between Embarcadero Road and Kellogg Avenue, a safety concern involving bicycles along the study segment has not been demonstrated.

The following is the 2/13/18 Weekly article titled Two injured in Embarcadero Road collision

Officers responded to the collision at Embarcadero Road and Bryant Street around 5 p.m. An adult driving a sedan was heading west on Embarcadero and struck the pedestrian with a scooter and bicyclist at the intersection, police said.

The entire article can be found
Web Link

33 people like this
Posted by Old PA resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2020 at 11:13 am

Old PA resident is a registered user.

Thank you AZR. Would like to highlight again the number you mention: the school would be allowed to generate 1,477 car trips PER DAY to a residential neighborhood. How many readers would welcome an influx of almost 1500 cars traveling past their house every day?

And that numbers comes AFTER robust Traffic Demand Management plans, which entail asking (not requiring) parents to carpool or shuttle, suggesting (not requiring) Juniors and Seniors to take the train instead of driving their own cars, etc.

Some argue that the school predates the neighbors, that living in this neighborhood meant acknowledging you live near a school, like it or leave. But in reality most neighbors bought houses near a quiet private boarding school, not a monolithic event center that now has hundreds arriving and departing days, night, weekends. It is like moving in across from a quiet Bed & Breakfast, only to watch it morph into a Hyatt Hotel. Personally I am all for educating girls. I also like Hyatt Hotels as much as the next person, but they don’t belong in a quiet residential neighborhood, and neither does this ambitious project.

26 people like this
Posted by Old Palo Alto resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2020 at 11:20 am

Old Palo Alto resident is a registered user.

Reducing the number of events to 90 shows real lack of concern of Castilleja for its neighbors. Many times the residents who experience the traffic brought the neighborhood by these events have consistently requested for Castilleja to reduce the number of events over the four years since plans were first submitted. It it too much to ask that they reduce their "several" events granted by their Conditional Use Permit to 20 or less? Other private schools have 20 or even none (as Stratford next to Greene Middle does) as a courtesy to their neighbors.

32 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 19, 2020 at 11:25 am

Observer is a registered user.

Many of the analyses of the modified expansion proposal seem to get too buried in the details and miss the larger picture. Castilleja has totally destroyed their integrity and credibility with Palo Alto by clandestinely overrunning permitted enrollment limits for years, coupled with wanton disregard for the size and frequency of permitted school events. Why should anyone assume they will behave any differently vs. revised limitations that would accomodate their requests for new and vastly expanded activities? They have massively abused the past relationship and do not deserve any trust going forward.

20 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Should we be helping Castilleja transition to another site, maybe part of the Cubberley campus, or on Stanford land, near the CPI proposal and let the Embarcadero at Bryant current campus be used for housing, which would increase our tax base, and provide Palo Alto with amenities like a better shuttle system?
CUP means “conditional use permit”. We should pull their permit — disallow the use — and not just do what a few powerful people are trying to force upon staff.
And why is it that the four or five staff people who worked on Casti — or didn’t enforce their permit — Mr. Turner, Ms Lee, Ms Gittelman — have all left?
It seems like a robust discussion of this case should help us sort the 10 candidates for 4 City Council spots.

38 people like this
Posted by Old PA resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Old PA resident is a registered user.

Let’s be clear. Casti is not a community resource: about 75% of students do not live in PA. It pays no taxes. It’s speaker events are not open to the public. In addition the effect on traffic patterns due to the inevitable alteration in the Caltrain crossing on Churchill Avenue have not been accounted for which could adversely affect the safety of the Bryant St bike boulevard and overall traffic on Embarcadero and local feeder streets. The plan to increase enrollment and construction plans should be denied.

9 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

By the way, or further, my PAUSD school, Fremont Hills closed in 1976 and for forty years a private school called Pinewood has been leasing the site; maybe PAUSD can up their rates in this climate of such a demand for housing. Or Castilleja and Pinewood could merge?

12 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Why is the EIR done by someone based in Auburn, CA, 160 miles away? Seems a bit odd. I note that the same person worked on the Avenidas renovation, four years ago.

Nitpicking, ok. But this matter should really be looked into carefully. People say that the very powerful Stanford donor who wanted an office tower near the train station is backing this one, too.

