Despite opposition from neighbors and downtown businesses, San Jose lawmakers approved a plan to allow guests of a proposed 19-story hotel with more than 200 rooms to park off-site at a public parking garage.
The arrangement approved Tuesday between the proposed Almaden Corner Hotel and the city to allow hotel guests to use up to 41 parking spaces in the public Market & San Pedro Square parking garage for 10 years. The deal comes with one 10-year renewal option. The off-site parking will be provided to hotel guests via a valet service.
The project includes 1,200 square feet of ground floor retail, according to city planning documents.
But some downtown residents worry the plan will strip the public of much-needed parking slots in the heart of downtown, where parking is already scarce, and worsen traffic.
“The (environmental report) stated that the hotel with virtually no parking will generate nearly 2,300 additional vehicle trips per day. That lot has been vacant for decades. Why the rush, why right now?” downtown San Jose resident Bill Souders said during the meeting. “If you approve this, you will be responsible for scarring our downtown forever.”
Eugenia Verbeckmoes, chair of the land development committee for the Axis Homeowners Association, also objected to the parking plan which calls for the private use of a public facility.
“We as taxpayers paid for that garage,” she wrote in a letter to the City Council. “We paid for it to be an amenity for the public — not a benefit for a private entity. It is improper to misappropriate a public resource for such a purpose.”
In response to the concerns, Mayor Sam Liccardo said that San Jose’s future will be less dependent on cars as the city pushes transportation solutions to get people out of their cars. The mayor added that it’s important to invest in a city that is “not built for cars, but built for people.”
“We’re anticipating a changing world in which we’re not going to be depending on parking,” Liccardo said. “It’s quite reasonable to believe in 10 or 15 years from now that there’s going to be a lot of empty parking garages in a lot of cities that are going to make a lot of folks scratch their heads about how they can better utilize space.”
Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes the future hotel, echoed the mayor’s sentiments and rebutted the claims that the hotel’s planning was rushed.
The Almaden Corner Hotel, planned for 8 North Almaden Boulevard, will have 272 guest rooms, a hotel bar and restaurant on the ground floor as well as a rooftop bar and restaurant facing West Santa Clara Street, which would feature an open rooftop deck. Neither of the two bars and restaurants would be open past midnight, according to planning documents.
Each hotel room requires 0.35 room of parking space, or approximately one space for every three rooms, according to city zoning laws, which means the proposed 272 hotel rooms require 96 parking spaces.
But the hotel can qualify for parking reductions if it’s located near public transit and creates a transportation demand management program to reduce employee commutes through pedestrian and bicycle improvements, assigned car pool parking spaces and nearby neighborhood services.
The hotel will rise within the required 2,000 feet of public transportation, near the Santa Clara North Light Rail station and Bus Rapid Transit station, which means at least half of the hotel’s required parking can be reduced. The parking requirements will further shrink down to 41 spaces because of nearby bike share options and free VTA passes for employees — making the Market & San Pedro Square garage a viable option.
“The project proposes an off-site parking arrangement, with all 41 parking spaces to be provided in the Market/San Pedro Square Garage,” said Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey. “The hotel would provide valet service to and from the garage for hotel guests. Employees could park in the garage and walk to the hotel. Hotel guests and employees would also have the option to take public transit.”
Peralez and his council colleagues called for the city to settle on a one-time 10-year agreement for the hotel’s use of the parking garage.
“Considering the complex dynamics of building on-site parking, we understand the need to enter into a comprehensive parking agreement for 41 parking spaces from the Market Street garage,” Liccardo, Peralez, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez and Johnny Khamis wrote in a joint memo. “However, the city should also retain flexibility in the capacity of this public facility as there are always future uncertainties.”
Peralez on Tuesday added that 41 parking spaces are required for the project to be built, and while he shares the concern about protecting public assets, the city needs to be fair. “We can’t just completely eliminate that opportunity for one development or one hotel like this and then make it available for the next,” he said.
Neighbors also expressed concern with the hotel’s design being incompatible with nearby buildings, especially the historic Art Deco Hotel De Anza. But city officials Tuesday said the project’s revised design plans will include changing the hotel’s roofline to incorporate similar stylistic features as the Hotel De Anza.
Contact Nadia Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.