Commentary: The City Still Needs a Hotel Conference Center

Embassy Suites
Formerly Proposed Hotel Conference center on Richards

In September 2015, the council voted 5-0 to approve an Embassy Suites Hotel Conference center on Richards Blvd.  However, the project was almost immediately sued on CEQA and traffic concerns, and once the suit was settled, the newly emerging proposed hotel was greatly reduced in size.

The proposal passed in 2015 was for 132 guestrooms with an 18,000 foot conference center.  By July 2017, Richards Hotel was down to about 110 rooms, with only 6500 square feet of meeting room area – no longer would it be a conference center.

There are several different issues that the city has sought to address through hotels.  The first is that the city simply has not had sufficient quality hotel room supply.  As the 2015 PKF study puts it, “the Davis market is currently leaking hotel demand due to a lack of higher end offerings and/or due to a lack of extended stay offerings. Depending on the market segments targeted by a given hotel project, new hotels included in the innovation park projects may capture currently unmet demand without affecting demand available to support existing hotels.”

The city has attempted to rectify this problem through primarily three projects.  First, the aforementioned hotel now know as Richards Hotel will be an increase of 65 rooms from the current 45 room University Park Inn.  Second, they approved the four-story, 120-room Marriott Residence Inn along 2nd and Mace which is currently being constructed.

Finally, the council in 2017 approved the Hyatt House Hotel along Cowell Blvd, near Davis Diamonds which is also 120 rooms.  That hotel was stalled by litigation, but that as since been settled and ground will break perhaps as soon as January on that project.

In total then, the city has added over 200 rooms.  That represents a notable increase from the 731 rooms that existed in Davis in late 2015 (which included the 127 room Hyatt Place at UC Davis) – but some of those hotel rooms are not suitable for higher end clientele, such as the Motel 6 and its 103 rooms in South Davis.

The second issue is revenue.  The PKF Consulting study from 2015 projected that four new hotels could generate between $1.5 and $2 million in new revenue for the city just by themselves.  Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) goes directly to the community, with no required tax-sharing with other jurisdictions.

In June 2016, 63.8 percent of Davis voters voted to increase the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax from 10 percent to 12 percent.  City officials estimated that just that increase would generate around $240,000 a year in additional revenue and it would put the city in line with other communities in the area.  That additional revenue was prior to any added hotels.

The one thing we have not addressed in this regard is the need for a large scale conference space.  The city of Davis really lacks sufficient meeting space in general.  If you wanted to have an event with 400 to 500 people, which is really not a huge event, it is not clear where in town you could go.

UC Davis does have a conference center, but that would negate some of the advantages to having a large event in the community.

The staff report from 2015 notes: “The City and campus have a shortage of conference space. The City’s Veterans Memorial Center is aging and has minimal space for large meetings combined with workshops or breakout events.”

One of the hopes of putting the conference center at the current site of 1111 Richards was it was next to campus, close to the downtown, it would bring large groups of people to Davis.  Because the conference center was larger than the hotel could accommodate, the thought was that people going to large conferences would have to stay at other nearby hotels.

Wrote the staff: “Because the conference space is oversized for the number of on-site hotel rooms, conferences are anticipated to bring guests to other hotels within Davis. Preliminary market analysis prepared by the City in 2012 indicated that this development would benefit other hoteliers.”

But between litigation, other costs and other issues, the hotel conference center has been scaled down.  The meeting room space of 6500 might accommodate some events, but it is not going to be able to host large scale conferences.

Thus as we look to a possible Innovation Center at MRIC, we might consider putting a hotel conference there.  EPS estimates that a hotel could generate around $700,000 in revenue at MRIC by itself.

The advantages to the hotel/ conference center at MRIC is it would bring visiting scholars potentially into the space.  UC Davis could host larger conferences at MRIC rather than having to rely on their more limited facilities on campus.  Furthermore, as EPS points out: “hotel/conference uses provide important meeting places available for industry events.”

For instance, I just received an invite from UC Davis to attend the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit which will take place in San Francisco on March 19-20, 2019.

“The 2019 World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, being held in San Francisco, March 19-20, is an international conference, bringing together more than 1,000 innovators, companies, and investors to explore innovation and translational research impact in the agri-food sector. Several of the preliminary speakers announced will be participating as part of the research impact stream within the conference program on Monday March 19, that has been organized by UC Davis.”

But here is the key point: UC Davis is the primary conference Research Partner and here they are holding the conference in San Francisco.  Perhaps they want to have the conference in San Francisco anyway.  But maybe if we had a large scale conference center, in the future, they could have such a conference in Davis near the campus instead?  That way they could showcase their campus to the world.

Right now, neither the city nor the university could host such a large conference.

The Richards Blvd. location had both advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage of course is walking distance from campus and the downtown, so someone could park at the newly built garage and then not have to drive again.  But the traffic issues were of concern as were space limitations.

Having a Hotel Conference Center at MRIC would avoid the space limitations and parking concerns.  There is another hotel across the street being built that would have 120 rooms.  There are not a lot of restaurants nearby however – but perhaps, the building of the Innovation Center would encourage restaurants along Second Street and on Chiles or perhaps some would be built on MRIC itself.

