Castilleja has violated the terms of their use permit and now want to increase enrollment without vetting the project with the R1 neighborhood in which they operate.

Castilleja has violated the terms of their use permit and now want to increase enrollment without vetting the project with the R1 neighborhood in which they operate.

Castilleja School

Castilleja School 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 School 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 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.

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

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 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).

The Arrillaga family 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.

As usual, it's all about the money. And without the illegal enrollment and $12,000,000 in tuition, they would be losing money (see tax records). This is the true motivation for increased enrollment, not education.



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.


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.