After hearing over two hours of public comment and another three hours of presentations and deliberation Wednesday night, the Milpitas Planning Commission rejected a proposal 4-2 for a La Quinta Hotel on Jacklin Road.
Commission Chair Steve Tao and Commissioner Ricky Ablaza cast votes to support the project, while Commission Vice Chair Demetress Morris and Commissioners Timothy Alcorn, Evelyn Chua, and Bill Chuan voted against it.
The contentious vote came after months of fervent opposition to the five-story, 105-room hotel from residents who live near the development site. They feared the hotel would bring more unwanted traffic and increased crime, decrease child safety, and block their views of the Calaveras Hills.
Alcorn, Chuan, and Morris, while acknowledging the time and effort that city staff and developers put into the project, claimed the hotel would not be a source of “community pride” — an important aspect of the city’s general plan.
“It was very clear that the project didn’t foster community pride,” said Alcorn in a follow-up interview with The Beat. “I’d like to see something that the community is excited about.”
Alcorn added that the amount of opposition to the project signaled the community was “not excited about” the hotel.
Chua, who raised concerns about increased traffic, said she was “disappointed” that traffic analysts did not present more specific numbers for the Jacklin area, which sits near Interstate 680 and several residential neighborhoods.
The Planning Commission originally heard the item in December, and asked developers to come back with more traffic and crime data in the area before they would vote on it.
The project’s applicant, Joe Gigantino, has owned the property since 1997. Gigantino has been the operator of several fitness clubs that have occupied the space over the past two decades. He claimed the project would have brought much-needed tax revenue to the city and would actually reduce traffic as compared to the health clubs that originally occupied the space.
Initial estimates said the hotel would have generated an estimated $600,000 in annual revenue for the city.
Gigantino and Mark Tiernan, Gigantino’s local representative for the project, made changes to the original plan in response to some community members’ concerns from last month’s meeting. Some of those changes included removing windows facing into the nearby residential area and adding privacy glass to other windows.
Milpitas Police Assistant Chief Kevin Moscuzza was also on hand to present crime data concerning hotels, asserting there was “no correlation” between hotels and a rise in crime.
But the planned hotel sits just across the street from a residential area, and only 50 feet away from both a Chinese school and a KinderCare childcare center. That brought many concerned parents to speak out on Wednesday night.
“Would you let your kids stay at those schools?” asked one resident. “Parents are going to pull their kids out because of safety issues and those two schools [near the site] will go out of business. Guaranteed.”
Said another resident, “You are missing the point that there are small kids playing next to the hotel. It’s [the proposal] a pure marketing presentation.”
The site also sits less than a mile away from Milpitas High School, Thomas Russell Middle School, and Pomeroy Elementary School.
Also of concern among residents was the proposed structure’s planned height, which was to be 10 feet taller than the existing clock tower on the unused building. Residents who walk the nearby Hetch Hetchy trail feared a five-story building would obstruct hillside views.
“This is Hillview,” said one resident, referring to the neighborhood. “Don’t make it ‘Hotel-view.’”
The project’s developers said the building would not be much taller than it already is, and the planned hotel’s footprint would actually be smaller than the current building there.
Dozens of residents took advantage of public comment to express their concerns, which took almost three hours. At times, City Planning Director Ned Thomas had to rebut public comments due to inaccuracy.
Several residents commented on the possibility of the project’s studies — despite being carried out by planning, development, and traffic professionals — being “doctored,” and “faked.”
There were, however, residents who supported the hotel plan, including business owner David Lee, who operates less than a block away from the proposed site.
“We would love the hotel to come here,” he said. “This will bring in more jobs and more employees. Our businesses need all the help we can get.”
His opinion was matched by several other residents. One commended the commission for not succumbing to “emotional” arguments and “keeping their objectivity.”
Residents say they will continue to oppose the hotel plan should developers decide to bring it back, and will keep pushing an online petition against it that currently has over 700 signatures. Some audience members at the meeting offered counter proposals such as a Trader Joe’s grocery store, but Gigantino claimed any other establishment besides a hotel would cause even more traffic.
“We have facts, we have studies, and we have reports that we’ve spent over a year on,” said Gigantino. “The facts are that this project is going to bring economic development to the city of Milpitas.”
The commissioners who opposed the project, however, were more concerned about what impact the project would have on residents.
“I don’t like to talk about how much money something can bring because that’s outside the planning commission purview,” said Alcorn. “But a lot of the residents here don’t care about how much money the city is getting. They care about their quality of life.”