Hotel idea floated as revenue option for Veterans Home

Concept concerns some residents, local officials
2013-11-09T22:45:00Z 2013-11-09T22:47:09Z Hotel idea floated as revenue option for Veterans HomeHOWARD YUNE Napa Valley Register
November 09, 2013 10:45 pm  • 

YOUNTVILLE — A state-commissioned report outlining plans to modernize the Veterans Home of California suggests that the state Department of Veterans Affairs look into pacts with private contractors for on-site revenue generators such as an inn — a step some veterans called unlikely but still worrying to other residents.

Among the possibilities the CalVet master plan offers for raising revenue is replacing the aging, eight-room Hostess House with an inn to accommodate veterans’ relatives as well as tourists. The report suggests either the Napa Valley Museum’s overflow parking area or the “Holy Land” area in the home’s northeast corner as possible locations.

Authors envisioned an inn with “boutique-quality accommodations” spanning either one or two floors with a total of 50,000 square feet, but did not say what its total capacity should be.

Though a private contractor would run such an inn, a fixed number of rooms would be reserved at lower rates for guests visiting relatives staying at the Veterans Home — in line with the Hostess House, which offers rooms at about $35 nightly, far below the rates of Yountville’s luxury hotels nearby.

CalVet officials first broached the idea of an on-site inn during two meetings with town staff and Veterans Home residents in the spring of 2012, according to Councilmember Margie Mohler. Earlier this month, the veterans agency’s undersecretary of veterans homes, Diane Vanderpot, told Yountville Mayor John Dunbar and Town Manager Steve Rogers it had no immediate plans to pursue a hotel project at the home, she said.

Though Mohler was generally open to new uses to feed more revenue into the home, she cautioned that many details of the hotel proposal remain unresolved — including how many rooms would be needed to turn a profit, what the effects would be on local traffic, and how much room tax revenue the town could negotiate with the state. (Yountville does not collect room taxes from the Hostess House.)

“There aren’t any financial fundamentals to say this would generate this much revenue in this amount of time,” she said Friday. “All that is totally missing, so it’s really out there in the stratosphere before anything can turn into a reality. It needs a fair amount of work and thought before there’s a workable plan on where the priorities are.”

A 50,000-square-foot hotel building likely could hold between 50 and 80 guest rooms depending on the amount of public space for restaurants, lobbies and the like, according to Jim Treadway, general manager of the nearby Bardessono resort and hotel.

Running a profit-making inn while steeply subsidizing some rooms “is a difficult model to execute,” he said. “You need to charge market rates, which can be $200 to $400 night in Yountville for a modest place. But the relatives of veterans won’t be excited to pay $350 a night — and $350 gets you half a day at the Bardessono. It’s a very tough model when you try to be two things at once: to be a good little inn while also replacing an amenity for (veterans’) families.”

Yountville’s vice mayor, Lewis Chilton, was much less sanguine about any new visitor lodgings at the home, however well insulated from its full-time residents.

“It sounds like (CalVet) had consultants who said, ‘We have a piece of property, so what can we do with it?’” he said. “It doesn’t take into account that the Veterans Home’s purpose should be to serve veterans. ... My concern is that it might generate revenue for the state, but then what should the state do with that? We’ve seen enough times in the past, like with state lotteries that are supposed to raise money for the schools, that they give money with one hand and take it away with the other hand. I’d be very skeptical of any arrangement like that.”

The idea of an inn on Veterans Home grounds — even if sited well away from residence halls and public buildings — has irked some residents fearing disturbances to their daily routines, said Ed Warren, a member of the residents’ Allied Council advising the home administrator, but “I’m not alarmed like some others are,” he added. “I don’t think California is so anxious to make money that they’ll sell out the residents of a 130-year-old home.”

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(4) Comments

  1. glenroy
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    glenroy - November 11, 2013 6:30 am
    It’s beyond government management skill level….. way beyond….probably not as bad as the State Hospital where there are twice as many employees as ‘customers’….
    The only solution to anything government is the Wisconsin solution…break the strangle hold of public employee unions, PERIOD....without that it's just a shell game....
  2. Crosscountrykid
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    Crosscountrykid - November 11, 2013 6:05 pm
    As a veteran who one day may live at the Vets Home, I too am concerned about an on-site lodging facility for tourists. The Vets Home is a gem of a village nestled in prime real estate, yet devoid of the tourist activity. Granted, the pool, theatre, golf course, and baseball stadium are open to the general public. But these are facilities where people come and go, and with the vets also enjoying them, it's a win-win situation. But tourists would be a whole different matter, bringing the overnight tourist instead of mostly day-use locals onto the grounds of the Home. However, there is a great need for an improved Hostess House for visiting families, who often arrive when a veteran is getting close to that "post everlasting." They could increase room rates considerably and it would still be way below local room rates for families who may well have to be in the area for several days.
  3. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - November 11, 2013 7:35 pm
    Bad idea. The government took over the Mustang Ranch for back taxes and they couldn't even run that " no tell hotel". Look how they run everything else; always late and over budget .Let the veterans decide if they want it or not. It's their facility and as a taxpayer I will go along with their decision. They sacrificed for their country and they should decide, not some politician who only service to their country was to feed from the public trough.
  4. Crosscountrykid
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    Crosscountrykid - November 12, 2013 7:02 am
    A simplistic response, as usual. This same gov't has vehicles on Mars and successfully fights forest fires, to name just two complex operations. Oh, and the state employees at the Vets Home, most of whom are union, take pretty good care of the members. Secondly, if Dept. of Veterans Affairs ever did authorize a hotel, my guess it would be contracted out to a private company to operate and manage.
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