Intersection of Terra Vista Court and Country Club Drive, where multiple empty lots of grassy hills sit along the street, which is partially fenced off with construction equipment in the distance
The Milpitas City Council on Tuesday denied plans for a house at 1339 Terra Vista Court over the neighborhood's foothill restrictions on building visibility. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Tempers flared when Milpitas nixed a property owner’s plans to build a multi-story house on the city’s hillside.

The Milpitas City Council on Tuesday voted 2-1 to deny property owner Sanjay Muppaneni’s request for an exception to the neighborhood’s zoning for 1339 Terra Vista Court, after a contentious back and forth. The property is located in the city’s foothills where  decades-old zoning limits how visible new homes can be from the valley floor.

Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua and Councilmember Anthony Phan both voted to deny, while Mayor Carmen Montano voted against the denial. Councilmember Hon Lien abstained from the vote and Councilmember Garry Barbadillo was absent from the meeting.

“It’s a sheer abuse of power … It’s racial discrimination, what they’re doing there,” Muppaneni told San José Spotlight.

The proposed 5,900-square-foot home would reach 25 feet in height and includes a two-car garage in the basement and a rooftop deck surrounded with tempered glass as a guardrail. It also features two detached accessory structures, an in-ground pool and various trees surrounding the property.

The property is governed by height and visibility restrictions approved by Milpitas voters first in 1998, then again in 2016, to preserve the natural foothills landscape by limiting development. Acting Senior Planner Avery Stark said the house would be highly visible and need an exception to be approved due to its location. Stark pointed out design modifications that could lessen the intrusion, such as removing the tempered glass guardrail on the rooftop, which would create an excessive glare from the sun.

Stark added city planners had discussed possible modifications with Muppaneni and saw a revised set of plans that addressed the city’s concerns. But the plans presented at the council meeting were the same as those originally rejected by the Milpitas Planning Commission.

Councilmembers asked Muppaneni and Stark multiple questions about the possible modifications. Phan asked why the revised plans were not presented, and Muppaneni responded that the city’s planning department had “misguided” him on what modifications were needed.

“There is a pathway as mentioned by staff to get this approved and yet we haven’t really heard an explanation as to why the applicant decided to go a different route,” Phan said.

Nearly 20 people spoke about the project during the meeting, with supporters claiming the house as the family’s realization of the American dream—and opponents highlighting that the zoning protects the foothills.

“We’re not trying to crush any dreams or grant any dreams,” Milpitas resident Ivan Tam said. “I think it’s unfair to allow one family to build this dream house when thousands of Milpitas citizens want to keep the hillside a certain way.”

Sam Som, a realtor from Luxury Estates and Development who represented Muppaneni at the meeting, said certain changes including removing the rooftop deck were rejected for religious reasons.

Som suggested the family could pursue legal action after the denial, but Muppaneni told San José Spotlight he has no concrete plans going forward. City Attorney Michael Mutalipassi told councilmembers the owner could reapply for the exception with amended building plans at a later date.

Stark told San José Spotlight he hopes Muppaneni will return with a revised application that addresses the concerns and emphasized there are ways to modify the design to better align with the hillside constraints.

“Understandably, the process can be challenging,” Stark said. “My goal as a planner is to help guide you through that as best I can.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply