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City hopes motel change will help revitalize San Jose Ave area

The Knights Inn’s days may be numbered, if a city plan to revamp San Jose Avenue moves forward.

Claremont is planning on tearing down the motel—located on the southwest corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and San Jose Avenue—and building a Hampton Inn in its place. Before this happens, however, the city will hold a public hearing during the September 13 city council meeting to discuss the plan to raze the former Howard Johnson’s motel. The motel has stood along Claremont’s side of the 10 freeway since the late 1960s.

The plan, dubbed the Southwest San Jose Specific Plan, would allow the city to replace a building that has developed a rough reputation with a respectable mid-level hotel chain. The plan covers approximately four acres, and will spare the existing Kick Back Jack’s restaurant and Shell gas station adjacent to the motel.

If the city council votes to approve the plan, the architectural commission will vet the design of the building, according to the notice of public hearing posted last week.

Principal Planner Chris Veirs said the plan was first unveiled during a residential meeting in September 2015. Residents responded positively to the plans, noting that crime and extended stays had become a problem at the motel, Mr. Veirs said.

“They generally were very open to seeing that budget motel be removed,” he said. “And we’re happy with it being replaced with a Hampton Inn.”

The idea to replace the Knights Inn came about when the owner of the property, Roger Desai of Smart Investments Inc., proposed an expansion to the Motel 6 on the other side of the freeway. Mr. Desai also owns that property, as well as Kick Back Jack’s and the Claremont Lodge on the southeast corner of Indian Hill and San Jose.

The conversation with the city manager’s office eventually centered on the Knights Inn property, according to Mr. Veirs. “I think the conversation was more, ‘we need to address in particular this hotel,’ which was the worst of the three,” he said.

The new hotel is slated to reach four stories, have 121 rooms and a pool/spa, the plan noted.

The site of the motel used to be zoned commercial-freeway until the city adopted its general plan update in 2006. During that time, the city added a specific plan overlay to the area in question, which opened the door for any future development.

 The height of the building is a big topic, as the current zoning designation only allows for a two-story building, Mr. Veirs said. The proposal would allow the city to place a taller building on the site, as long as it coincides with the city’s general plan.

“That’s the big change here. We raised the height limit for a hotel to allow a four-story hotel,” Mr. Veirs said.

He added that the Hampton Inn plan is “absolutely” in keeping with Claremont’s general plan guidelines.

Once all the hurdles are cleared with the city council and the architectural commission, construction on the site may begin as early as the end of the calendar year, Mr. Veirs noted, saying that Mr. Desai wants to move quickly with the replacement.

“That’s somewhat optimistic, but that’s the goal,” he said.

A California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) assessment of the plan, a requirement for virtually any development in the state, noted a possibility of “significant impacts” to the environmental makeup of the area, but noted that mitigation measures could lessen the impact.

Mr. Veirs added that the potential impacts are all construction-related, such as noise and placement of trucks, and can be successfully mitigated to reduce impact.

In addition to the new hotel, the city plans to redo the surrounding area, including adding a tree canopy and more parking.

“It will look more like Claremont,” Mr. Veirs said.

The city council will hold the public hearing on September 13, the first meeting since it recessed on July 26. There will be time set aside for public comment.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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