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Last Updated: Jan 24, 2017

Castilleja School

Project Scoping News Update - 12/21/16

A Request by the Castilleja School Foundation to amend an existing Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Castilleja School to provide for increased student enrollment and a series of phased site improvements. The Castilleja School has been located at its current site in a single family (R-1) zoning district for over 106 years and a CUP is required for schools in this zone. The proposal requests an increase in student enrollment from the current enrollment of 438 and the previously authorized enrollment of 415 to a maximum of 540 students over the course of a phased implementation plan. Castilleja has proposed increasing enrollment by 27 students each year and making the increases contingent on strict transportation demand measures such as a “cap” on student trips by automobile, as well as specific physical improvements to the site. There will be no change to the amount of above-grade floor area that exists on the site (currently 105,710 square feet), and building coverage is proposed to be reduced on the site by nearly 1,200 square feet. The proposal is subject to Environmental Review and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be prepared.

Additional City approvals requested in association with the CUP amendment will include Architectural Review (AR) and a lot merger which is likely to manifest as a request for a Parcel Map with Exception, so that the R-1 zoned lot supporting the school may be increased in size. The Architectural Review (AR) process will focus on a first phase to remove two residential buildings at 1235 and 1263 Emerson Street (alumnae house and head's house) and construct a below-grade garage of approximately 50,500 square feet for 130 parking spaces underneath the existing school site and the two Emerson Street properties that are requested to be merged, in order to increase on-site parking by 133%, and re-route circulation, and enable an associated enrollment cap of 490 students. Requested student enrollment caps of 520 and 540 would be contingent on Architectural Review of future phases, including relocation of the swimming pool to below-grade, installation of a bike pavilion on Bryant, removal of the fine arts center on Emerson, lowering the school's central circle (and including bus circulation), replacing buildings on the southerly half of the site with new buildings fronting Kellogg Avenue, and Bryant and Emerson Streets, and implementation of other proposed site changes.

A scoping meeting in a public hearing with the Planning and Transportation Commission has been tentatively scheduled for February 8, 2017, at 6 pm. The City’s consultant is preparing a draft initial study that will identify potential impacts in several topic areas. Early in the new year, staff will post additional information about the scoping session goals, as well as target dates for publication of reports for public review prior to the scoping session.

News Update - 10/25/16

On Friday, October 28th, Castilleja School will be removing the 120 foot tall Redwood Tree #112 located at 1235 Emerson Street, for which the City recently issued an emergency tree removal permit. 

Beginning October 25th, the adjacent fence and shrubs will be removed to allow for set up of the operation. On Wednesday October 26th, the tree will be ‘de-limbed’. Since rain is anticipated on Thursday October 27th, the next step is scheduled for Friday, when a large crane will be set up for the removal. Once the wood is removed from the site the following day, the site will be cleaned up and the fence will be restored.

The need for removal of the entire tree was recently confirmed by a second consulting arborist, Deborah Ellis, whom nearby neighbors retained following a meeting about the emergency tree removal held at Castilleja School on October 18th. The intent of the additional opinion obtained from arborist Deborah Ellis was to satisfy the neighbors’ concerns regarding the tree. This independent evaluation, which provided a “neutral”, third party determination, will be documented in writing for the City to upload onto this webpage; however, it will not be available to upload until after the tree removal.

The City did not need any written second evaluation to confirm Castilleja’s arborist’s findings; however, Castilleja consented in response to neighbors. The City does not plan to amend the previously issued emergency permit. Castilleja is approved to proceed as permitted.

News Update - 10/14/16

The City of Palo Alto and Castilleja School are hosting a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday, October 18 at 4 p.m. at Castilleja’s Lockey House, 1263 Emerson Street, to discuss neighbor concerns about one of the school’s redwood trees that has been determined to be unsafe and must be removed. The tree is located at 1237 Emerson and its removal has been permitted by the City following verification of its condition by a City arborist and posting by the School. The removal of the tree is unrelated to the school’s proposed expansion plans. Given the tree’s current condition and the beginning of winter storm season, Castilleja has arranged for the unsafe tree to be removed as soon as possible. The City’s Chief Building Official Amy French and Urban Forester Walter Passmore will attend and answer any community questions about the tree’s removal.

Castilleja School, 1310 Bryant Street, Palo Alto

Castilleja is a private, all-girls’ school for 6th through 12th grades, located at 1310 Bryant Street at Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto. The school has been at the current site, which is zoned Residential -- Single Family Residential (R-1) 10,000, since 1907, and is surrounded by single family homes. 

In the year 2000, Castilleja received a use permit from the City of Palo Alto for an enrollment of 415 students. 13 years later, the City discovered that Castilleja’s enrollment exceeded this allowance and initiated code enforcement actions including a significant financial penalty, a requirement that the school begin to reduce its enrolment, and a requirement that the school apply for a new use permit to request any increase above the permitted amount. 

Pending Application

Castilleja’s student enrollment is currently 438, and on June 30, 2016, the school submitted requests for a new conditional use permit to increase student enrollment and to allow for phased redevelopment of their campus, including construction of an underground parking structure in phase one. The use permit application seeks approval to increase the total number of students from the current enrollment level of 438 students to 540 students over a 4-5 year period, with the addition of no more than 27 students per year. The application (File# 16PLN-00238) and other materials provided by the applicant can be accessed to the right of this page.

EIR Required

Upon review of the application, the City has determined that an environmental impact report (EIR) will be required, and has requested additional information from the applicant.  See the City’s ‘Notice of Incomplete’ letter found here.

Preparation of an EIR means there will be several opportunities for public input on Castilleja’s proposal, starting with an EIR “scoping” process, where the City will seek input on potential impacts of the project, the scope of the environmental analysis, and alternatives that should be considered.  See below for a tentative schedule of the EIR process:

  • Project Initiation = June-October 2016 (includes receipt of application & hiring a consultant to assist with EIR preparation)
  • EIR Scoping = Early 2017 (includes dissemination of an initial study and Notice of Preparation for review and comment, a preliminary meeting at the Architectural Review Board, and a public scoping meeting at the Planning & Transportation Commission)
  • Draft EIR = Spring 2017 (includes dissemination of a Draft EIR for public review and comment, a meeting at the Architectural Review Board, the Planning & Transportation Commission, and possibly the City Council.)
  • Final EIR = Summer 2017 (includes preparation of the Final EIR and hearings at the Architectural Review Board and Planning & Transportation Commission, leading to publication of the Final EIR and final recommendations from both bodies)
  • City Council Decision = Fall 2017 (includes certification of the EIR as well as a decision on the project).

Stay Informed

This webpage will be updated when there are changes in the schedule or opportunities to provide input.  Please subscribe by filling out the form below with your name and email address and you will receive notification of changes or events. You may also email comments and questions to and Amy French, the City’s project manager, will respond as time permits. 

Background & Other Correspondence

The Castilleja application derived from a code enforcement action and related correspondence can be found to the right of this page. Consistent with City practice, no further code enforcement action will be taken while there is an active application pending to abate the violation.


Castilleja School Project Documents

Click here to view.                          

For the most up to date application status, please visit this link: Building Eye      

Last Updated: Jan 23, 2017
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