Hotel explosion rocks Napa
Bill Hocker | Oct 5, 2018
SF Chronicle 10/5/18: How many high-end hotels can Napa Valley handle?
The answer: a few. Napa, as a high-end retreat for the wealthy (i.e. Meadow wood and Auberge du Soleil) is already losing its luster as the number of tourists keeps increasing and the marketing of food and wine through winery experiences becomes a mass market entertainment. (And as the traffic jams increase and the natural beauty of the landscape is diminished by building projects). In the short term, as long as the tourism numbers keep expanding there will be a percentage that can be convinced to spend $1000 a night for their image of the good life. The question is whether the construction of pricey hotel rooms will outpace the ability of Visit Napa Valley to sell the region's exclusiveness while marketing to the masses as well. If not, as all of the rooms come online, the prices will probably begin to fall to a rate in line with the rest of the world's tourist destinations.
SR press Democtat 8/25/18: Healdsburg set to limit future downtown hotels, require affordable housing offsets on new projects
Healdsburg leads the way. Of course, as usual, government has acted to solve problems when the problems are already beyond being solved. The already-approved doubling of hotel rooms will give Healdsburg the feeling of a 24-hour tourist trap, and future affordable housing requirements will not ease the existing or approved shortfalls.
NVR 7/16/18: Future of Napa Marriott hotel lies with City Council
NVR 6/1/18: Napa [City] planners advance hotel-winery plan, despite housing concerns
Comm. Murray said, regarding the number of new workers needing affordable housing: "We canít be continually punting the ball down the field, but we canít put the burden all on one project," to which the logical reply is "Why not?" This particular project is increasing the affordable housing shortage by a specific number of units. Why shouldn't the project create those units as a condition of approval or else pay for the difference between affordable and market rate housing for every employee?
More about the traffic impact of this project and other projects around bottleneck junction is here.
Lucretia Marcus LTE 6/16/18: Build housing for your workers
NVR 6/2/18: Napaís Gasser Foundation proposing 200 apartments and a hotel for Soscol Avenue
The 30 affordable units in the housing project won't quite accommodate the 100-150 new hotel employees, but Gasser is setting a trend by tying actual affordable housing construction, not just token mitigation fees, to tourism development.
That being said, the increase in population and continuing urbanization of the county and shift in the economy from wine to entertainment spells a long term decline for agriculture and the rural character that everyone claims to treasure.
The Trinitas Mixed Use (Marriott Hotel-Winery-Office Bldg) complex is up before the Airport Land Use Commission (County Planning Commission + 2) on June 6, 2018. It is a 253 room hotel, 25,000 sf winery (no capacity or visitation specified but 57 parking spaces allowed), 30,000 sf office bldg, and 441 total parking spaces.
The notice is here
The project documents are here (large file)
Is it compatible next to the airport? No less than the Meritage or the County office buildings, one would assume. Will the current traffic jam at the entrance to the airport, made that much worse by one more huge project up the road, be discussed? Probably not.
NVR 6/2/17: Design of south Napa Marriott hotel leaves city planners cold
NVR 6/1/17: Napa planners to get first a look at a Marriott hotel, winery
NVR 5/18/18: Napa planners grapple with housing demands of 250-room Marriott hotel
Peter Mott LTE 5/15/18: Peter Mott: Time for a hotel moratorium
It is great to see that even some of those members of our county governments that have been supporters of tourism development have begun to believe that continued expansion of the tourism industry is unsustainable if the goal is to retain the rural small-town character that draws tourists here and makes this a desirable place to live. There needs to be a limit of tourism activity in relation to real life or real life ceases to exist. Many already feel that line has already been crossed, and the vast increase in hotel rooms in the municipalities and wineries in the county already in the pipeline means that the tourism impacts we already feel will only get worse. But If more of our officials, like Mr. Mott, are willing to begin opposing tourism urbanization now, and begin thinking in terms of a sustainable stable economy rather than a unsustainable growth economy, there may still be some hope for the survival of a quality of life treasured by both visitors and residents in the future.
NVR 3/2/18: Napa planners ask is Foxbow too much hotel for the neighborhood
NVR 2/28/18: Napa city planners to take up Foxbow hotel plan in Oxbow District
Oh No! Another over-scaled, over-wrought hotel crammed onto First Street.
This one is more apartment-looking than the previous version, an advantage if the tourism market crashes at the end of this hotel bubble.
Preliminary review at the Napa City Planning Commission Thursday, Mar 1st, 2018 at 5:30pm. Staff report is here.
NVR 1/6/18: Napa planners comment on Wine Trainís future hotel, rail depot on McKinstry Street
The Staff report on the project is here. (large file)
NVR 12/23/17: Top 10 of 2017, No. 7: Hotels, tourism continue Napa boom
Dan Mufson sends this article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat regarding hotel development in Healdsburg:
SR Press Democrat 12/2/17: Healdsburg City Council to discuss limits on future downtown hotels
While it's hard to compare the nebulous disorganization of Napa's downtown with the iconic organization of Healdsburg's town plaza, the impacts here of rampant tourism development will likewise wipe out any sense of "small town" character that Napa does possess as 5 and 6 story hotels, and the throngs of their patrons, begin to dominate the Napa streetscape.
