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[whitespace] Council approves revised design for Toll House remodel

Los Gatos--What a difference.

When the Toll House Hotel showed up at the Planning Commission for the first time in June, the chambers were jammed with supporters from the business community--as well as angry opponents shaking their fists and complaining about how a bigger hotel would wreck the town's character. The Planning Commission gave it a thumbs down, and sent Toll House owner Wayne Levenfeld back to redesign the project and talk to the neighbors.

But on Jan. 19, when the Toll House showed up a Town Council meeting looking for their final approval on a set of scaled-back plans, the chambers were almost empty. Three speakers made brief comments in support of the hotel's plan.

And councilmembers, licking their chops over approximately $100,000 worth of streetscape improvements Levenfeld said he would throw in for S. Santa Cruz Avenue, approved the new plan.

As the project evolved, Levenfeld moved a rear annex building away from neighbors, and moved half of the rooms he wanted to put in the annex up to the front of the building. Now, the bulk of the rooms will be incorporated into the third floor of the existing hotel building. And, after recent meetings with neighbors, the tall trees proposed for the rear of the hotel--which would have blocked the view of the hotel, but also of the hills--has been changed to screen the hotel but also let neighbors keep their views.

Architect Dick Stowers also redesigned the front of the hotel.

"Many longterm community members told us they don't like the design of our hotel, so we're redesigning it," Levenfeld said.

Stowers gave the front of the building a slightly more Victorian flavor. The new design will also revise and lower the peaked towers of the hotel by about six to eight feet, according to Stowers. The big clock will stay.

Levenfeld said he plans to get moving on the $3 million remodel as soon as possible, starting with the architectural and site approval and building permits he still needs to get from the town.

Construction, he said, should begin by the end of the year, and wrap up by late 2000 or early 2001. The work will be done in two phases in order to let the hotel remain open for business during the construction. "We're definitely going to stay open during the renovation to minimize the disruption to business," he said.

As part of the project, the hotel will upgrade much of S. Santa Cruz Avenue to look like N. Santa Cruz Avenue, with planter boxes and trees, and diagonal parking spaces in front of the hotel and the post office. This will also narrow the street, and, officials hope, help slow traffic on the often speedy stretch of street.

Town officials are also looking into the possibility of putting a roundabout on S. Santa Cruz at Wood Road, just south of the hotel, that would act as a gateway to the downtown area--and as a traffic calming measure for cars coming off of Highway 17.
Jeff Kearns

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