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City of Sonoma Hotel Limitation Ordinance, Measure B (November 2013)

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A City of Sonoma Hotel Limitation Ordinance, Measure B ballot question was on the November 19, 2013, election ballot for voters in the city of Sonoma in Sonoma County, which is in California. It was narrowly defeated.

This measure would have required that the establishment of any hotel with more than 25 rooms to be approved by the city's Planning Commission.[1]

Election results

Measure B
Defeatedd No2,03251.6%
Yes 1,908 48.4%
These final, certified results are from the Stanislaus County elections office.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Shall the Hotel Limitation Measure be adopted?[1][2]

Impartial analysis

Below is the imartional analysis of Measure B presented by the City Attorney, Jeffrey A. Walter.

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.[1][2]



Below is a list of those who signed the official arguments in favor of Measure B:

  • Larry Barnett, Chair, Preserving Sonoma Committee
  • Leonard M. Tillem, Lawyer
  • Ditty Vella, Sonoma Hillside Preservation Alliance
  • Tommy Thomsen, Musician
  • Ned Forrest, Architect

Official arguments

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.[1][2]



Below is a list of those who signed the official arguments against Measure B:

  • Ken Brown, Mayor, City of Sonoma
  • Tom Rouse, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Sonoma
  • Karen Collins, Parks Commissioner
  • Kathy Mazza, Former Sonoma Alcaldessa
  • Gary Edwards, Planning Commissioner

Official arguments

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.[1][2]

See also

External links

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4, California, Sonoma County
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.