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