PLEASANT HILL -- Despite design changes for a hotel proposed for the former Chevy's restaurant site, neighbors say it's still too big and a poor fit for the area.
"It still is huge, it still is massive. Really it hasn't changed," said Rosie Meddaugh, who arrived at a Architectural Review Commission study session Thursday with a handful of hand-lettered picket signs. "We're not against development, we're not against having something there. But it's got to fit in. It still doesn't fit in."
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.
Responding to residents' criticism and direction from the Architectural Review commissioners, the developer eliminated the outdoor sport court, reduced part of the top floor from four to three stories and added a second two-story wing south of the swimming pool, creating a U-shaped layout.
The current design of the 90,504-square-foot hotel includes 125 rooms and 130 parking spaces. The building is "stepped" -- the lobby wing is two stories high, and the hotel rises to three and then four stories in the rear where the property abuts the freeway. Breaking up the roof line gives the effect of a grouping of buildings, according to Jon Califf, the project architect.
"I think we've really taken some steps forward in terms of the massing and the way the whole thing appears from the street," Califf said during Thursday's study session.
But homeowners in the Ellinwood Park complex across the street from the site say a four-story building is too tall, and they worry about the traffic it will bring to the narrow, winding street. Suggested alternatives for the 2.4-acre property include another restaurant, a smaller hotel, housing or a produce market.
About 30 people attended Thursday's Architectural Review Commission study session, and most of them were civil until the penultimate speaker unleashed an expletive-laced tirade lambasting the commissioners and council members.
Last month, the City Council approved guidelines for the development of a three and four-story hotel on the site at a height of 47 feet (with an allowance for an additional 3 feet) and 1.2 parking spaces per room -- 150 for the current hotel design.
Based on the 75 percent occupancy rate at the six existing local hotels, the city projects that the Hilton would generate between $400,000 and $430,000 in taxes annually. The city plans to release a new study of the market demand for lodging later this month, an update of a 2008 finding that Pleasant Hill potentially could support three more hotels over the next 18 years, said Kelly Calhoun, the city's economic development manager.
But opponents of the Hilton project believe the city has enough hotels.
"We have every city around us building hotels," said Patricia Sokolski, noting plans for a new boutique hotel in Walnut Creek. "Why do we need another one? It's destined to fail."
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.