Signs have sprouted all over Sonoma Valley, asking voters to support or oppose Measure B in the upcoming special election, to be held Nov. 19.
Measure B is the Hotel Limitation Initiative that would prohibit construction of any new hotel, or the expansion of existing hotels, to more than 25 rooms until existing properties reach an average yearly occupancy of 80 percent. The election will be decided by voters who reside within the city limits of Sonoma.
Signs, door-hangers, flyers, brochures, legal advice, preparations for fundraisers – all these cost money, and Measure B is proving to be one of the most expensive elections in Sonoma’s history.
Recipient Committee Campaign Statements, filed in mid-October, show that Preserving Sonoma, the group that supports and sponsored the initiative, has spent $53,874 to date, with three weeks to go until the election. Principal income has come from $27,000 in loans from Preserving Sonoma Chair Larry Barnett and $1,000 donations from supporters including radio attorney Len Tillem, Healdsburg activist Warren Watkins, personal image consultant Theresa Meeks, longtime Valley activist Marilyn Goode and commercial real estate agent Robert Flahire.
Protect Sonoma, the group opposing the initiative, has spent $62,338, including $37,555 in non-monetary contributions, the majority of which comes from Chateau Sonoma Hotel Group, LLC. It lists a debt of $16,402, which is the amount of its unpaid bills, but has no outstanding loans. Other significant donations to the No on B campaign include $2,500 from California Wine Tours; $940 from Nancy Kline; $6,000 from Norval Jasper; $1,000 from John Leahy, Jr.; $2,000 from Rossdruliscusenbery Architecture Inc.; $1,000 from Speedway Sonoma LLC; $1,000 from William Thornton.
Chateau Sonoma Hotel Group has the only project currently in process in the City of Sonoma, which could be adversely affected by the passage of Measure B.
While the initiative proponents have repeatedly said they are not sponsoring the measure in response to the group’s proposed 59-room hotel on West Napa Street, the measure was initiated as the project moved through the planning process and its details had been presented at study sessions designed to get public feedback.
At a large, well-attended forum on the measure where both sides had an opportunity to present their positions, questions were not allowed that specifically related to any specific project, but instead focused on impacts, unintended consequences and what supporters and opponents of the measure hoped to achieve.
Information about the Hotel Limitation Measure can be found on both committees’ websites and on the City of Sonoma website, as well.