Traffic and Re-Routed Garage Traffic Cited as Unavoidable Impacts that Can’t Be Mitigated

The Castilleja Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was discussed at the August 14 Planning Commission meeting. Fortunately, the commissioners identified several areas that need more study, especially with regard to traffic flow. And the Historic Resources Board recently asked for more study into the historic nature of the neighborhood and Lockey House.

Read the letters that have been sent to the PTC: click here.

Items #11-14 are comments that must be addressed in writing by the Planning Department and Dudek (firm hired to conduct the EIR).

1. Unmitigatable traffic impacts (they tried to get a stoplight at Kingsley and Alma)
2. Flawed underground garage design that would endanger cyclists.. A single entrance to an underground garage on Bryant? The future belongs to alternative methods of transportation, not concrete bunkers.
3. The current plan for the garage calls for a tunnel underneath the sewer/utility easement as the solitary method of getting students and staff from the garage to campus (approx. 30 feet below surface and well into the water table, requiring concrete containment walls). How can that be an approved evacuation method?
4. Removal of mature oaks and redwoods; loss of canopy for 30-40 years
5. Destruction of 2 single family homes and the merging of residential lots for commercial use
6. Aesthetics of massive Walmart-sized building

The impacts of the proposed garage and re-routed traffic flow are highlighted as “significant and unavoidable,” meaning there is no way to mitigate the impact. Having a single garage entrance on the Bryant Bike Boulevard is an obvious danger to cyclists. The garage would also be avoided because of its difficult access, increasing unsafe drop-offs on surrounding streets.

The resulting potential to exacerbate existing land use conflicts between the school and its residential neighborhood was deemed a further significant and unavoidable impact of the project that would “create land use incompatibility or physically divide an established community.”

We are hopeful that the garage will be removed from the plans and that the new CUP will limit enrollment to under 500 students.

This project is supposed to benefit the community and surrounding neighborhood, but the only people that would benefit are the students and the school. 75% of students do not live in Palo Alto.

Here's a link to a well-balanced recent news article, July 17 Palo Alto Weekly:

Click here for the DEIR documents.


Current traffic flow works fine with current enrollment with 2 surface-level dropoff locations.
Cars can only approach the Kellogg dropoff from one direction.

Proposed plan would require cars to converge from all directions to a single entrance during peak commute times for cyclists.

If you would like a yard sign, please email us at

If you would like a yard sign, please email us at

Our Position

Neighbors support Castilleja's mission to educate young women, but they have outgrown the small 6-acre parcel. Their plan to increase enrollment by 30%, remove homes and trees, and build an underground garage that empties into the neighborhood, is massively out of scale for an R1 residential zone. The project would take 5-6 years, disrupting traffic flow along Embarcadero Road with thousands of truck runs. And it would be staged on neighborhood streets.

If Castilleja truly wants to educate more young women they could easily educate hundreds of additional students by splitting the campus or moving to a new location, as Harker School and many other local private schools have done.

The proposed construction project would violate multiple zoning codes and setbacks. The school is considering a tunnel under the utility easement, through the water table, to create an exit from the underground garage. Setbacks along Embarcadero, Bryant, and Emerson, would be violated. They seek to remove mature redwood and oak trees, which are protected by city ordinances. The “park” they want to create on Emerson next to the garage exit, would contain the exhaust chimney from the garage. And the school is trying to evade floor area ration (FAR) restrictions for the construction of a Walmart-sized building to replace five current structures.

The Palo Alto Weekly has highlighted the flawed project design and Castilleja's refusal to work with neighbors in a June editorial >

The underground garage would have a single entrance on the Bryant Bike Boulevard. Motorists will avoid the garage, so it would not be used during peak traffic times, creating multiple safety issues.

Castilleja plans to remove mature redwoods and oaks, along with two single family residences, on Emerson Street, leaving one house on the corner. The underground garage would have one entrance on Bryant Bike Boulevard (already dangerous for cyclists) and it would empty into the neighborhood at Melville Avenue. Motorists will avoid it and use side streets. DOWNLOAD PDF »

The Issue At-a-Glance

Castilleja is a private school operating in an R1 residential neighborhood under the terms of a conditional use permit (CUP) issued by the City of Palo Alto. The CUP sets the enrollment cap for the school at 415 students. Castilleja has violated the CUP since it was established 17 years ago, with a current enrollment of 434 students. Castilleja clears a profit of $1.2 million per year from the illegal enrollment. They pay no property taxes.

In June 2016, Castilleja unveiled plans to build an underground garage, destroy 2 single family homes, remove mature trees, and increase enrollment by 30% to 540 students, without any input or feedback from neighbors. The proposed garage would require all cars to enter on Bryant, which is a bike boulevard used by students commuting to Jordan, Paly, and Addison, as well as downtown workers and commuters. All cars would be required to exit onto Emerson, then onto Embarcadero Road heading east, where cars are coming out of the Embarcadero underpass at high speed. Castillleja proposes to take over one lane of Embarcadero during commute times. There would be 5-6 years of construction with thousands of truck runs up and down Embarcadero Road.

Castilleja serves about 100 students from Palo Alto.

View PPT showing Castilleja enrollment history and comparison with other local private schools >

Castilleja has lied on their project application and in public, stating that they worked with neighbors who "have always insisted" on a garage. 47 individual households within a two block radius of the school have signed statements submitted to the school that they are opposed to the garage.


How Castilleja wants to devastate an R1 neighborhood, endanger cyclists, and create more congestion on Alma and Embarcadero

Castilleja’s Legacy of Deceit
Castilleja has mailed several flyers to Palo Alto residents containing false information.


IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighbors speak out at City Council meetings. 


March 2018
Prioritized Concerns of Neighbors

This list was prepared in March 2018 with the help of a local mediator.

September 18, 2018:
Letter to Palo Alto planning director from PNQL attorney outlining the legal and zoning restrictions that should prohibit Castilleja from receiving a variance to increase their floor area ration (FAR) by more than 25% over code. VIEW >>

Letters between Castilleja School and City Manager/City Attorney >
Castilleja shows their true colors by trying to blame the City and residents for delays in their destructive and divisive project.

A Look At The Issues From Both Sides >

PA Weekly Editorial
Castilleja's Unwise Stubbornness > is a grassroots organization committed to protecting Palo Alto residents from commercial development in R1 neighborhoods. Castilleja School is a business operating in a R1 zone and should not be allowed to build an underground garage or continue with permit violations that have been ongoing for 17 years. We ask for managed development with true community input.


1. Sign the petition
2. Put up a lawn sign
3. Write to City Council
4. Write to PTC
5. Write to local newspaper and social media
More info here >

We have hired a lawyer and traffic consultant. Thanks for any donations.