The site at 1000 Jacklin Road has stood vacant for almost a year. And judging from the Milpitas Planning Commission’s latest meeting on Wednesday, it sounds like Milpitians have a lot to say about what should go there next…
The current proposal — a five-story, 105-room La Quinta hotel — garnered at times contentious debate on Wednesday. In the end, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 — with Commissioner Timothy Alcorn dissenting — to bring back the hotel plan for further discussion.
The second hearing on the issue, at the insistence of Commissioners Evelyn Chua and Bill Chuan, will make room for more detailed looks at potential construction impacts, a crime report that considers break-ins, and a more detailed parking plan.
Of particular concern to both the commission and residents who opposed the project were pedestrian impacts among children. The proposed site lies within a mile of Milpitas High School, Pomeroy Elementary School, and Thomas Russell Middle School, and is less than 300 feet away from a childcare center and a Chinese school.
“Off of Hillview and Jacklin, we are already so congested with traffic because of Milpitas High School,” said resident Aileen Ramones. “We do not need another thing to crowd the area.”
According to former Milpitas Chamber CEO and current project consultant Mark Tiernan, traffic studies for the hotel yielded at least a 46-percent decrease in traffic as compared to the gym.
Many opponents of the hotel held signs at Wednesday’s full-house meeting reading, “Protect Property Values,” while many proponents wore buttons with “Milpitas La Quinta” inscribed inside a blue heart.
A representative from La Quinta developer LSA and the property’s owner, Joe Gigantino, were on hand with blueprints for the new 73-foot-high building — 10 feet higher than the current clock tower attached to the vacant building.
According to an LSA report, the proposed La Quinta hotel will occupy approximately 81,000 square feet, including an underground level for extra parking, a concern among many residents at the meeting. In addition to the guest rooms, the proposed building would include a meeting room, lounge area, fitness center, office space, and an indoor pool and spa.
The proposed La Quinta will sit within half a mile of two already-existing hotels, including Embassy Suites, one of the city’s largest. La Quinta is expected to generate approximately $5 million in revenue, including $650,000 in tax revenue for the city.
The prospect of giving back to the community was “most exciting” for Gigantino.
‘I’m a community guy,” said Gigantino. “When I bought this property in 1997, I got involved in the community, went to football games. We see this as an opportunity to give back to the community.”
Some of the project’s supporters — which include his former fitness club employees — agreed.
“I remember the owner [Gigantino] donating equipment to Milpitas High School,” said Minh Nguyen, a supporter of the hotel and one of Gigantino’s colleagues. “I’m excited to have this hotel here. He could easily sell this building and make a lot of money. But Milpitas is lucky to have him here and have a hotel here and bring money here.”
An initial study conducted by city officials determined that the hotel will “not have a significant effect” on the environment, and will conform to the city’s noise and traffic standards.
Others were not as convinced, however, and some residents refuted the various city-, police- and developer-backed studies’ claims of traffic and safety.
“Milpitas is already far overdeveloped. They need to focus on the quality of life,” said resident John Doll. “Would you want this monstrosity in your neighborhood? If not, how can you push this on us?”
Resident Neil Lamba, who lives less than half a mile from the proposed site, saw the hotel as a positive opportunity for a changing city.
“Small-town Milpitas was gone 30 years ago,” said Lamba. “We feel that he’s [Gigantino] done his part and is within his rights. I don’t see how you can question their credence in their fields. Not everyone is opposed to this project.”
Some residents are also concerned that the new, taller building will obscure views of the hills along the popular trail.
The building’s clock tower can already be seen from different hiking trails across the city, most notably the Hetch Hetchy hiking trail, which comes within walking distance of the lot.
LSA’s report, however, claims the views will remain clear and unaffected.
“We’re really only talking about 10 feet,” said Gigantino. “Not much taller than I am or how the clock tower already stands.”
Some citizens opined the hotel would also threaten the safety of children who attend the care center and Chinese school. The five-story building, they claimed, would make it easier for criminals to stake out targets below.
“I have an eight-year-old daughter who attends the Chinese school in the same lot,” said one resident. “There are schools around the area already. There will be safety risks for kids who walk or bike, and a loss of privacy. WIth a five-story building, people can use it as a vantage point to scope out buildings.”
Another resident, who was a member of the building’s since-closed gym, said he could “see his backyard” from the building’s second story.
“It’s concerning that I heard comments about kids can’t walk past the hotel,” Gigantino said. “I wouldn’t own a business that would harm children.”
In addition, Deputy Police Chief Kevin Moscuzza cited the city’s crime numbers, saying there was “no reason to be concerned.” According to a study conducted by the police department, break-ins were more likely to occur in strip malls than hotel parking lots.
Chua asked the developers to come back with renderings of hotel room views from its west facade for the project’s next meeting, in an attempt to quell concerns about privacy.
Vice Chair Demetress Morris, who voted in favor of the proposal, repeatedly called it “a great idea” on Wednesday, but added that the privacy issue “is a huge concern.” Morris proposed the applicant work with city staff and the community in search of common ground about the matter.
The hotel proposal has been a point of contention for the developers, their supporters, and the opposition. Gigantino said he was “barred” from NextDoor, the popular community advocacy app, after his post about the hotel garnered so much negativity.
“But we have the facts,” Gigantino said.
City officials and Gigantino have held two community meetings — including one earlier this month — which were poorly attended, according to the development team.
The Planning Commission will hear the issue again at their next meeting, on January 15. Community members will have a chance to participate in a town hall about the hotel on January 8 at Milpitas City Hall. Should the Commission approve the amended plans, the proposal will go to the Milpitas City Council for a final vote.