The Milpitas City Council rejected a developer’s plan to build a new hotel on Jacklin Road Friday night, ending almost 19 hours of heated debate over 4 marathon public meetings.
The planned La Quinta hotel was to replace the now-vacant 22,000-square-foot building on a one-acre site at 1000 Jacklin. Attached to the building is a 62-foot-tall clock tower, which is visible from the nearby Hetch Hetchy trail. The building was most recently a gym.
The hotel would have had up to 105 rooms, underground parking, and a 73-foot tower, though the average height of the hotel would have been 59 feet.
The Milpitas Planning Commission originally refused the hotel in January, concerned that it would not “foster community pride.”
The property’s owner, Joe Gigantino, appealed to the city council, which upheld the commission’s decision with Friday’s vote.
Gigantino called the vote “disappointing” in a follow-up interview with The Beat.
“I always support my staff and the consultants we hire,” Gigantino said. “They [the council] had city support the whole way through, but for some reason they didn’t believe their staff and didn’t believe their consultants. It’s unfortunate.”
Gigantino and his local consultant, Mark Tiernan, touted the possible revenue the hotel would have brought: an estimated $700,000 in annual transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenue for the city, according to initial estimates. It would have also brought nearly 100 new construction jobs and dozens of hotel staffing jobs, of which Gigantino said local applicants would get first choice.
But the project ran into vehement opposition from residents who live less than a half-mile from the proposed site. The residents complained the hotel would dominate hillside views, increase traffic, and encourage nearby crime.
City staff, the developers, and the city’s police and fire departments all refuted the residents’ grievances, pointing to estimates that the hotel would actually reduce traffic rates. Assistant Police Chief Kevin Moscuzza found “no correlation” between hotels and an increase in petty crime, and city staff recommended the council approve the hotel based on their studies.
Gigantino already made several concessions before Friday’s vote to appease the neighborhood’s demands. His team scrapped the original plan for a 5-story hotel, settling on 4 stories, moved the building’s tower away from the nearby residential area, and altered window views so they wouldn’t face nearby homes. The hotel originally planned to sell beer and wine, but developers also dropped that idea in a last-ditch effort to pass the project.
“I worry that we do all these compromises and people are still going to be unhappy,” said Phan, a consistent supporter of businesses and job creation. “So far, all of these compromises have been reasonable.”
Vice Mayor Bob Nuñez was also satisfied with the alterations.
““I think he made a lot of accommodations to our requests,” Nuñez said. “When somebody does that, it tells me they want to become a part of the community.”
The rest of the city council agreed with nearby residents, however, as they struck down the project on a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Karina Dominguez and Carmen Montano joined Mayor Rich Tran in opposition of the hotel, while Nuñez and Phan voted for it.
Tran — who mused that the hotel would be “a smashing success” — said the hotel would bring an unnatural “dominant visual prominence” to the surrounding area.
Additionally, he speculated that westbound traffic in the city would increase, which would cause problems for nearby residents and businesses, and students who attend nearby schools.
“It’s a bad precedent they’re setting,” said Gigantino of the council’s decision. “I’ve already gotten calls from other developers asking why and what happened. I would definitely look hard before you start developing in Milpitas.”
Residents’ comments often accumulated into hours at city meetings, inundating the city clerk’s office with emails. Friday’s meeting picked up from a nearly 6-hour meeting on Tuesday that was suspended after 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Gigantino said he has not yet thought of alternate projects for the abandoned building, nor has he thought of pursuing further action with the city.
He said, “When they see that the city council and the mayor do not support their staff or consultants, it would be very difficult for other developers to want to come in and spend money if they feel like they’re going to get a fair shake.”