Letter: Sonoma hotels oppose Hotel Limitation Measure

Posted on May 8, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

As owners and representatives of hotels in Sonoma of 25 rooms or more, we feel it is important for us to take a position on the proposed Hotel Limitation Measure and try and help clear up some of the facts related to our industry in the initiative being proposed.

First, while the backers of the Hotel Limitation Measure claim it is being done in part for our benefit, it came as a complete surprise to us and was not done with our advance knowledge, input or support.

Sonoma Valley’s history as a visitor destination dates back to the 19th century, and there are fewer hotels in our Valley now than 100 years ago when people came by ferry and train to “take the waters” at what was billed as the “world’s largest indoor mineral pool” and stayed at the many inns, resorts and hotels in the Springs and in and around Sonoma Plaza.

Tourism is Sonoma’s major industry providing jobs and revenue to the City and is vital to Sonoma’s economy supporting local shops, restaurants and businesses. Transient Occupancy Tax and Sales Tax make up 40% of the City’s General Fund revenues which fund important City services like police, fire, emergency services, road repairs and other City services. 100% of the over $2.5 million in Transient Occupancy Tax collected from our guests each year goes to the City of Sonoma’s General Fund. In addition, the City estimates that 50% of sales tax is paid by visitors.

When looking at historic occupancy levels locally and occupancy percentages in other seasonal destinations like Sonoma, requiring an annualized occupancy of greater than 80% is just not achievable and therefore, is an absolute moratorium on any new hotels of over 25 rooms in Sonoma in the future.

In addition, the initiative requires an overall annual occupancy greater than 80% before any of our existing hotels can expand, which we believe is unfair. A new hotel of 25 rooms, for example, could be built right next door to us while we would be prohibited from ever purchasing and expanding on that same lot in the future.

Hotels are one of the least traffic generating types of businesses when compared to shopping centers, strip malls, grocery and convenience stores, gas stations and other retail businesses. Heavy traffic in the city is much more likely during morning and evening commute hours, not at mid-day, our standard check out and check in time.

So, why are we unanimously opposing the Hotel Limitation Measure when at first glance it seems that, if passed, could benefit us by eliminating future competition? We simply don’t believe this initiative is in the best interest of our City, our local economy or for maintaining our quality of life in Sonoma. As Sonoma inevitably continues to grow in the future, we trust our planning process, City staff and elected officials to do what is best for the City. We ask that you join us in opposing this divisive and unnecessary measure.

David Dolquist, The Lodge at Sonoma
Norman Krug, Sonoma Valley Inn
Bill Blum, MacArthur Place
Wendy Stewart, El Pueblo Inn
Dan Parks, Inn at Sonoma