If you would like a yard sign, please email us at info@pnqlnow.org

If you would like a yard sign, please email us at info@pnqlnow.org

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 a 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.

Castilleja refuses to have their enrollment audited. They work on a handshake with City Hall.

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 >

PNQLnow.org 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.