PLEASANT HILL -- A hotel catering to business travelers may take the place of the former Chevy's restaurant, but neighbors say the project is a poor fit for a property surrounded by apartments and condos.
William and Rose Herrick of San Diego originally proposed building a 137-room, four-story extended-stay Hilton Homewood Suites at 650 Ellinwood Way, just down the street from John F. Kennedy University and next to Interstate 680. The project includes 165 parking spaces, a swimming pool and sport court.
During informal study sessions last month before the Planning and Architectural Review commissions, residents raised a litany of concerns about traffic, crime and noise as well as the height and size of the building. They also said there are already enough hotels in the area.
"This building will negatively affect my property value, views of the surrounding area and contribute to an already crowded traffic pattern now that JFK and (Contra Costa County) social services have moved into the area," Bradley Sheehan wrote in an email to the city.
In response to the feedback, the developers lowered the roof line by 4 feet to 50 feet and eliminated six rooms. They also "stepped" the building, so the lobby is two stories high, the hotel is three stories on the side facing the townhomes across Ellinwood, rising to four stories in the rear where the property abuts the freeway.
William Herrick had been looking for a property in the area for several years before coming across the 2.4-acre Chevy's site.
"There's a lot of corporate companies in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Concord that need a business hotel and there hasn't been one built in over a decade," he said.
There are six hotels in Pleasant Hill, including a 24-year-old Residence Inn north of the proposed Hilton site on Ellinwood. The hotel tax is an important revenue source for Pleasant Hill. When business travel waned during the recession, the city's hotel tax income fell sharply to a low of $1.1 million. By the end of last fiscal year, it had rebounded to $1.5 million.
Based on the 75 percent occupancy rate at the city's existing hotels, the Hilton is expected to generate between $400,000 and $430,000 in taxes annually, according to Kelly Calhoun, Pleasant Hill's economic development manager.
Donna Taylor owns a townhouse in the Ellinwood Park complex across the street from the site. Although pleased that Herrick reduced the building's height, she remains concerned about lights, noise and traffic on Ellinwood Way, a narrow, winding street. Taylor also worries the hotel may attract prostitution.
"It's just rife with problems. I don't want to sound like a 'nimby,' but has the city even contacted restaurants to try to negotiate with them to come in?" she said. "I just wonder if they're waiting for the first developer to come along and salivating at the tax revenue."
Herrick, who will own and operate the business, stresses the hotel will pursue "high-end" clientele.
"It's not the Motel 6 traveler. You want these kind of guests coming to your city," he told the city's Economic Development Committee last week.
The neighborhood is generally safe -- there were 13 auto break-ins and the same number of home burglaries in the past year, according to Pleasant Hill Police Lt. Dan Connelly. Although the department periodically receives complaints about prostitution at other hotels in the city, the Residence Inn isn't a problem, he said.
"The main factor that's going to determine whether or not you have a greater chance of prostitution is going to be business practices," Connelly added. "Strictly cash, no ID required, no credit cards. Where people can be completely anonymous, do their business and move on."
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.