We were surprised to see in the Letters to the Editor on May 16 that one of our Napa City Council members said he would be proposing a moratorium on hotels in Napa.
The night before this letter was published, many of our members attended the City Council meeting and such a moratorium was not proposed, and, in fact, not even encouraged. What was mentioned was that, although the “M word” had been “tossed around,” there were many in the community, namely lodging developers, who “wouldn’t like the idea.”
As housing advocates, we were struck by the many issues that surfaced at this meeting, where the city discussed a 2017 lodging report, a vote to authorize funds for the Tourist Improvement District, and a ballot measure to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax to support housing.
The upshot of the lodging report shows that 3,700 to 6,000 jobs could be created directly and indirectly, from the development of new hotels, with the presumption that affordable housing currently in the pipeline (492) would help solve the associated housing needs.
Housing being developed today is critical for those working low wage jobs now, not in the future. Most importantly, the city appears to be focused on creating lower wage hospitality jobs, without really figuring out where the new hospitality staff will live. Instead, these workers are commuting from elsewhere and creating traffic nightmares in the commute hours.
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Also, are hotels the only commerce we want to attract to our city? Especially when we demand virtually nothing of developers? Currently, we don’t require card-check neutrality (giving workers the opportunity to unionize), living wage agreements, or the actual building of workforce housing units. Many other communities have such requirements, but not Napa.
Our city council members are finally admitting that we should, “probably talk about where hotels should go” and “require developers to do something,” but they have known this for 20 years and have essentially sat on their hands as the hospitality industry has grown haphazardly around them.
Does the City Council have the votes needed to implement a moratorium on hotels? What is more important is that the city thoughtfully plan for lodging and hospitality needs, while seriously addressing the severe jobs/housing imbalance. Hotel developers want to build here; it is high time that they also take care of creating housing for new hotel workers and their families.
Joelle Gallagher, Chair
Napa Housing Coalition