Milpitas Council will make final call on La Quinta hotel proposal

Courtesy: Joseph Geha | News Source:

MILPITAS — The hotly contested debate over whether Milpitas should allow a new five-story hotel on Jacklin Road is far from being settled as the developer behind the project is appealing the decision to reject his proposal.

“It became a very high profile decision and issue in the community,” said city Planning Director Ned Thomas.

After the Planning Commission rejected his project, developer Joe Gigantino filed an appeal to the city council, which is tentatively set to hear it on March 17.

“It involves a variety of issues that are important to the council, such as economic development, as well as quality of life in the community…and in this case it’s probably good for the council to hear and make the final decision,” Thomas added.

Gigantino’s proposal to put up a five-story La Quinta Inn and Suites hotel on his 1.14-acre plot at 1000 Jacklin Road was shot down earlier this month after two lengthy hearings because the Planning Commission decided it would not “foster community pride.”

“I believe that a $25 million building as a gateway into Milpitas off the freeway would be a wonderful way to foster community pride,” Gigantino said in an interview.

He also estimates that the hotel will generate about $600,000 annually in hotel taxes for the city for at least 30 years.

Dozens of residents from the neighboring Hillview neighborhood showed up to commission hearings in December and January to voice opposition to the project, claiming the hotel would create a dominating visual presence on the horizon, and possibly invade the privacy of residents living nearby.

They also said the hotel could attract crime to the area, and worsen traffic on Jacklin Road.

However, police officials said there was no apparent link between hotels and an increase in crimes in surrounding neighborhoods, and studies performed for the city by a consultant determined there wouldn’t be a significant effect on traffic resulting from the hotel.

Gigantino said many residents stated unfounded concerns at the commission meetings, even as Thomas and other staffers worked to correct inaccuracies in real-time during the second meeting, at times interrupting speakers to offer more context or corrections.

“And I’m not sure if the Planning Commission used those (statements) to make their final decision, but they surely did have trouble trying to find a way to deny the project,” Gigantino said.

The commission by a 4-2 vote denied the project saying it was inconsistent with a general plan policy that encourages fostering “community pride and growth through beautification of existing and future development.”

Gigantino said between now and the hearing in March, he hopes to reach out to a broader cross-section of Milpitas residents, instead of just people living in the neighboring areas, to help build support for his proposal.

“I think if the entire community had the opportunity to hear this project, and decide if it’s good for the community, there would be a different outcome,” he said.

To build the hotel, Gigantino proposed tearing down a two-story, 22,300-square-foot commercial building currently on the site that once was a health club, which includes a nearly 63-foot-tall clock tower.

The project requires a conditional use permit that would give Gigantino a bigger building footprint than otherwise permitted on the lot, allow the hotel to sell beer and wine and put wireless telecommunication antennas and equipment on the roof of the building, according to a city staff report.

The hotel at its tallest point on a tower feature would be about 73 feet high. After hearing concerns about privacy from residents at community meetings, Gigantino’s team redesigned the building to remove windows in the stairwells that face neighborhoods to the west from the tower feature, and said that frosted glass would be used for west-facing hallway windows.

Gigantino and his team assured the commission and residents that safety and security measures would be in place at the hotel, and that there would be close coordination with the city’s police department, to help prevent crime from occurring there. He also thinks the hotel will bring more economic opportunity to the city by attracting business travelers.

Thomas, the planning director, said the council will consider the previous hearings that have taken place but will hear the project proposal as a new application.

“We will package up all of the information from both hearings at the Planning Commission, and there will be a memo” that includes city staff’s recommendation to approve the project, which they had recommended to the commission, as well, Thomas said.

The question of whether or not the hotel generates community pride will be a key consideration for the council to weigh, Thomas said.

No matter the outcome, the council hearing will likely draw significant attention, Thomas said.

“It’s a weighty matter within the community,” he said.

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