While there was vigorous discussion in yesterday’s article on the Hyatt House application, no one seemed to pick up the troublesome comment that emerged on the Change.org petition.
The first listing under the three main concerns was: “Significant increase in ‘strangers’ in and around our neighborhood (just because it’s a Hyatt doesn’t mean only good/well intentioned people stay there).”
While the petitioners never specified who those strangers were, there are racist, classist and potentially xenophobic implications within that sentence.
What is also interesting is that last night the petition was modified to have three other concerns listed: significant increase in foot and car traffic; it just doesn’t make sense to have a hotel here – that’s why it’s NOT zoned for a hotel; and a business running 24 hours 7 days per week in our back yard (literally in the back yards of many ALBANY homes).
There are legitimate reasons not to want a hotel in that location. The neighbors could certainly cite noise, property values, and fit in the area. But the appeal to base fears of “strangers” seems to take this to another place.
Unfortunately, the Change.org petition is not an isolated incident here.
On April 19, Jim Danzer, neighbor of the project, made a public comment at the Davis City Council meeting that struck a similar tone. He stated, “The city and past councils have already turned our community and that end of the town into our own Potterville with high density housing/low-income.”
He then described that he has had people shoot lasers into his property. He also talked about the possibility that there would be a bar in the hotel. “You will bring a transient population in to an already transient population, increasing traffic, noise pollution, sound pollution, light pollution,” he said. “It’s not conducive to our neighborhood. You’re putting a hotel which is an extended stay, which is not a high end at that, and you’re going to put it next to a gymnastics center which does not seem to behoove the sense of community that we all seek.”
“I don’t see where that community ties well to a children-oriented operation,” he added.
These are troubling remarks, particularly the reference to turning “our community and that end of the town into our own Potterville.” Pottersville is a term from the film It’s a Wonderful Life, and today it is used as slang to describe an area with a large number of drug addicts and people living on government assistance.
That likely references the presence of New Harmony, the low-income housing on the other side of Davis Diamonds. Mr. Danzer seems to be suggesting that the affordable housing project has debased the community and his neighborhood.
The stranger reference in the previous version of the Change.org petition would appear to be in a similar light.
Yesterday there were questions about the suitability of a hotel next to Davis Diamonds. As one person put it, “Let’s also not forget that this hotel is being built next to the Davis Diamonds gym, one of the premier kids facilities in Davis. I have questions as to the appropriateness of that placement and would like to hear what the owners and families from Davis Diamonds think of this.”
As someone whose daughter utilizes the facility quite a bit, I am not sure what the problem is. What is interesting is that Davis Diamonds supports putting the hotel there. Moreover, Davis Diamonds chose to move their facility next door to New Harmony.
These comments are troublesome. They seem to feed on our fear of people from outside the community, and some of it contains racial and classist overtones.
Where are these fears coming from? Again, I can understand concerns about traffic and noise, but “strangers”?
Dan Carson shared with the Vanguard his analysis of the fiscal impact of the Hyatt House, which he projects to generate around $700,000 per year in annual TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) for the city.
He notes, “I am advised by the applicants that the overall Davis hotel market is currently achieving 71% occupancy and an Average Daily Rate of $123 per room. If this average result occurred at the newly constructed Hyatt House, city TOT revenues would be about $460,000 annually, by my estimate.”
However, he writes, “However, the brand name, location, and amenities of the new hotel would give it an advantage within the Davis hotel marketplace over other hotel properties.”
He continues that “the existing Hyatt Place hotel on the UC Davis campus, which is generally comparable in size and proximity to downtown Davis to the proposed new Hyatt House hotel, is reportedly operating at 86% occupancy with a much higher Average Daily Rate of $162 per room. If this result occurred at a newly constructed Hyatt House, I estimate that city TOT revenues from that project could reach $730,000 annually.”
He cites PKF Consulting, the hotel industry experts retained by the Hyatt House project applicant, who projected last year that “the new hotel would eventually achieve 78% occupancy and an Average Daily Rate of $186 per room because of its high-quality construction, location near I-80, and brand affiliation. If that were the result, I estimate that city TOT revenues would be about $767,000 annually.”
The bottom line here is that not only will this project provide important benefits for the community in terms of tax revenue, but an average daily rate of $186 per night suggests this will be a high end hotel.
But, these facts aside, the rhetoric here and implication that a hotel would draw “strangers” or contribute to “Pottersville” is very troubling. This kind of classist appeal and denigration of the low-income residents at New Harmony is not befitting the progressive nature of our community.
From our perspective, we should have a rigorous debate over whether this is the appropriate location for a hotel. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to challenge our city council on that issue – but fear of strangers and the clientele of the hotel, and its proximity to Davis Diamonds, is not one of them.
—David M. Greenwald reporting