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Smart Voter
Sonoma County, CA November 19, 2013 Election
Measure B
Hotel Limitation
City of Sonoma

Majority Approval Required

See Also: Index of all Measures

Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments |

Shall the Hotel Limitation Measure be adopted?

Impartial Analysis
If adopted by a majority vote, Measure B would amend the Sonoma General Plan and Development Code to require that the establishment of a hotel with more than 25 rooms and the expansion of an existing hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast inn to more than 25 rooms must receive a use permit approved by the Planning Commission.

The Commission would be prohibited from granting such a use permit unless it found that (i) the annualized hotel room occupancy rate for the calendar year (January 1 to December 31) preceding the filing of the hotel use permit application exceeded 80%, and (ii) the proposed hotel will not adversely affect the historic, small town character of Sonoma. The annualized hotel room occupancy rate would be calculated by comparing the total number of lodging room nights rented in the City with the total number of lodging room nights available for rent in the City, during the relevant calendar year. In calculating whether the 80% occupancy rate has been exceeded, the measure requires inclusion of the rooms available for rental and rented at hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rentals.

If the Commission's decision is appealed to the City Council, the proposed hotel could only be approved by a 4/5th's vote of the Council, which vote must include findings that the 80% occupancy threshold described above had been exceeded and the proposed hotel will not adversely affect the historic, small town character of Sonoma.

Measure B states that "in recent years" the City's annualized occupancy rate has been between 60-65 percent. In a report prepared by consultants Keyser Marston Associates and presented to the City Council, it was documented that over the last decade Sonoma's lodging properties achieved an annual occupancy rate of 62%, reaching a peak in 2006 of 66%. The report concluded that it is "highly unlikely" Sonoma's existing lodging properties will achieve the 80% occupancy rate prescribed by the measure.

State law requires the measure to be consistent with the City's General Plan. If the measure is inconsistent with the General Plan, it is invalid. A separate report prepared by City staff identified several provisions of the General Plan with which Measure B is potentially inconsistent. For example, the report noted that by prohibiting hotels which do not meet the criteria specified in Measure B, to the extent there is future demand for 26+ room hotels, these would need to be developed outside of the City's Urban Growth Boundary which is contrary to the General Plan's policy of encouraging growth in areas already served by urban services.

The General Plan and Development Code provisions re-adopted and adopted by Measure B could not be changed or repealed except by a subsequent vote of City voters.

s/ Jeffrey A. Walter City Attorney

The above statement is an impartial analysis of Measure B. If you desire a copy of the measure, please call the elections officials's office at 707-933-2216 and a copy will be mailed at no cost to you.

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Arguments For Measure B Arguments Against Measure B
You live here for a reason. Chances are it's our rural charm, slower pace, peace and quiet. Yet, as the regional economy improves pressure by hotel developers will increase. Unless limitations are established, Sonoma risks becoming overbuilt and overcommercialized like once-charming towns in the Napa Valley, destroying the very authenticity that we all enjoy. The Hotel Limitation Measure will help preserve Sonoma's small-town scale and unique quality-of-life by limiting the size of new hotels to 25 rooms until the city's annual occupancy rate exceeds 80%; in 2012 it was 64.8%.

A recent Conde Nast Traveler survey named Sonoma one of the ten friendliest cities in America, calling,us "laid-back," "charming," "picturesque," and "quaint." If we lose these qualities it would be tragic for visitors and residents alike. Tourism revenue is welcome, but not at the loss of our community's character. Excess traffic, congestion and noise lower our quality of life. Getting across town becomes a chore and our Plaza gets increasingly overcrowded, with fewer shops and businesses that serve local residents. Big hotels increase those impacts; the effects of their event centers, trade and business conferences, and health clubs all add up. Our small hotels with 25 rooms and under attract visitors seeking the small-town intimacy Sonoma offers, hotels that are more personal, less hectic and scaled to fit our historic community. Over the years local residents and entrepreneurs have created smaller hotels with restaurants that remain popular and successful.

Becoming known as the friendly wine country town of small hotels suits who we are. It reflects the heartfelt feelings and desires of residents to live in a small, relaxed community respectful of its incomparable natural surroundings - a Sonoma worth preserving. Visit and please vote "Yes" on Measure B.

s/ Larry Barnett
Chair, Preserving Sonoma Committee

s/ Leonard M. Tillem

s/ Ditty Vella
Sonoma Hillside Preservation Alliance

s/ Tommy Thomsen
s/ Ned Forrest

Rebuttal to Arguments For
REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE B Measure B offers no hard evidence that the hotel limitation measure will preserve Sonoma's small-town character. While the City's General Plan included planning experts, extensive public comment and thorough environmental review, Measure B was written by a small group of people without any consultation from the Planning Department, Visitors Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. Voters should consider whether this group realizes the unintended consequences their proposal would have on Sonoma, including weaker job growth in the tourist industry and limitations to one of the largest revenue sources to the City, which could reduce services provided to the public.

