The project would require several major variances.
- Setback violations along Bryant Street, Emerson Street, and Embarcadero Road.
- Violation of lot merging restrictions for R1-10,000 zoned parcels at 1235 and 1263 Emerson Street
- Reduction of the public easement form 25 ft to 10 ft to make room for the garage. We do not want Castilleja messing with public easements. The neighborhood needs this safeguard and it may be needed for future utilities. They already intend to re-route the storm drain and water lines.
Castilleja already enjoys special treatment, compared to other private schools in the area:
View comparison of local private schools >
The proposed project will add hundreds of car trips daily to an already gridlocked area, at the same time Palo Alto High School traffic is at a peak, and concurrent with Stanford commute traffic.
An underground garage for 130 cars is not in alignment with the City's master plan for R1 neighborhoods. Castilleja has knowingly violated their use permit for 15 years. That should not be rewarded.
- Castilleja is located in a residential area zoned R1 and operates under a conditional use permit (CUP) granted by the City of Palo Alto.
- The CUP is for 415 students, but there are currently 438 students enrolled. Castilleja has been in violation of the CUP since 2002.
- On June 30, 2016, Castilleja submitted a new CUP application requesting a 30% increase to 540 students.
School Events Per Year
Castilleja currently holds more than 100 events during the school year, plus a summer camp. They are proposing a "reduction" to 90 events, but some of these events are for 500-700 people. Castilleja is trying to avoid including these events in traffic studies. We are making sure this is included in the EIR scoping. The impact on the neighborhood can't be understated.
All other private schools in Palo Alto have a cap of 15 events per year.
The proposed project would demolish the historical Lockey House at 1263 Emerson. Castilleja is trying to promote an falsehood about the date of construction in order to avoid the laws governing historical landmarks. We are pursuing this to make sure the truth is known.
Palo Alto Stanford Heritage lists this as a threatened landmark.
Castilleja continues to spin their story with incomplete, out of context statements in an effort to mask the true impacts of their proposed expansion.
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.