A group of West San Jose residents is appealing a six-story hotel on Winchester Boulevard in a last ditch effort to stop development.

Residents Gaz Salihue, Shehana Marikar and others on behalf of the Hamann Park neighborhood are challenging the environmental review and special use permit for a 119-room hotel at 1212-1224 S. Winchester Blvd. They’ve opposed the hotel since plans were first proposed in 2019, and have raised concerns that it’s an oversized, ill-planned project with no community benefits. The San Jose City Council will consider the appeal on Tuesday.

The city rezoned the land early this year, but the developer dropped plans for the hotel before it quietly came back for approval at a planning director’s hearing in March. The approval includes the demolition of two single-story commercial buildings and nine trees on the 0.69-acre parcel.

The hotel is among numerous projects in West San Jose that meet the city’s urban village strategy in its Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan. Urban villages are planned along transit corridors and as mixed-use projects with housing, commercial and office space to reduce traffic and balance the city’s jobs-to-house ratio. They are also designed to be walkable communities.

There are 60 urban villages planned in San Jose. Other large projects in West San Jose include the Stevens Creek Promenade, the Costco planned for the Westgate shopping center on Prospect Road and El Paseo de Saratoga. Those projects have drawn sharp criticism from neighbors who say the scale doesn’t match the surrounding single-story home neighborhoods.

Adam Askari, a San Jose dentist and developer of the Winchester hotel, believes the residents are just opposed to change. He says his hotel aligns with the city’s vision for urban villages that transform suburban neighborhoods to walkable, transit-oriented places.

“These plans are not for today, they are what the city envisions in 20 years,” Askari told San Jose Spotlight. “They don’t like change. Tjhe problem is I’m the first person doing development there so I am getting all this from them. But in five years, if my building is two stories, it will look silly because the rest of the neighborhood will be much bigger.”

Residents’ primary concern is the property is too big without proper accommodations. The hotel will have 60 parking spots underground, which may force guests and employees to park in the neighborhood; the hotel will tower over the single-story homes nearby; and there are not enough fire lanes or plans for a bike lane that were promised, opponents say.

“I get that we may come across as neighbors who just don’t want something, but when you think about all of the risks it’s scary,” said Marikar, who lives right next to the site. “Forget the inconvenience, forget what an ugly monstrosity it’s gonna look here, but just also the dangers that it can pose.”

Marikar worries a hotel fire would burn the whole neighborhood because there isn’t much space between the hotel and neighboring houses. There are also concerns of increased traffic posing a risk to children who walk to school just a few blocks away.

Residents see flaws

Residents also say the hotel’s operation plan does not include security personnel on employee lists and underestimates the number of staff needed to operate the hotel to get a parking reduction approval.

“The developer will say we are just against big buildings, but if you look at our issues they are all technical,” resident Jeff Williams told San Jose Spotlight.

Asakari said he has met with the neighbors over 20 times to appease their concerns—getting rid of balconies, a swimming pool and a rooftop restaurant at their request. Askari said he even offered to build a five-story senior housing development instead, but said residents turned down that idea as well.

Resident Tom Morman, who lives behind the project site, said the neighbors would’ve loved to see senior housing there, especially because it would be right next to a nursing home. He said the problem was they were asked to sign a legal document tied to the deed of their house that they would not fight the plans—something Askari denies.

The planning commission recommends the city deny the appeal from residents because the project fits with the city’s urban village plans. Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, who represents the area where the hotel is planned, said he cannot comment on the appeal because it is a judicial action—”like a judge can’t discuss a case,” he said.

However, both the residents and Askari believe the city will deny the appeal.

“I’m not holding my breath,” Marikar told San Jose Spotlight. “All of our concerns have fallen on deaf ears in the past two years, but we do what we can.”

Askari said for the sake of all development planned in San Jose, he hopes the city votes against the appeal.

“If they kill the project, they send a message to all the developers that we are pro-urban village, but we don’t mean it,” Askari said. “It is going to scare every single developer to not touch urban villages. I wouldn’t. We haven’t touched any of the projects like this since this opposition.”

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Please use the original link when sharing: https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-residents-say-hotel-urban-village-development-will-ruin-neighborhood-hamann-park/