Castilleja's Legacy of Deceit

Castilleja School willfully violated the terms of their Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for 11 years before inadvertently revealing the enrollment number during a meeting with neighbors. The City has ordered the school to reduce enrollment by 4-6 students until they reach 415. They are currently at 434. 

When Castilleja revealed their plans in June 2016 they ordered their PR agency to promote the myth that neighbors "had always insisted on a garage." 47 individual households within a 2-block radius of the school signed statements opposed to the garage and presented them to Castilleja. No response. Castilleja has since dropped this falsehood from their communications.


Castilleja's has mailed several flyers to Palo Alto residents containing false information. Here are the facts.

Casti Myth

Castilleja seriously considered options to move to a larger parcel or split the middle and high schools into two campuses, and it was deemed to be too expensive and impractical.

PUBLIC RECORD, page 24 >
Castilleja stated in one of the first neighborhood meetings (September 18, 2014) that the board would not consider moving or splitting the campus, because of its proximity to Stanford. There was no mention of cost.

"Reaffirmed, stay where we are, the value of the Stanford synergies, not move or split the school" (page 24)

MORE REALITY: The 6 acres Castilleja owns could buy a much larger site for less money. Other private schools have done this successfully (e.g. Harker).

A local billionaire developer who likes his name on structures is standing by to donate millions for the underground garage -- that money could go towards a new campus instead of re-building. There is no doubt a parcel that could be donated as well. There are many possibilities. Castileja feels the Stanford connection helps their school rating and admission rate, which supports a higher tuition.


Casti Myth

Castilleja incorporated neighborhood input into their plans. 

The plans unveiled in June 2016 were a complete surprise. Neighbors had always insisted on enrollment decreases and remote parking. The first plans had the exit of the underground garage pointed directly at a residence on Emerson. They moved the exit to point directly down Melville Avenue.

The City of Palo Alto let Castilleja extend their illegal enrollment by a year while they investigated the possibility of an Embarcadero entrance or exit to the garage. When that was determined to be unfeasible, they put the exit directly into the neighborhood at a dangerous intersection of Embarcadero and Emerson. 

PNQLnow sent a letter to City Manager Jim Keene and the city attorney in May 2017, asking them to enforce the law and insist that Castilleja take measures to reduce enrollment. Upon review of their legal and governmental rights, Keene sent a letter to Castilleja telling them to begin a reduction of their enrollment to the legal limit of 415. Castilleja has yet to reply with any proposed action, because they are confident that the current City Council will approve a new CUP (conditional use permit) to retroactive legalize their enrollment of 438 or more. Castilleja is asking for 540, in increments, but if a new CUP is approved, there is no legal requirement that it be done in increments. That would need to be stipulated in the new CUP.

(Same public record as above) Castilleja at one point entertained the idea of turning Melville Avenue into the "Grand Entrance" to the school.

Casti Myth

Traffic and parking impacts to the neighborhood will be minimal with the underground garage.

This myth refers only to peak time traffic during school hours, which is one of the smallest impacts of the project.  The underground garage would add ONLY 60 parking spaces to the campus, but would require the removal of six 100-foot redwood trees, 2 single family homes, rerouting of public utilities, and 2-3 years of excavation and construction.

Castilleja plans to hold more than 100 events plus summer camp in 2017-2018, many on successive nights and weekends, while all other private schools are limited to 10-20 event. The larger events could have 750-1,000 attendees, much larger than current events. Cars would be streaming through the neighborhood to enter and exit the garage all hours of the night, day, and weekends.

The garage design is seriously flawed, requiring all cars to enter on Bryant, a bike boulevard, then exit onto Emerson then back onto Embarcadero heading east.

Casti Myth

“Head of School Nanci Kauffman came forward to report that the School was over-enrolled. Castilleja
paid a fine of $265,000 and began reductions to achieve a new City-authorized 438-student cap...”

Castilleja begain violating the terms of their permit in 2001 with systematic increases in enrollment each year. In 2013, this was inadvertently exposed at a public meeting at the school. It was
reported in the PA Daily Post the next day. The City directed the school to reduce enrollment to 415 but gave them a 1-year exemption in 2015 to keep enrollment at 438 as they explored the possibility of a garage entrance and exit on Embarcadero Road.

When the City informed the school the garage was not feasible, they failed to re-enforce the 415 statute. In 2017 City Manager Jim Keene finally instructed the school to continue the enrollment reduction to 415.

The one-time fine of $265,000 is a tiny fraction of the $1.2 million PER YEAR that they receive from their over-enrollment.

PA Weekly Editorial: Castilleja's Unwise Stubbornness >