Tell the Saratoga City Council Not to Approve Giant Hotel in the Hillsides

Photo Credit: Jennifer Tharp

On Wednesday, May 20, the Saratoga City Council will be considering whether to pursue a proposal that would allow a 300-room hotel to be built in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Please email the City Council using the form below and ask them to follow the Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation to terminate this project.

What’s Happening

Mountain Winery, in the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Saratoga, has operated as a winery and outdoor concert venue for decades. Established as a nonconforming use and subsequently granted expansion rights under a permit from Santa Clara County, Mountain Winery has now exhausted most of their development potential under County zoning regulations. Now they are asking the City of Saratoga to consider a proposal to annex their property into the City so they can continue to expand their operations.

The annexation proposal would make it possible for a massive 300-room hotel to be built on a narrow winding road in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in the Santa Cruz Mountains — something that is not currently allowed under County jurisdiction. 

After receiving hundreds of public comments opposing the project, the City Council is now considering voting for a smaller hotel. However, this would not fix the problem, since a smaller hotel would still create unacceptable environmental impacts. In addition, the underlying environmental analysis and other documents all contemplated a 300-room hotel — which means it would be easy for a future Council to change the project back again. The only acceptable action for the City Council is to terminate the entire project.

Why it Matters

The annexation proposal would make it possible for a 300-room hotel to be built at the end of a narrow winding road in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in the Santa Cruz Mountains — something that is not currently allowed under County jurisdiction.

This site is the wrong place for a hotel of any size, let alone a massive 300-room hotel. Emergency access and evacuation in case of wildfire are already concerns with the existing uses; the problem should not be compounded by building a hotel on this site. 

Construction of a hotel, and the new water tank and sewer connections that would be needed to support it, would impact the coast live oak woodland habitat and encourage further growth in this undeveloped foothills area. Instead of the traffic, lights, noise and disturbance of human activity being limited to summer concert nights, with a large hotel on site the disturbance to wildlife would be continuous throughout the year.

If the Saratoga City Council votes to move the project forward, they will have to request the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to approve expanding the City of Saratoga into the hillside to allow for the spread of urban uses into the rural hillsides. But the City Council could also vote on May 20 to terminate the project and halt the entire process, as was unanimously recommended by the Saratoga Planning Commission in February.

This site is the wrong place for a hotel of any size. Emergency access and evacuation in case of wildfire are already concerns with the existing uses; the problem should not be compounded by building a hotel on this site. After all the disastrous wildfires in recent years, it should be evident that new hotels should not be built in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.

Construction of a hotel, and the new water tank and sewer connections that would be needed to support it, would impact the surrounding native plant species and wildlife, including sensitive species such as dusky-footed woodrat, and would encourage further growth in this undeveloped foothills area. Instead of the traffic, lights, noise and disturbance of human activity being limited to summer concert nights, with a large hotel on site the disturbance to wildlife would be continuous throughout the year.

If the Saratoga City Council votes to move the project forward (either with a 300-room hotel or a smaller one), they will have to request the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to approve expanding the City of Saratoga into this rural unincorporated hillside area. But the City Council could also vote on May 20 to terminate the project and halt the entire process, as was unanimously recommended by the Saratoga Planning Commission in February.

If the Saratoga City Council votes to move the project forward, they will have to request the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to approve expanding the City of Saratoga into the hillside to allow for the spread of urban uses into the rural hillsides. But the City Council could also vote on May 20 to terminate the project and halt the entire process, as was unanimously recommended by the Saratoga Planning Commission in February.

What You Can Do

Please email the Saratoga City Council by using the form below, and tell them not to vote for a giant hotel in the hillsides!

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