A controversial plan for a 6-story hotel on Winchester Boulevard in San Jose will not move forward after strong opposition from nearby residents.
On Tuesday, councilmembers unanimously approved rezoning a 0.69-acre parcel at 1212 S. Winchester Blvd. from residential to commercial development, but rejected a plan to build a 119-room hotel on the plot.
The proposal is in compliance with the city’s vision for urban villages, but the project is not right for the neighborhood, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones said.
“This project has exposed a gap in our (general plan),” said Jones, who represents the area where the neighborhood is located. “This is a situation where even if you have a right to do something, (it) doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to do.”
The hotel, which would have replaced two commercial buildings that used to be single-story houses, has faced backlash from nearby residents. The property owner, San Jose dentist Dr. Adam Askari, told the council at the meeting he’s willing to go back to the drawing board.
“What we decided was to drop it at this time,” Askari said. “We’ll regroup and talk to the neighbors again.”
Askari said his team met with residents in the neighborhood at least eight times to address their concerns. But neighbors to the proposed hotel said Askari’s solutions, such as planting trees, didn’t address the issues. They worry a 6-story hotel would tower over those living in the single-story residential neighborhood and invade their privacy.
“We’re not against development or growth or investment,” said Vince Navarra, president of the Hamann Park Neighborhood Association. “But we feel these blocks are too small, and it’s going to impact our neighborhood in a lot of negative ways that haven’t even been brought out at this point. ”
Navarra said the hotel would increase traffic which the neighborhood cannot absorb. He added the hotel would impact the day-to-day lives of residents going to work, the safety of the children who walk to the school half a mile away, as well as pedestrians and bikers along Winchester Boulevard.
Winchester Boulevard is a major traffic artery that cuts through San Jose and connects multiple cities from Santa Clara to Los Gatos. Several of its intersections, such as Hamilton Avenue and Stevens Creek Boulevard, become congested during rush hour. These intersections also bookend the location of the proposed hotel.
“Plans show there is no room for fire lanes, for adequate parking or for the Ubers and Lyfts that are going to pick up visitors in the hotel, (or) for bike lanes we were promised,” Navarra said, adding it doesn’t benefit residents and violates elements of San Jose’s Urban Village Plan.
Still, the developer’s plans won recommendation from the city’s Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement.
“Staff’s recommendation to approve the project is based on consistency with the general plan and Winchester Urban Village Plan for this area,” Cheryl Wessling, spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement, told San José Spotlight. “Hotels play a key role in the economic vibrancy of cities and meet the purpose of providing accommodations to travelers.”
Several developers spoke out against the City Council’s decision at the meeting, saying it set a precedent that could deter developments in San Jose.
“If a project like this, which fully complies with all the regulations of this specific plan, is denied, I assume most other investors will not be willing to take the risk of investing in this neighborhood or in any part of San Jose,” said Behrouz Soroudi, a developer with several properties in San Jose.
Mayor Sam Liccardo said he only supported the decision to drop the hotel proposal because the developer was onboard with the idea.
“We don’t owe developers anything in this city except one thing—clarity,” he said. “We spent a lot of time on the urban village plans and all these rules. So once the rules are set, it seems to me that if they comply with the rules, they could move forward.”