A group of West San Jose residents is banding together in an attempt to block the construction of a six-story hotel they say “completely violates” a development plan crafted by the city to enhance their neighborhood.
But to the developer and city planners, the 119-room hotel proposed to be built on a .69-acre property at 1212 S. Winchester Blvd. fully complies with the city’s policies and vision for the area.
The proposed hotel is located within the city’s Winchester Boulevard Urban Village Plan — a blueprint approved by the San Jose City Council in 2017 to guide a shift toward denser development along a 1.5-mile stretch of Winchester Boulevard, a commercial corridor in West San Jose between Interstate 280 and Impala Drive.
The hotel would be one of the first of tall buildings allowed under the blueprint’s density focus, according to the city. For several blocks on that side of the road north and south of the proposed building, one- to two-story homes, apartment complexes, strip malls and shops dominate the landscape.
The property is about 1.5 miles north of downtown Campbell and 1.5 miles south of Santana Row, which the developer and city planners say would provide a “necessary service for existing and future demand for business travelers and visitors” who want to stay near the employment center and shopping destination. If approved, the hotel would replace two single-story commercial buildings that used to be houses.
Residents surrounding the property have come up with a laundry list of reasons why the project should be rejected, ranging from concerns about fire risk to conformance with the area’s urban village plan to inhibiting pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The City Council is expected to consider the project, which has the endorsement of city planners, on Jan. 11.
Councilmember Chappie Jones, who represents the neighborhood, said he doesn’t support the hotel as it stands now but could be swayed if certain revisions are made.
Jones last month asked the council to postpone a decision to give the developer more time to meet with community members and make adjustments, noting the project had “tested the integrity of the Urban Village Plan in a way my office has not yet experienced.”
“If you look at the scale of what is being proposed, it just overwhelms the neighborhood and surrounding homes,” Jones said in a recent interview. “So, I have some real reservations about a hotel of that size going in on that parcel.”
Dr. Adam Askari, a San Jose dentist and the project developer, said he followed the urban village plan to a tee and has already invested at least $2 million into the project.
“If they kill our project, they might as well kill the whole urban village,” he said in an interview. “If the City Council in 2017 approved an urban village and we followed that vision, yet here they are changing their mind, no developer is going to want to come in and buy a property in an urban village. It would scare all the developers.”
San Jose’s urban village plans are already struggling to attract the kind of developer interest city leaders sought when they baked the concept of concentrating denser development around transit and commercial corridors into the city’s General Plan more than a decade ago.
Under the Winchester Urban Village Plan, the property sought for the hotel was given a “neighborhood/community commercial” land use designation, which the city defines as shallow lots that are appropriate for small commercial businesses with a “strong connection to, and provide services and amenities for, the community.”
Shehana Marikar, who lives in a house adjacent to the property, argues that a six-story hotel that has only a 20-foot buffer from the homes behind it and a six-foot buffer from hers “completely violates” the neighborhood’s urban village plan.
“I just don’t get what the city is trying to accomplish,” she said. “It’s not the case of us not wanting something built, but make it neighborhood friendly, make it community commercial where we can support the businesses and the business would serve us in turn.”
San Jose Planning Supervisor John Tu said the land use designation is for commercial activity and is “not exclusive to the kinds of commercial described in the designation.”
He said a hotel also can serve neighboring residents by accommodating visiting family, friends and workers. The city already has approved several hotels on lots with the same land use designation, including an Aloft and Hampton Inn in West San Jose.
Residents also have complained about the lack of a fire lane behind the hotel where it butts up against several homes, an inadequate amount of parking spaces and a 41-foot driveway that would cross the sidewalk along Winchester Boulevard and defy the urban village plan’s mission of creating “pedestrian-oriented frontages” and “pedestrian-friendly access to parking areas.”
The project has received a parking reduction allowance resulting in a total of 66 parking spaces in an underground garage to be equipped with a vehicle lift system. In exchange for the reduction, the developer created a plan that indicates only 10 employees would be on-site at any given time. Neighbors say that plan doesn’t add up, and the city has failed to properly vet it.
“The planning department is not doing their due diligence on this and that’s a supercritical number that will make or break the feasibility of this,” neighboring resident Jeff Williams said.
Despite neighbors’ opposition, Askari is urging city leaders to give the project the green light.
“I truly think it’ll act as a catalyst to develop the area just like when the Fairmont hotel was brought into downtown,” he said. “It’s a great asset to the city in terms of shortage of the hotels and being minutes away from the airport and high tech campuses.
“I think the neighbors have to look at end of the tunnel. There’s a lot of nice things happening.”