San Jose council denies residents’ appeal of Winchester Boulevard hotel – The Mercury News

A last-ditch attempt by a group of West San Jose residents to kill a 6-story hotel on Winchester Boulevard has failed.

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to deny the appeal of the 119-room hotel, which will be built on a 0.69-acre lot at 1212 S. Winchester Blvd.

The residents filed the appeal back in March after the city’s planning director signed off on plans for the hotel. The council had voted two months earlier to approve the rezoning of the land from residential to commercial.

Among the resident’s complaints, many of whom live in the adjacent neighborhoods, were concerned about the influx of traffic the hotel will bring, the building height and the dissonance with the area’s urban village plan.

“When the urban villages were being planned, we as residents were being promised pedestrian-friendly walkways, open spaces and community gathering spaces,” resident Shehana Marikar told the council. “These two blocks of shallow lots on Winchester Boulevard with the land use of neighborhood community commercial were intended to be commercial activity that supports and serves the neighborhood and the community.”

The hotel falls within the Winchester Boulevard Urban Village Plan that was approved by the council in 2017 to shape development of the 1.5-mile corridor between Interstate 280 and Impala Drive.

A decade ago, city officials identified 60 urban villages across the city with the vision of transforming underutilized, low-density portions of the city into vibrant locales where people are able to work, shop and dine within blocks of their home. The strategy has largely fallen short of what was imagined, with the council approving only a fraction of the blueprints.

Bart Hechtman, a partner at Matteoni, O’Laughlin & Hechtman who serves as legal counsel for the developer, said that they had an extensive number of meetings with the neighbors and made “significant revisions” to the project. Those included removing the swimming pool, removing balconies that face homes and removing the rooftop restaurant.

“That is the kind of reaction that the city should want from its applicants who are implementing the city council’s vision as expressed in the general plan,” Hechtman said. “Here, that process, community meetings, listening, reacting resulted in a better project for the city and for the neighborhood.”

Because city officials determined the project ultimately meets the general plan and urban village’s guidelines, the council’s hands were essentially tied.

“They did things the right way,” Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, who represents the West San Jose district said of the group of residents. “They advocated for themselves, they were accommodating, they were willing to compromise…I’m in a situation where I have to make a decision based on the facts that were presented and with the information and the facts that we just heard from city staff .”

Mayor Sam Liccardo told the Mercury News that the project complies with the urban village plan’s goals to densify major corridors.

“The general plan is a blueprint for development in the city,” he said. “It results from a lot of extensive outreach and urban design guidelines are very clear along major boulevards like Winchester. Building heights can be almost twice as high as they can be in a single family neighborhood and that’s appropriate for a city that has to densify and depart from decades of suburban sprawl and boost urban infill and walkability.”

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