Letters to the Editor on Measure B
Measure B protects quality of life
Editor: Perhaps our fellow citizens of Sonoma have noticed that the supporters of Measure B have run a campaign that is straightforward, with no false claims or negative statements about those who oppose the measure. This gives hope that the business of politics can be handled with respect for one another, honoring each individual’s right to his/her own thoughts and beliefs on a given issue.
It is our hope that Sonomans understand the true nature of Measure B. This is not a measure that is in any way “Bad for Sonoma.” To the contrary, we believe Measure B is “good for Sonoma”. The purpose of Measure B is simply to limit the size of hotels. It is our belief that if a large hotel is built so close to our beloved Plaza, the already congested streets in the Square will become overloaded with more vehicles and pedestrian traffic than the roads were ever designed to handle.
We value the quality of our life in our small town, including the ability to drive, walk, or park in and around our Square. We welcome people who don’t have the good fortune to live here, to come to our town and enjoy the ambiance, the wine, and the friendliness of our citizens and merchants. But this is OUR town. It is our home. Therefore, it is our responsibility to manage a balance between what makes this a peaceful and caring community, and a place tourists can visit and enjoy.
Please consider the truth of what Measure B really seeks, which is simply to limit the size of hotels, in consideration of the quality of life of those who live here.
Tom and Mary Dixon, Sonoma
Measure B is a threat to the economy
Editor: Voters in the city of Sonoma will decide next week whether to ban hotels with 25 rooms or more. Measure B, commonly known as the Hotel Limitation Measure, arose in response to the first new hotel proposed in over a decade. But as is often the case with measures engendered by a single, isolated event, Measure B’s overreach undermines the substantial investment made to promote Sonoma as a world-class tourist destination.
Technically, Measure B’s ban lifts if annual hotel occupancy rates ever reach 80%. But the average rate in the city of Sonoma over the past ten years is just 62%. Even during the peak tourism seasons, the rate is only 66%. Because of low occupancy rates during winter months and the concentration of weekend room demand during the peak months, an 80% rate is simply unattainable. Measure B will effectively ban forever any hotel of 25 rooms or more.
Tourism is so important to our economy that the city of Sonoma operates a special tourism district to capture money from tourists to create a marketing program. The county of Sonoma and the cities of Santa Rosa and Napa have similarly recognized the value of tourism and do the same. Overall, we have spent millions of dollars promoting the region as a tourist destination. For the city of Sonoma, we rely on hotel tax to fund vital city services.
Tourism is the number one industry in Sonoma County and hotels are a necessary amenity to accommodate our visitors. Even if you’re not directly employed by a hotel, restaurant, winery or other visitor attraction, your neighbors are. Money generated by tourism circulates throughout our community creating demand for every product and service imaginable. All of us, whether we’re directly connected to the tourism industry or not, depend on the influx of tourism dollars.
Measure B erodes the positive impact of tourism to the region. It dilutes the investment we have made to create it and sends the wrong message to our visitors –- it says visitors are not welcome and encourages them to take their business elsewhere.
Measure B also promotes urban sprawl. Banning hotels of 25 rooms or more inside the city limits simply creates pressure to build these hotels outside the city. That in turn creates additional demand for well water from our limited aquifers and increases traffic outside of urban boundaries. Measure B undercuts our efforts at creating the city-centered growth that allows our rural areas to remain pristine and attractive to locals and visitors alike.
Measure B will put a financial strain on city services as well. Hotel taxes are the largest single source of revenue for the city of Sonoma’s general fund. Measure B will deprive Sonoma of much needed revenue, which in turn leads to further diminishment of traditional government services such as roads, parks, police, fire, affordable housing, environmental programs and so on. Depriving ourselves of the revenue generated from these hotel taxes only creates additional need to develop other sources of revenue such sales and parcel taxes.
We have, in the city of Sonoma, a general plan and zoning regulations that ensure hotel development is planned and tasteful. Measure B is not only unnecessary, it threatens the tourism industry and all of us so reliant upon it. Please, vote no on Measure B.
