San Jose stalls boutique hotel project by KT Urban 

Commission shoots down developer’s proposal to exceed height limits by 20 feet

KT Urban's Ken and Mark Tersini with rendering of 425 South Winchester Avenue (KT Urban, Lowney Architecture, Getty)
KT Urban's Ken and Mark Tersini with rendering of 425 South Winchester Avenue (KT Urban, Lowney Architecture, Getty)

The San Jose Planning Commission has balked at a plan by KT Urban to build a 176-room hotel near Santana Row that would be taller than zoning rules allow.

Faced with pushback by residents about potential traffic and privacy concerns, the commission withheld recommending amendments to allow the seven-story project at 425 South Winchester Avenue, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.

“These amendments seem quite premature in the scope of the long-term view,” Commissioner Jorge Garcia said.

The City Council is slated to hear the hotel proposal on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Plans by the Cupertino-based firm call for a boutique hotel at South Winchester Boulevard and Olin Avenue. It would replace a gas station and The Everest Momo, a Nepalese restaurant.

What’s dubbed The Olin Hotel, designed by Oakland-based Lowney Architecture, would contain 176 rooms, with six of its seven floors having up to 30 suites.

But to make the hotel economically viable, KT Urban needs San Jose to relax setback requirements and allow the project to exceed the current 65-foot height restrictions in the urban village by 20 feet, according to the Business Journal.

Residents have raised concerns about traffic, privacy and the process that led to a request for amendments to the urban village plan that could impact their neighborhood. Initial plans for the roughly half-acre site were for a five-story, mixed-use residential complex.

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Mark Tersini, senior vice president of KT Urban, said the city convinced the firm not to pursue a purely housing development, which led to the hotel idea.

“I looked at it from the standpoint of sitting on a dilapidated gas station and moving forward with the complete redesign of a hotel,” Tersini told the Business Journal.

Tersini said he had no intention of reimagining the project, as the previous proposal couldn’t provide enough return on investment. 

The Planning Department is now reviewing special use permits requested for the project. KT Urban has asked the city to consider an amendment to the urban village plan that would allow the height and setback changes the project needs.

Daphna Woolfe, president of the Winchester Orchard Neighborhood Association, said several households affected by the project had served on task force groups that helped draft urban village plans adopted in 2017 by the city.

She said KT Urban’s proposed amendment runs contrary to San Jose’s long-term goal to integrate new developments without compromising local neighborhoods.

“To simply ignore the work of the Planning Department and these task forces sends a clear message to the citizenry: don’t volunteer because your work and voices will not be honored,” Woolfe told the newspaper. “The urban village plans were made as a roadmap for the future and they have been followed by other developers. The future is now and the plans are relevant.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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