A group of neighbors have posted a Change.org petition asking the council not to approve zoning changes that would allow a proposed four-story, 120-room Hyatt House Hotel to be built along the I-80 frontage next to Davis Diamonds.
According to the petition, “Current zoning will not allow buildings taller than 3 stories and it will not allow a hotel. If this property is rezoned by the City Council, we believe there will be negative impacts on our neighborhood.”
Their main concerns:
- 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)
- Significant increase in foot and car traffic (added to the 35 homes they are currently building on Cowell and the 69 units at New Harmony opened a few years ago = 104 new units PLUS 120 hotel rooms!!)
- A business running 24 hours 7 days per week in our back yard (literally in the back yards of many ALBANY homes)
They also note:
- Lack of restaurants and services for guests.
- No easy freeway access to this location.
- Hotel guests will be able to see directly into neighbors homes and yards – especially after the tree removal and trimming suggested by the tree study commissioned by the developers. (suggests removal or trimming of up to 35% of the foliage of 16 of the 23 trees)
- It just doesn’t make sense to have a hotel here – that’s why its NOT zoned for a hotel.
- There are other hotel proposals that won’t be so close to neighborhoods.
The petition has generated 148 supporters to date.
The council recently put a measure on the ballot that would increase the city’s TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) rate. As the city looks at revenue sources, some believe that the city is under-performing in terms of its total TOT and its TOT per capita.
The council has approved the Embassy project on Richards Boulevard, but that project remains in limbo, facing legal challenges despite rumors in July that a settlement agreement might be approaching which would allow the project to move forward.
In addition to the proposed Hyatt House, there is also a proposed Residence Inn across the street from Target, which could also be an extended stay hotel, but with MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) in limbo, it remains to be seen as to whether that project would be viable.
One of the key questions that the council will have to weigh is the concerns of the neighbors versus the needs of the community.
Davis last year took in just $1.27 million in TOT tax revenue, that’s a per capita TOT of $19. By contrast, San Luis Obispo (with two-thirds the population) takes in a whopping $6.8 million in TOT. Other university towns also fare better – Boulder with 97,000 in population takes in $6.5 million or $67 per capita, College Station, home to Texas A&M, takes in $5.5 million or $55 on its 100,000 population, and Chico takes in $2.3 million or $27 per capita.
Davis, meanwhile, is struggling to stay ahead of its neighboring communities – Woodland takes in $1.1 million, West Sacramento $1.1 million and Vacaville $1.3 million.
In a community starved for tax revenue, TOT is seen as one possible avenue to generate additional dollars.
But not everyone agrees on the proper approach.
In early December, the Vanguard ran a story, “Can Hotels Be the Short-Term Revenue Fix That the City Needs?” Citing projections from PKF Consulting, which was privately commissioned to do a study on the market demand analysis, it was believed that four new hotels could generate between $1.5 and $2 million in new revenue for the city just by themselves.
That led Councilmember Brett Lee to wonder why the city should take the risks of developing 200 acres for a research park, “when I can go and the city council can approve a hotel on two acres and get $500,000 a year pretty much guaranteed?”
But current hoteliers told the Vanguard in January that hotel rooms are boom or bust in terms of occupancy, and most of the year, during the week, there are excess rooms, leading them to believe that the actual leakage of hotel revenue is thin.
Basically, from Sunday through Thursday, hotels have trouble booking rooms, and it is only on the weekends, mainly Friday and Saturday, where hotels approach 70 to 80 percent capacity.
In November, the city contracted with HVS Consulting & Valuation to prepare an analysis of the Davis hotel market to provide an analytical and objective context to assist the city with the review of the applications for the Hyatt House and Residence Inn, two of the proposals for new hotels. The council last fall had already approved the Embassy Suites Hotel Conference Facility at the site of the existing University Park Inn & Suites and Caffé Italia restaurant. That site will include a six-story 132-room Embassy Suites hotel and 13,772 square feet of conference space.
In a staff report, “HVS analyzed scenarios for hotel development in Davis, with the existing room supply and the addition of Embassy Suites as the baseline. Impacts of adding additional hotels were projected. HVS concluded that the near-term development of a conference hotel facility with the addition of an extended stay hotel to be built shortly thereafter would be most beneficial to visitors, the City of Davis, other hotels in the market, and the overall community.”
However, HVS concluded that “the addition of another hotel, specifically another extended-stay facility, would not benefit the market for another four to five years after the initial extended-stay hotel has opened.”
Bottom line – there are plenty of questions about when and where and how much we ought to build additional hotels. The city has limited locations for hotels within the existing boundaries of the city and the clear need for revenue – but they have to do it correctly.
The council needs to weigh these considerations very carefully, as the future of the entire community hinges upon getting this right.
—David M. Greenwald reporting