The proponents of Measure B want you to believe "Sonoma risks becoming overbuilt and overcommercialized." Not true. Here's the fact: no new "large" hotels as defined by the ballot measure have been approved in the City for the past 10 years. The impact report prepared for the City concluded that hotels create much less traffic than other commercial uses.These alternative uses could lead to more traffic and intensive developments that would change Sonoma's small-town character.

An independently-conducted impact report concluded it is "highly unlikely" the 80 percent occupancy threshold will ever be reached, which effectively prohibits new hotels over 25 rooms, a limit unsubstantiated by proponents. This limit could incentivize the development of several 24 room hotels in areas next door to our homes, parks and schools rather than in commercial zones.

Join us + protect Sonoma's small town character, economy and quality of life. Vote No on Measure B.

s/ Ken Brown
Mayor, City of Sonoma

s/ Tom Rouse
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Sonoma

s/ Robert Della Santina
Owner, Della Santina's Trattoria

s/ Denise Silver
Board Member, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau

s/ Jeff Martinez
Owner, Sonoma & Lambert 76 Stations

Voting No on Measure B is a vote to protect Sonoma's quality of life. That's why diverse local groups and individuals comprising environmental, agricultural, business, labor and public safety oppose Measure B.

The measure seeks to correct a problem that doesn't exist. Over the past decade, no new hotels have been approved in the City of Sonoma that meet the definition of "large" as defined by the ballot measure because of a planning process that looks at every project on an individual basis. Voting No on Measure B doesn't mean you're approving any current or future hotel proposal. Those proposals are subject to the existing process, including a rigorous evaluation by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Committee, Design Review Commission, Planning Commission and City Council. At every step, the public's voice is heard. Measure B abandons a process that allows the public to comment on specific projects.

Sonoma will continue facing higher costs for public services. With the rising costs of these services, it's imperative to increase transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues, something only assessed to tourists. Measure B could limit future TOT revenue potential, the second-largest revenue generator to the City's General Fund. The 80% hotel occupancy requirement Measure B calls for has never been reached in City or County history. This arbitrary restriction would ban most new hotels in Sonoma and reduce TOT revenue growth.

Measure B is opposed by the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs Association, North Bay Labor Council, Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, environmentalists and local residents who believe Sonoma's future economic stability is threatened by Measure B.

Please join us and vote No on Measure B to protect your voice in the planning process and preserve Sonoma's economy and quality of life.

s/ Ken Brown
Mayor, City of Sonoma

s/ Tom Rouse
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Sonoma

s/ Karen Collins
Parks Commissioner

s/ Kathy Mazza
Former Sonoma Alcaldessa

s/ Gary Edwards
Planning Commissioner

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
Measure B anticipates a problem, the likelihood of too much large hotel development. Such development has already eroded the quality of life in other small wine country towns. Responding to large hotel development only when it becomes a problem is poor planning.

Developers know how the approval process works, and how to work it. Few members of the public have time to attend and be heard at every commission meeting. Ultimately, all commission decisions can be appealed to the city council where just three individuals can approve a project. When it comes to a big issue like the scale and character of Sonoma, Measure B gives every citizen a voice and vote. The citizens' voices were heard in 1999, to prevent a hillside hotel, and stop sprawl in 2000 by approving the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Sonoma's UGB has never placed incentives or restrictions on the county's hotel development outside city limits. Measure B does nothing to change that.

There are other options to increase hotel tax revenue, if the need arises. The City could place a measure on the ballot raising the TOT rate to 14%, generating nearly $1,000,000 annually. New smaller hotels, on which Measure B places no limitations, will generate additional TOT, as well. The 80% occupancy threshold is intentionally difficult to reach. Measure B, after all, is about slowing large hotel development, not facilitating it. Meanwhile, small hotels better scaled to our community will be developed.

Preserve our small town. Vote Yes on B.

s/ Joe Costello

s/ Helen Marsh
School Board Trustee

s/ Marilyn Goode s/ Ed Clay
Director+Transition Sonoma Valley

s/ Larry Barnett, Chair

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Created: January 16, 2014 17:53 PST
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