NVR 11/28/17: Downtown Napa's newest luxury hotel opens its doors
Kudos to Mr. Johnstone for telling it like it is: "You walk in and you think you're in New York." and "How many hotels does downtown need? I hope we're not overdoing it."
NVR 9/29/17: Meritage Resort's massive expansion takes shape in south Napa
NVR 9/06/17: Napa, developer start talks on new City Hall, housing and hotel
City report on the hotel explosion this Tuesday
Napa Vision 2050 has just sent out this notice about a staff report to be presented to the Napa City Council on Aug 15th, 3:00pm about the various hotel projects going on in the city. You are encouraged to attend.
NVR 8/18/17: Napa planners approve 5-story Black Elk hotel in Oxbow district
NVR 7/4/17: Proposed four-story Oxbow hotel to receive Napa plannersí scrutiny
The Black Elk Hotel had a preliminary review by the Napa City Planning Commission on July 6th 2017. The Staff Report and Documents are here. It is a very innappropriate building for the location, out of scale, a visual barrier to the Oxbow district, of "barnish" shape and materials out of place in its urban setting, a box of a building trying to squeeze as many hotel rooms as possible on the small site, which brought to mind a 19th century tenement house.
What became very apparent here, and in all of the hotel projects in the news recently, is that the city has no master plan for the development of the city, no commitment to integrate housing and real people and businesses into the tourism economy, and no design guidelines to regulate what the character of the place will become. As with the rural areas of the county, the future of Napa City is being irrevocably altered in this developer boom period, and the Planning Commission decisions about Napa's future are being made on an ad hoc basis, one isolated project at a time, without looking at the long term result. Which, of course, will be a hodgepodge of developers' schemes, some with good taste and some without, trying to maximize the money to be made from the tourist trade on every square inch of the city, while the residents are forced out.
NVR 7/2/217: As hotels increase, do Napa residents benefit? Readers, officials weigh in
Howard Yune, Napa city reporter for the Register, had to previously ask readers what they thought about Napa's hotel explosion, and he gives some of the responses in the above article. He had to ask because the Register, in a blow to the free exchange of ideas in a democracy, decided to discontinue the ability to comment online to news articles last year. There were, no doubt, legitimate concerns leading to the discontinuance. But for those seriously interested in issues in Napa county, like the explosion of hotel development, citizen reaction to the news is an important part of the story. The problems that the paper experienced with responses, I think, had much to do with the anonymity of the posts and the freedom that gives to be irresponsible in posting. Require real names and let the comments continue.
It's hard to keep up with this issue:
NVR 6/25/17: Downtown Napa hotel plan calls for merging Zeller's and former post office sites
NVR 6/22/17: Surging hotel taxes become a larger part of the new Napa city budget
NVR 6/20/17: How many hotels are enough -- or too much? Contact the Register
The hotel explosion raises several issues.
First, the loss of a community. Hotels not only bring in more tourists, but they increase the 24-hour tourist population. At some point, as the ratio of tourists to residents increases, and as jobs, commercial activity and housing continue to shift from resident-serving to tourist-serving, the sense of normal, small-town community life will be lost to the collective endevour of catering to, and being the local color for, the tourism experience. And the real town and its community will disappear. (St. Helena is at the forefront of this phenomenon.)
Second, a financing dependency. TOT revenue and other in-lieu fees are welcomed as a quick fix for the deferred infrastructure and service costs needed to mitigate the impacts of previous urban development. But low wage jobs are created by the hundreds and the money isn't there for affordable housing. Traffic and parking problems explode. The increased tourism and employee population require additional infrastructure and services which then encourage more new project approvals and so on. Ultimately the place becomes a dense tourist trap, devoid of residents, and, much like Oxbow is now, packed with people wondering what's so special about Napa.
Third, the loss of Napa's rural soul. The number of hotel projects, like the amount of traffic, is a symptom of a community losing it's resitance to development pressure. That pressure was was contained in Napa for the last 40 years by a combination of politicians and citizenry with a clear vision of an un-urbanized future, and an industry dependent on an agricultural product. But as the landscape and vineyards are slowly filled with buildings to exploit the expanding tourist population, the vision of a rural enclave in the urban Bay Area is harder for politicians and their citizens to imagine, and the industry is finding that more money is to be made by providing wine-related experiences than from making wine. The importance of agriculture fades beyond its use as a stageset for TOT-paying visitors.
A neighbor just sent over a link to the latest Napa Life, Paul Fransons's weekly "insiders guide to the Napa Valley." The June 19th, 2017 issue is here. Scroll down to the section on "Lodging News". Below the summaries of the latest hotel projects in the Register he has a list of the projects currently in the approval and proposal pipelines. While I struggle to keep up on this site, as an insider he has a much better handle on these things. And it is a bit freightening.