23 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:58 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Such excellent comments and I'm sure there will be more. I live next to a school and they are quiet! They don't break their CUP by secretly increasing enrollment or by holding lots of special events. They regulate traffic; even the new Pre-K addition is attractive and size appropriate.The School fits into the neighborhood and does not overwhelm us.

As a Castilleja parent, I'm horrified by what is proposed. The School wants to overwhelm not just the neighborhood but also Embarcadero, Bryant, Kellogg and other streets at commute time. The noise and traffic studies in the Final EIR remain shoddy and incomplete.

The neighbors have put up with years of Castilleja breaking their CUP by over enrollment and hosting too many special events. They City has allowed this and wonders why neighbors are upset and "can't work it out". This new proposal is unacceptable for any school co-existing in a residential neighborhood. Slightly fewer events and significantly more students and noise is not a compromise. Thank you.

13 people like this
Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Roy M is a registered user.

@Mark Weiss. Interesting you mention the Fremont Hills site for Pinewood. When Pinewood first leased it, it was for grades 5-8. In the 80's, they expanded enrollment so that it is now Grades 6-12. I know because I was a middle school student there at the time. It was a much larger enrollment increase than what Castilleja is proposing.

What is disappointing in this whole discussion over the years is how dismissive the opponents of the expansion are of Castilleja's efforts to modify based on critical feedback. The article notes the preservation of trees and buildings and the reduced footprint of the garage, all the direct results of this feedback. The garage itself was in response to complaints about street parking. From their comments and their website, it seems that the staunchest opponents want no changes to the school or, as some people have expressed on the Palo Alto Online forums and elsewhere, want the school to move out completely. Given that stance, no wonder they won't acknowledge the efforts the school is making to listen to legitimate concerns.

19 people like this
Posted by Stephanie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Stephanie is a registered user.

In six years of living in Old Palo Alto, and walking by Castilleja almost daily, I have yet to witness any traffic or parking issues near the Castilleja campus. I have, however, seen many traffic and parking issues around the PAUSD schools my children have attended (Walter Hays, Greene & Paly). And yet, I strongly believe that schools belong in residential neighborhoods, and I would never want any of these schools to relocate to the other side of the freeway or the edge of town.

With all of the problems in our world right now, I wish people would spend their energy fighting for social justice, helping people suffering from the devastating health and economic impacts of COVID, etc. I am also respectful of the fact that Castilleja has been in Palo Alto longer than my family has, even though my parents grew up here. Overall, I am glad that excellent educational institutions such as Castilleja exist and serve not just Palo Alto but also the greater community.

29 people like this
Posted by Duveneck
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Duveneck is a registered user.

Observer has it right. Casti can't be trusted on so many levels. They need to move to another location where they can do as they wish. They don't deserve special treatment. Please enforce the enrollment and zoning restrictions that are in place. They have maxed out.

29 people like this
Posted by No upside for Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2020 at 5:45 pm

No upside for Palo Alto is a registered user.

Again - Please stop wasting the Palo Alto taxpayers (now much more limited) money on this.
Go back to your CUP. If you want to expand, do it somewhere else. Full stop.

No on is arguing that Casti is a good school. It would still be a good school anywhere else.
All it does in Palo Alto is cost us money over these silly plans, wasting time and energy that should be expended in ways that benefit the residents of Palo Alto, not out of town students.

4 people like this
Posted by Gerry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2020 at 10:17 am

Gerry is a registered user.

We have lived directly across the street from Castilleja school on the corner of Bryant ant Embarcadero since 1979. What a wonderful neighbor! We are very pleased to see the changes in their plans to reduce the garage and to keep their two Emerson houses and trees. Great idea. We have never been happier about their parking plans and traffic controls. You would never get this kind of cooperation from public schools. Castilleja leadership has been very respectful and helpful to us. We hardly even notice when they have events. We hear Pally school events all the time. We were surprised to read that someone said there were 100 events in Castilleja’s school year. We rarely notice any noise or traffic issues in daytime, evening or weekends.
We welcome their considerations of improving our neighborhood. Don’t see any reason why CUP can’t increase over a period of reasonable time. Traffic on Embarcadero is like a race track even with school closed right now. Bicyclists old, young, parents with kids, and pedestrians continue to run the light on Embarcadero and other stop signs in the neighborhood. We feel that Castilleja’s attention to traffic concerns over the last 5 years has been a blessing. Thank you.

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