By Byron Jones
Are new hotel rooms that create or expand hotel capacity to more than 25 rooms per lodging facility, inherently detrimental to Sonoma's unique small town character?
The Inn at Sonoma, located next to the Shell station on Broadway, recently expanded to 27 rooms. Did you even notice? The El Pueblo, a family-owned hotel with more than 50 years in Sonoma, expanded to 53 rooms without losing its character or its important niche in our community.
MacArthur Place built 33 rooms in 1997, and then expanded to 64 rooms, and has been a great addition to the community.
None of these hotel room additions would have been possible, and none of these hotels will be allowed to add additional rooms, under the proposed Hotel Limitation Measure.
What about the effects of new hotels with more than 25 rooms? The Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma constructed 182 rooms at Four Corners more than a decade ago. The property could have been developed into yet another shopping center, as could other commercially-zoned properties within city limits. Which do you think better preserves Sonoma's unique small town character?
The Lodge has provided a large boost to our local economy via direct employment. It fuels other local businesses, has generated significant tax revenue, and generously supports various local non-profit activities. Hotel guests directly contribute to the health of our restaurants, wineries, artists and cultural events.
The stated purpose of the Hotel Limitation Measure is to slow the growth of large hotels. It would in effect stop the development of new hotels, and stop the expansion of existing hotels, within city limits.
But there is nothing stopping a large hotel from being built just outside the city limits. In that scenario, the city would not reap one cent from the taxes collected from hotel guests. And without a strong tax base to support city services, how will we maintain our unique small town character over the long haul?
We have an existing public planning process to thoughtfully manage hotel development and shape or deny inappropriate proposals. For better or worse, the existing public planning process has effectively scuttled other hotel projects. Just recently, the Artisan Lodge, a 30-room hotel proposed for the area next to the Blue Wing Inn, was withdrawn at least in part due to the rigors of the planning process.
I am concerned that a large hotel project could be “out of scale” with other Plaza area buildings. But I also believe that qualified hotel proposals should have a right to be heard and reviewed by the public on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, I oppose the Hotel Limitation Measure and encourage city residents to vote “No” on measure B.
Byron Jones is co-owner of Auberge Sonoma and Cottage Sonoma. He lives in Palo Alto.