Most freightening of all is the mention of a Ted Hall 80 room hotel in South St Helena (described in this 2015 NVR article). Ted Hall (recent profile here) is perhaps the most revered grower-vintner in the county, one of the few statesman in an industry filled with entrepreneurs. Each trip to the planning commission to present his winery projects turns into a lovefest (just as the hotel project did). He will probabaly make the most sensitive, ecological integration of agriculture and overnight accommodation it is possible to make. And he will set the precident for lesser lights to follow for the next phase of the "wine" industry in its transition to an entertainment industry. Now that the winery restaurant is firmly established as an acceptable "incidental and subordinate" use allowed at wineries, it is only a matter of time before the winery b&b begins to make its way into the definition of "agriculture" as well. A euphanism will have to be invented - "immersive agricultural experience" perhaps - to make sure no one would mistake a winery for a hotel. But with the precedent set by this most solid citizen of the County, every good-life entrepreneur will now want a hotel-of-their-own to go along with their winery.
Cohn LTE 6/8/17: Slow the stampede of development and his petition
And the concurrences:
Don and Arlene Townsend LTE 6/16/17: When is enough enough?
Lynn Korn LTE 6/12/17: Enough already
Barbara Cioppone LTE 6/8/17: All for the rich people
A lot of proposed Napa hotel projects in the news:
NVR 6/8/17: Cambria Hotel coming to Napa's Soscol Avenue (And subsequent sale)
NVR 6/5/17: Napa Valley Wine Train owners plan $100 million resort development
NVR 6/2/17: Design of south Napa Marriott hotel leaves city planners cold
NVR 5/17/17: Altamira family reviving plans for a winery/hotel project on Silverado Trail
And other projects:
NVR 6/14/17: Napa approves 4-story building for Bounty Hunter wine bar, restaurant
NVR 2/20/17: Napa asks, How many hotel rooms are enough?
NY Times 2/1/17: A Waking Giant or a Monster? Developers Eye Once-Sleepy Napa
In the Times article Napa Vision 2050 is recognized nationally for its efforts to slow the urbanization of Napa County. Kudos to Harris Nussbaum and Patricia Damery.
Jim Wilson on the Napa Vision 2050 Economic Forum
It's exactly the effect we heard is coming at George Caloyannidis' Tourism Economy Forum in April of last year:
- Tourism accelerates the polarization between the population and the very wealthy.
- Polarization begins when businesses begin to cater to tourists and affluent locals at the expense of townsfolk.
- Now a major social revolution: small group of elderly people and few young people.
Q: Whose town is this anyway? What can community do so the power doesnít get concentrated in the hands of a few?
A: There are a few only. Locals are usually the last to get a voice in tourism development. Usually money does the talking. Local leaders who are wise enough know that the local people need to be part of the process. Most people donít really know what their long-term needs are. Community groups need to have experience.
Know what theyíre doing, how to get things done, like NV2050. Itís what attracted me to this event in Napa. Hospitality is about cheap labor. Tourism is about value added.
Q: Local schools close and students are sent out of town?
A: Imbalance. Older population crowds out the younger people. Mis-managed tourism.. Petersborough losing its school system,, and its vertical, complete society. Declining school enrollment is a sign that either young adults donít want to have children, or they donít see a future in the town.
Q: How do you organize the population?
A: NV2050 is a great example. Youíre anxious over the future, youíre organizing through people who can organize, and have the time and abilty to see things through. Then expand! Itís bottom up. Top down is very rare.
Q: How do you recommend citizens get involved in decisions on smart tourism?
A: Mendlinger: What is motivation for County and City political leaders to get involved? Do they want more development or a higher quality of life for citizens? If interested in business they wonít listen. But if you have wise leadership youíll do the part of the job that improves the quality of life. Especially in Napa you have a great pool of experience and wisdom. Itís cosmopolitan not provincial. Political leadership has to listen to well-organized citizens who understand how real life works. Citizens can go far. Like this meeting where you have political leadership plus informed citizens. I traveled fro Boston to see how Napa is doing, and I am encouraged by the possibilities. Rural areas - resource extraction areas Ė when industry pulls out thereís not much reason for community to be there.
Q: Advice on blasting open ďiron triangleĒ government/agencies/industry?
A: Mendlinger; How to develop experienced and wise leaders and citizens is the question. I just donít know how.
- In an economic impact study, costs are just as important as revenues.
- Too much tourism can overwhelm a community.
- Impact studies usually tout all the benefits of a development. Fiscal impacts are often overlooked and no multipliers are used.
- The reports that go out make the development look great but itís not. Thereís no balanced perspective with costs to the community.
Napa Vision 2050 Economic Forum: Understanding the tourism driven economy
George Caloyannidis' articles on growth and tourism
More on Napa City development here
More on Napa Growth Issues here
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