Joanne Sanders, former mayor, City of Sonoma
Ken Brown, mayor, City of Sonoma
Tom Rouse, mayor pro tem, City of Sonoma
David Cook, councilmember, City of Sonoma
The authors of Measure B drafted their initiative with zero research or evidence to back their arguments. Proponents have waged a campaign based on theatrics by continually trying to convey their message with scare tactics, using words like “large” and “destroy.” What if Larry Barnett is wrong about Measure B? Ask yourself, how does a well designed, appropriately scaled hotel “change our quality of life.” Does the existence of MacArthur Place or El Pueblo Inn, so called “large” hotels, destroy the character of Sonoma? Shouldn’t we be worried about strip malls, high-density housing and mini-marts?
Here are the facts…there hasn’t been a single new “large” hotel of more than 25 rooms approved in Sonoma for more than 13 years. In fact, currently there is not one hotel proposal on-file with the City.
The fact is, all proposed commercial developments in Sonoma are reviewed on a case-by-case basis so that we protect the historic district and manage growth responsibly. There are more than 8 councils, commissions and agency’s comprised of more than 56 elected and appointed community members who protect all aspects of our small town, including everything from new development, traffic, finances and mobile home parks.
I trust this democratic process—I respect their knowledge and dedication to our community. They enforce a strong and honest process that requires my voice to be heard as well. So really, the task of protecting the character and quality of life in Sonoma is up to us. It is our right and responsibility.
Facts are facts. We don’t want Larry Barnett to take away our voice – vote no on Measure B.
Dean Sereni, Sonoma
A few days ago I found our Yes on B sign taken, and in it’s place a No on B sign. It has been replaced with a sign that says: Yes on B Stops Big Hotels. The propaganda surrounding the measure is understandable, on the one hand, knowing where it is coming from and what has been learned in Washington D.C, about how to win elections — twist the wording and confuse people. Like the clean air act, which was far from a clean air act, No on B is far from protecting our town from big hotels, maybe a casino or two, and who knows what else they have plans for.
I for one don’t want to see our town become like every other. It is a special place and we should protect it. So vote yes on B, please.
Michael Grais, Sonoma
Since reading the reference in “The Index Tribune” last Friday about “only one business” being affected by the demolition, although I am shy about speaking out because I don’t want to rock any political boats, I want to keep my small business, Sisters.
One small business is important in a town. I think that it would be a big loss to Sonoma if I had to close my doors. My store makes so many people happy, and grateful that I’m here.
I love running Sisters on the Sonoma Square. People love to meander in, and it has become a place for fun, shopping and friendship. My customer and consignor bases reach far beyond the population of Sonoma Valley. I’ve worked hard to keep Sisters going, and it is my life’s purpose to support the community and myself here. Please vote yes on Measure B.
Christine Johnson, Sonoma
Deja vu all over again… big business, big money, and big lobbying are at it again! And we’re being led to believe we need to drink their Kool-Aide.
Remember when we were told we needed a massive casino? We, the citizens, responded with “Cows, Not Casinos.” We were told we needed a massive new hospital on the outskirts of town. We, the citizens, responded once again and our renovated in-town Sonoma Valley Hospital opens in one week. The citizens voted for what they wanted, and we must do it again.
We are told we need a big hotel off our beloved Sonoma Plaza. Once again we, the citizens, have to decide what’s important to us. Sonoma as we know it is going to change, but we have to be reasonable. Mr. Anderson will build a ‘boutique’ hotel and it will be beautiful, and Sonoma will get its TOT taxes. This is the only win-win situation for everyone involved. The citizens’ voices will be heard once again by voting Yes on Measure B. It will send the correct message about retaining the flavor of this very special place we call home…Sonoma. Please join me by voting yes on Measure B!
Ed Cebula, Sonoma
The heart of the Yes on B argument is quite simple – after all the design reviews and environmental impacts are done, the bottom line for any developer is whether the property they build will make a profit for their owners or shareholders. That’s fine — that’s how they’re supposed to act.
But that’s why we need safeguards and regulations to ensure that their goals for profit do not trample over our rights as citizens to the quiet enjoyment of our town. The current planning process puts the fate of our community in the hands of only 8 men! The issue of development is about more than this one hotel. It’s the precedent that a No vote sets for subsequent development in our town.
