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‘Big’ isn’t big, and ‘B’ is more fear than fact

OpEd

By

By Jeff Montague

It’s become clear to me that Measure B proponents fail to recognize the flaws and unintended consequences their measure would have on Sonoma. Measure B takes aim at “big” hotels, and their determination that hotels with more than 25 rooms are “big” is a mystery to me. According to Measure B, the Inn at Sonoma, a quaint lodging establishment here in town, is classified as “big” at 27 rooms. If Measure B passes, future hotels of the same scale, or the expansion of existing ones, would be indefinitely prohibited.

MacArthur Place Inn is a 64-room establishment with a spa, restaurant and event space.

I live two blocks away, and I frequent their restaurant Saddles, yet I have never seen a traffic jam there. Further, limiting hotels in Sonoma-proper would facilitate the building of large hotels just outside the city limits, perhaps just south of Leveroni Road. Just imagine the traffic and parking situation if guests visiting our town had to drive to the Plaza, rather than having lodging within walking distance.

The Hotel Limitation Measure tries to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Their early arguments that Sonoma risks becoming “overbuilt and over commercialized” have been largely discredited, and now proponents argue it’s about anticipating change.

Indeed, during last month’s Measure B debate, one of the panel members reported seeing more than 100 cars drive into the Whole Foods parking lot, while during that time only one car drove into the Best Western Inn of Sonoma. When the supporters of Measure B were asked why this “retail traffic problem” wasn’t addressed in their measure, they replied, “Our City Council and Planning Commission have provisions to control this.” When asked why the Measure B supporters could trust the local government to control retail growth, yet couldn’t be trusted to manage hotel growth, they failed to provide a satisfactory answer. This made me seriously question the need for Measure B.

The supporters of Measure B have placed several videos on YouTube explaining their position. I would encourage all Sonoma residents to watch these videos and see if any concise, clear and compelling arguments for Measure B can be found.

Supporters of Measure B may sound well-intentioned, but I feel their arguments are rooted in fear, not fact.

Over the past decade, no new “large” hotels (their definition being 25 rooms or more) have been approved in our city. While hotel proposals considered “large” have been proposed, none have received the approval of our City Council or Planning Commission, due to the deliberate, careful and lengthy planning process we already have in place.

I applaud the good work of our dedicated officials who have protected our small-town charm and historic buildings with integrity and dedication, their willingness to hear all voices before passing any measure, and I strongly oppose any change in the city’s plan that would detrimentally limit the relevancy of our bodies of government that have served the citizens so well.

I urge all Sonoma citizens to review this measure, consider the consequences, and vote “no” on Measure B.

• • •

  Jeff Montague is the owner of Wine Country Cyclery and a Sonoma resident.

  • Mike Stephens

    All Sonomans should be VERY thankful for our outstanding City Council and Planning Commission. Jeff is absolutely correct that “yes” on B people are operating out of Fear. Wait for the hotels to pop up on the outskirts of town in the county and those locals that never go to the Square to shop will be stuck in far more traffic. If there is any additional traffic it should be around the hub, our Sonoma Square. A vacant and ghost town of a square is not a good thing. Please review the measure and don’t let Fear get in the way of common sense. Vote “NO” on Measure B.

  • bob edwards

    Jeff –
    As with many opposed to Measure B, you casually toss around the buzz-phrase “unintended consequences,” yet never specify exactly what they would (not might) be.

    Unintended consequences can, of course, be good or bad, but obviously you don’t intend the phrase to mean ‘good’ unintended consequences — e.g., like Sonoma winning yet another award and drawing more tourists for being a small, charming town without any monster hotels. Rather, you use it with the deliberate intent to frighten voters to vote against B, because certainly none of the stated language in Measure B is at all frightening and in fact it will be very positive for Sonoma.

    So you know the kind of specificity I’m looking for, let me give you an example: Next Spring, I’m buying a new bike to compete in my favorite sport — triathlons. I can spend $3,000/$4,000 on a bike at a local bike shop in Sonoma whose owner believes its OK for developers to screw over my quality of life by filling my town with big touristy hotels, or I can drive a few miles or go online and spend that $3,000/$4,000 with a merchant who isn’t trying to do that. If you would have liked to have had that $3,000/$4,000 in business, you would probably agree that when i buy my bike in Santa Rosa or online it will be a ‘bad’ unintended consequence of your stance against Measure B and my quality of life. Taking that stance is of course your right, just like shopping anywhere is mine.

    Can you name one similarly concrete (not speculative) ‘bad’ unintended consequence of Measure B that is definitely going to occur after Measure B passes?

    • Jeff Montague

      Hi Bob,
      I thought I did list some unintended consequences, such as the ability of existing hotels to expand, the ability of developers to build large hotels outside of the city, allowing them to grab the market share made available to them by Measure B, etc.
      As for your purchase of a new bike, I fully support your decision to make your purchase at any outlet that will serve you well and give you the best bang for your buck.

      • bob edwards

        Hi, Jeff – Thanks for examples of what you mean by “unintended consequences.” However, restricting the ability of existing hotels to expand beyond 25 rooms unless the city’s occupancy rate hits 80% is not an “unintended consequence” of Measure B.

        The “Hotel Limitation Measure” (the name is a clue of its intent) carefully
        spells out the conditions for new large hotels of more than 25 rooms, or
        expansions beyond 25 rooms.

        But existing hotels with less than 25 rooms will be able to expand even if the city occupancy rate does not reach 80%. For example, the profitable award-winning 6-room Ledson Hotel could quadruple in size under Measure B. If the city’s occupancy rate reaches 80%, all existing hotels could expand, regardless of their # of rooms.

        As to the ‘ability of hotel developers to expand outside the city’ and ‘grab market share,’ that would not be a consequence of Measure B. Developers can do that now; of course, they wouldn’t have access to City water/sewer/services, but neither does the “Businessof the Year” winner Sonoma Mission Inn in the Springs.

        Finally, Measure B is definitely NOT concerned with protecting “market share” of hotel developers. It’s concerned with preserving Sonoma’s unique ambiance & quality of life for residents that enabled it to make Conde Nast’s “Top Ten Places” in the country to visit. In the process it will keep Sonoma a great, laid-back & beautiful slow-paced place to ride bicycles — I’m sure you’d agree that would be an “unintended” but definitely welcome consequence of voting “Yes on B.” ;-) Keep the rubber side down.

  • Mike Stephens

    I can name many unfortunate consequences if Measure B passes. #1 – The proliferation of Chain Stores and Tacky/cheap apartments. Mr. Edwards is the type of person that doesn’t support the community like much of the yes on B people. They want no hotel for their own selfish reasons. Take your bike and head north cause Sonoma is changing and so is the world! I hear Alaska has great bike trails.

    • Michael Lockert

      Mr. Stephens, Where is your trust of our “outstanding City Council and Planning Commission”? Don’t you trust them to prevent the “proliferation of Chain Stores and Tacky/cheap apartments”?
      You say that Measure B proponents are operating out of fear, and then draw a picture
      of Sonoma becoming a “vacant…ghost town”. Do you not see the irony there?