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Measure B says there will be no room at the inn

OpEd

By Steve Kyle

While not every issue the Sonoma City Council has voted on has met with universal approval, most citizens would agree that the myriad issues managed by our thoughtful elected City Council and appointed Planning Commission is preferable to the uncontrolled chaos of initiative style legislation like Measure B. Pied Pipers come and go, as do their causes, and while they may make it sound all so warm and fuzzy on the surface, the devil is in the details and always unintended consequences come back to bite you.

Measure B is rife with unintended consequences.

As written, Measure B will likely become an economic albatross around Sonoma’s neck. It will discourage future infrastructure investment and job creation in Sonoma’s hospitality industry. Measure B is essentially a ban on hotel development in Sonoma. The economic lifeblood of our town is based on the hospitality industry’s ability to attract tourists and maintain and improve its facilities as time demands. Measure B puts hotel and lodge owners into a financial straitjacket that limits their ability to thrive, increases room rates and promotes the retention of shoddy, worn hotel rooms.

Larry Barnett’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) was promoted as a means to limit urban sprawl and promote infill development in downtown Sonoma. The promise of the UGB was to swap urban sprawl for pedestrian-friendly downtown infill. Mr. Barnett’s Measure B reneges on this promise. The proposed Napa Street hotel, for example, is precisely the type of pedestrian-friendly, infill development encouraged by the UGB, Sonoma’s General Plan and its Development Code.

Importantly, this proposed project will be rigorously vetted by the very same community process that has severely limited hotel growth in our town over the past 15 years. Measure B wants to remove “community” from community process.

Undermining the UGB is an unintended consequence of Measure B. Passing the measure will likely place more hotel development pressure outside Sonoma city limits in the very agricultural areas the UGB was intended to preserve. Measure B places our surrounding open space at risk.

Apparently Measure B supporters don’t like tourists. I get that. However, I wonder if they realize these very same tourists substantially contributed to the $691,000 recently raised at the recent wine auction. These proceeds benefitted the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Reading Academy; Schools for Hope and Pasitos Playgroup. Then there is the $264,000 contributed to the Boys & Girls Club at last year’s Wine Auction. Measure B diminishes the very industry that supports tourists and their much-needed generosity to our local nonprofits.

Sonoma was a small town when I moved here. It’s still a well-cared for small town that has only modestly grown compared to the overall county or state.

Currently, there are about 30,000 citizens living outside the city limits who call Sonoma their town. They deserve this close identification with Sonoma. All the kids share schools, they shop in local stores, get medical services in town and support the many hotels, gas stations and restaurants that employ so many of our residents. We are all part of an interrelated economic ecosystem. Messing with one part of the economic system like Measure B proposes, will adversely impact others. For example, many folks who support the Boys & Girls Club, La Luz, Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Community Center, and the Willmar Center are employed by tourist related businesses. Their dollars trickle down.

The impacts of Measure B are largely unstudied by its authors, it places the economic vitality of Sonoma Valley at risk and, by association, also the programs of many of our nonprofits and other community-serving organizations.

Sonoma is a community that supports the arts.

We have become well known across the country for hosting the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, Wet Paint, Museum of Art, the Plein Air Festival, Transcendence Theater Company’s Broadway Under the Stars, Sonoma Theatre Alliance and other events. These artistic institutions are integral parts of our local economy and attract art and film lovers from across the United States to stay in our hotels, eat in our fine restaurants and sip our wine.

Measure B endangers these institutions by limiting the type and variety of hotel rooms available and telling outside visitors to stay away. Measure B says there will be no room in the inn.

Vote No on Measure B.

• • •

  By Stephen Kyle, who lives in, and has had a 35-year love affair with, Sonoma.

 

  • Mike Stephens

    Bravo Stephen! This is one of the few letters that hit to every aspect of the importance of voting NO on Measure B. Those that are anti-tourists and favor big box stores versus quality development should put their homes on the market or give their landlords notice and move to a different town. Ukiah perhaps? You are the people that don’t contribute to the town financially or socially. There are plenty of other towns that have no culture or aren’t part of the wine country tourist industry. WIthout the wine country experience Sonoma would be like Ukiah. I guarantee you can buy a place there and be happy if you plan on voting Yes on Measure B. I only hope those in favor of Measure B get out and rally their friend and family to vote No on Measure B. Sonoma will die on the vine and continue to expand and develop in way that won’t add to the charm and style Sonoma is so quickly losing with measures like B that are sure to destroy Sonoma.

  • Robert Piazza

    Yes, very well presented Stephen!

  • bob edwards

    Those who attended this evening’s Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Forum on Measure B” learned that while my friend Steve is a good writer, none of what he says about Measure B is actually true. In fact, on most of his points, just the opposite. If pressed, the Steve Kyle I knew from the Healthcare Coalition days would chuckle and have to admit they might be at least a wee bit ‘Fact-Lite.” In return, I would of course agree, but give him high marks for his good spelling thus cementing our friendship.

    Seriously, funded by deep-pocket developer money, those opposed to Measure B have been able to do polling which is undoubtedly confirming what everyone already knows: Measure B is widely popular with City of Sonoma voters, and that those derided and scorned by the Chamber of Commerce (and the former publisher of this newspaper) as ‘a vocal minority’ are in fact the majority.

    Which is why the developer-funded opposition has launched a no-holds-barred, spare-no-money assault on Measure B in yet another effort to intimidate voters with dire predictions of Economic Doom (if not the Rapture itself) should Measure B pass.

    I say ‘yet another’ because, as was noted this evening without protest or contradiction, the harem-scarem arguments against Measure B are the very same sorry arguments voters soundly rejected in all other attempts by monied special interests to ruin the unique small-town character of Sonoma in the name of profit, if not greed.

    In refusing to be frightened, voters repeatedly ignored those shop-worn scare-tactics in the process of rejecting the big casino at Sears Point, the grand Rosewood Resort on Shocken Hill, the white elephant hospital on Joe Leveroni’s farm, and the effort to stop the creation of Sonoma’s Urban Growth Boundary, among others. All efforts to commercialize, corporatize, monetize and otherwise turn Sonoma into another wine-country theme park.

    It’s hard to predict turnout in a special election, but if contacts with voters are any indication, Measure B is en route to passing by at least two to one. All the fear-mongering & phony predictions of economic doom are again falling on deaf ears, not because people aren’t listening but because they’ve heard it all before, & from many of the “usual suspects.”

    And if they haven’t heard it before, supporters of Measure B — all local & unpaid ordinary citizens — are walking the City’s precincts house by house, talking to voters about Measure B and the importance of preserving Sonoma.

  • Fred Allebach

    If the ballot initiative process is entirely legal and as much of a valid process in place as any other form of government, why is it being disparaged as subversive when all people are doing is exercising their rights?

    Regarding the funding of public education, why is it that the Equal Education Opportunity Act has morphed into public schooling being dependent on private charity? On this tack, we need high end boozers to spend money on 100 dollar dinners and 300 a pound cheese so that poor kids will have the chance to learn to read?

  • Fred Allebach

    If Measure B opponents would all move to Texas, they would find no regulations at all, environmental or developmental, a disenfranchised working class with no voting power and plenty of opportunities for “sustainable” hotel projects. Why they would want to live here in the liberal Bay Area that is up to 80% blue is beyond me. The majority here value progressive ideas, not regressive. But since the logical conclusion is that if you don’t like it, leave, then Texas is the place to go, where the politicians can barely talk intelligibly and there will be no limits on any business ventures.