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Measure B robs our community’s voice

OpEd

By I-T letters

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.

• • •

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

  • Jim Pacheco

    The problem is that the process in place does not listen to the voice of the citizens. For example, the housing development between W Spain St and Napa St W. The planning commission ignored the voices of the citizens who wanted some of the houses reduced to 1 story. Another example is the music permit renewed for Hop Monk, over the objections of nearby residents.

  • bob edwards

    Baloney.

  • Chris Scott

    Mr Pacheco;
    You precisely validate Mr Page’s point. Those two projects were considered on their own individual merits. Citizens and neighbors had the opportunity to raise their concerns, objections or support of each project on it’s merits. They as well as could bring to the consideration information to support their viewpoint which may or may not have been available and may have changed the city council’s decision.

    Measure B eliminates evaluating each project on it’s own merits. Removes the ability of the citizens to have their voice for or against heard on each project. The constant objection heard is, one size does not fit all. Yet Measure B says, no individual project can be evaluated on their merits.

    Yes, they can if 80%, etc., Measure B maintains. 80% means hotels have to be full year round. Well, I know Measure B proponents strongly believe in their cause, but not even they can eliminate WINTER when it RAINS and it’s COLD, and the street are empty.

    Ask yourselves, if you lived in the Midwest would you vacation in Sonoma in the Winter, or go to Florida? Measure B is just over wrought silly with 80% occupancy.

    Vote NO on Measure B.

    Thank you.

    • Jim Pacheco

      I indeed visited Sonoma in January 2002. I stayed in a B&B on 1st St
      East. It was that stay that endeared me to Sonoma, and prompted me to
      include Sonoma when looking for a place when I decided to move to Sonoma
      County soon thereafter.

      Proposed hotels with 25 rooms or less would still be evaluated on its merits. You conveniently left this
      fact out in your post to confuse the readers of your post. This is the
      same untruthful line given by other opponents of Measure B. I would
      respect your opinions more if you did not twist the facts to support
      your opinion.

      And if that B&B I stayed in wanted to increase the number of rooms to 7, it would not be able to, because there is a limit on the number of rooms a B&B are allowed to have. Citizens would not be able to voice their opinion on such an increase in front of the Planning Commission, because the Planning Commission would not bring it up in a hearing. Are you advocating that the law should be changed so that B&Bs could have an unlimited number of rooms?

  • Fred Allebach

    The underlying presumption of the ballot initiative process is precisely that citizens are smart enough to figure their own interests. It’s obvious that business and big money interests will fight hard against a measure that limits their power, but this is exactly what the initiative process was designed to do, give regular citizens a voice over entrenched power players. And this is now supposed to be a loss of voice for citizens? Typically citizens and power player interests do not have the same voice.