By Steve Page

 

Measure B, the Hotel Limitation Measure, is a terrible policy proposal that would have far-ranging, detrimental impacts on our community’s economic vitality. It is a poorly-conceived, arbitrary limitation that would subvert our well-established processes for public review and evaluation of development projects. Promoted as a “people’s” initiative, its actual effect would be to rob our community of its voice in future land use decisions. Voting “no” on Measure B does not support any future hotel project.

Questions of community land use are tremendously complex, with myriad of short- and long-term issues that must be considered related to our quality of life, economics, jobs and neighborhoods. That’s why our communities have a multi-layered process, starting with staff review and continuing on to the Planning Commission, Design Review Board and ultimately the City Council.

For the advocate of any project, this can be a long, expensive and often frustrating process, but its purpose is to provide multiple opportunities for public input, analysis, discussion, redesign and compromise. Measure B’s arbitrary limit subverts this process, classifying every hotel proposal in stark black and white terms.

The danger inherent with this kind of simplistic approach plays out in the law of unintended consequences.

As an example, Proposition 13, passed in 1978, provided the short-term property tax relief it promised, but over the long-term it has skewed the tax system to the advantage of corporate real estate owners and has made it increasingly difficult for first-time home buyers to find affordable options. Nonetheless, political realities dictate that these voter-approved initiatives are nearly impossible to change, leaving their undesired byproducts in place for generations.

In the case of Measure B, an existing, valued business, such as MacArthur Place or El Pueblo Inn, would be prohibited from adding a single room to their property, while nothing would prevent a new operator from plunking down a 25-room hotel across the street.

Also, the limitation would only apply within Sonoma city limits, so any market demand for increased guest accommodations could be pushed beyond the city’s boundaries and decided by residents living outside of city limits, putting additional development pressure on surrounding greenbelts and creating the potential for even greater traffic issues.

And, by the way, the so-called exception, when citywide hotel occupancy reaches 80 percent, is pure whitewash – it is an unattainable threshold. The clear intent of this initiative is to ban the construction of any new hotel of 25 rooms or more within city limits. It is unfortunate the measure’s authors couldn’t be explicit with their objectives.

The underlying presumption of Measure B is that the citizens of this community are not smart enough to look after their own best interests and therefore must be legally constrained from considering certain development projects on their own merits.

Citizens interested in preserving their voice over local land use decisions should vote “no” on Measure B.

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  Steve Page is president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. He is a resident of Sonoma.