Developers are watching the outcome of this vote with great anticipation. Defeating B essentially opens the floodgates for developers coming to Sonoma looking to chip away pieces of our town for their profit. We cannot surrender our rights as citizens to a group of political appointees, even if they’re acting with the best of intentions. There is simply too much money, influence, and political pressure involved with development projects to not insist on direct democratic participation by all our citizens. This is our future – we need to control it. Please vote yes on Measure B!
David Appelbaum, Sonoma
If city and regional planning represent a stool that has three legs: economic development, environmental sustainability and social equity, Measure B can be seen simply as push back against the economic leg becoming too out of proportion. That’s why I am yes on B. Being yes on B doesn’t mean I don’t believe economic components are not important and necessary.
What we will need as a community in the future, after the Measure B storm is passed, are people who have their eye on some actual balance of the above factors. What we won’t need are people who act as if one leg supersedes the other three. Solid government, city and regional planning have got to become more pragmatic and less ideological. This constitutes what I consider to be real common sense.
In this respect I second the general thrust of Ben Boyce’s recent column; we need a new paradigm. And to add to Ben’s analysis: economic development 101 is free market only, outdated, a one trick pony, while econ 202 will incorporate a wider platform integrating the above three planning legs and be more palatable to a wider audience.
Fred Allebach, Vineburg
The latest mailer from the “No on B” campaign would almost be humorous, if it weren’t so ridiculous. The mailer claims that if Measure B passes, prohibiting construction of large hotels in Sonoma, traffic will increase and be backed up all the way to 5th St. West!
The assumption, according to the mailer, is that if a large hotel is not built on the Plaza, the only alternative would be a “strip mall” or chain store, and out-of-towners would flock into Sonoma just to visit our strip mall.
We currently have city ordinances in place that prohibit chain stores from being built on our historic Plaza. Large hotels that can accommodate conferences and wedding receptions will generate more traffic than smaller hotels built solely to accommodate overnight guests.
The “No on B” campaign must have the same out-of-towners producing their mailers that have been going around town trying to tell people how to vote. They clearly haven’t spent much time here, and don’t understand that this is a quality of life issue for the people of Sonoma. By passing Measure B, we can continue to serve both tourists and residents. I live and work in Sonoma, and I am raising my family here – I urge you to join me in voting yes on B to stop large hotels.
Laura Declercq, Sonoma
I hope we all use our heads and vote yes on Measure B. It is obvious that the anti-B group is backed by outsiders with big bucks trying to scare us into thinking our little town will go broke and dissolve if we don’t let them build their big hotels.
That’s crazy. Most of us moved here from some place else because we liked the sophisticated small-town atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else. I was raised in L.A., lived in Europe and Mexico and came here in 1980. Sonoma had streets, a police force, a fire company and great people in City Hall, and no big hotels. We did fine without them, and we will do fine even if no more are built.
My Victorian Garden Inn opened in 1983. Most of our guests who come from all over the world say they chose to come here instead of towns like Napa and Healdsburg because of the cozy small hotels and B & Bs we have here. Believe me, most of my guests can afford to stay in big hotels anywhere in the world.
I also know that groups against Measure B (the Chamber of Commerce, etc.) never polled their members before deciding to oppose it. The boards decided on its own to suck up to the big-money boys. I know many businesses really favor Measure B but were never asked their opinion. It was all a backroom deal.
So please, Sonoma, pay no attention to yard signs, statements, flyers and billboards that tell you to vote No. Follow the money and you’ll see the “No” signs are pointing us straight into the pockets of big developers. Keep our city going in the right direction and vote yes on B.
Donna Lewis, Sonoma
This letter is for those who raised their kids here, lobbied for a new hospital here, joined our sister cities, helped build Boys and Girls Clubs, our senior center and La Luz, and supported the many education efforts and, when needed, became a mentor because our children/teens needed it..
Who this is not for is the out-of-town investor who uses us a profit center, or uses us as a profit center, or wants our 28th wine bar on the Square, if thinks tearing down two historic buildings.
It’s simple. Yes on B limits big hotels, No on B opens the floodgates. You choose. Tourists want us to stay small, and those of us who have lived and worked and volunteered here for many years always prefer people over profits.
Bob Guglielmino, Sonoma