We have a world class university and it is a shame that they have limited facilities to host world class conference like the world Agri-Tech Innovation Summit.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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72 thoughts on “Commentary: The City Still Needs a Hotel Conference Center”

  1. Rik Keller

    TOTs can be a great source of revenue! But at what point do new hotels cannibalize business from existing ones?

    This article essentially says “look at all the hotel space that is being constructed since 2014! We definitely need even more!”

    However … that 2015 PKF report cited showed annual average hotel occupancy rates in Davis at 66.8% in 2014 (p. 18) before all the new construction. That figure is significantly lower than comparable figures in Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano ranging from 75-86% in 2017 and 2018. See: https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/8857809-181/hotel-occupancy-rates-decline-napa-sonoma-marin

    With relatively low occupancy rates and substantially more rooms coming on line, when will the Davis hotel market be oversaturated?

    Why doesn’t the Davis Vanguard provide even rudimentary analysis and context in these articles?

    1. Ron

      Rik:  “With relatively low occupancy rates and substantially more rooms coming on line, when will the Davis hotel market be oversaturated?”

      Probably at about the same time that commercial market space/availability is oversaturated.  (In other words, now.)

        1. Rik Keller

          [doing Greenwald’s homework for him again, here’s a hint: “The conference center itself is a loss leader. It’s the hotel rooms and the services that make it financially viable. A private developer will never build a stand-alone facility because it would never generate the money it needs. If it were a good business model, somebody would have done it already. From a hotel perspective, they almost give away the facility space, because of the rooms. That’s the way the industry works.” https://sierranewsonline.com/developer-talks-about-proposed-conference-center-in-oakhurst/

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            We covered that issue a few years ago (once again). We are not talking about a standalone, we’re talking about a hotel attached to the conference center. We are also not talking about it from the perspective of the hotel, but rather from a community needs perspective.

        2. Rik Keller

          Greenwald: if you covered the issue “a few years ago (once again), why haven’t you gotten up to speed on the knowledge base required to critically analyze these topics?”

          And why are you republishing information about a study from several years ago and apparently expecting people not to comment?

      1. John D

        This conversation is so sub-par it is sad.

        For reference, here is what our former Mayor would have been used to when he returned home for the holidays:

        https://lancasterconventioncenter.com/

        It’s called community reinvestment and it isn’t free and it isn’t something that you are going coerce from developers interested in investing in Downtown.  In fact, it is the opposite, it is the type of reinvestment by the City that is undertaken in order to encourage and entice reinvestment in the city.

        It’s something that happens because a community has a coherent vision of what is wants to become and only after lots of heavy lifting by lots of committed supporters have all pulled together in support of a unified vision for the future direction of the community.

         

        1. Rik Keller

          John D: corporations LOVE it when convention centers are publicly-financed, because then they don’t have to subsidize them themselves. As to whether they make sense for communities, the devil is in the details.

        2. Rik Keller

          John D: is this what you want for Davis?

          http://newslanc.com/keisling-marriott-expansion-puts-cart-before-the-horse/

          “The Convention Center has been losing money hand over fist since its opening in 2009. Audits show bottom line operating losses each year since 2009 to 2015 from $3.9 million to $3.5 million. The authority can’t pay its bond service and went into technical default in 2011 to 2012, requiring the current restructuring bailout involving, among other things, redirecting funds from Lancaster authorities and CRIZ….”

        3. Rik Keller

          Greenwald: ah, so you are good with just accepting a marketing op-ed from CEO of “Visit Sacramento” at face value, as opposed to providing some critical analysis? True to form.

          That Lancaster link is from an actual community watchdog group. Notice how they publish stuff that doesn’t just toe the corporate line. Something to think about…

          I dare you  to publish tomorrow morning a summary of this book mentioned in the article. It would inject some needed critical thinking into the discussion: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15221.html

          “”In Convention Center Follies, Heywood Sanders deflates overblown claims that convention centers will contribute to urban economic development and explains why city leaders so easily succumb to these claims. This carefully researched and clearly argued book is an exceptionally important contribution to the study of urban redevelopment and the politics of policy making.”—Susan S. Fainstein, author of Policy, Planning, and People: Promoting Justice in Urban Development

          “Heywood Sanders describes in rich detail how, beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the twenty-first century, American metropolises have made convention centers key elements in their efforts to revitalize ailing central business districts—and why the billions of dollars spent on the enterprise have yielded such meager results. An eye-opening study written clearly and forcefully, Convention Center Follies is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the factors that have shaped modern U.S. cities.”—Roger Biles, Illinois State University

          Convention Center Follies is political history at its best. Sanders convincingly generalizes across extensive cases and national data to offer a cautionary tale about motives, incentives, and local economic development.”—Edward W. Hill, Cleveland State University”

        4. Rik Keller

          Greenwald: you can use this as a model of how to do it: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/jul/02/citylights1-how-can-convention-centers-be-so-dumb/

          “A remarkable new book, Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, tells the amazing story of how one American city after another builds into a massive glut of convention-center space, even though the industry itself warns its centers that the resultant price-slashing will worsen current woes.

          The author is Heywood Sanders, the nation’s ranking expert on convention centers, who warned of the billowing glut in a seminal study for the Brookings Institution back in 2005. In this new, heavily footnoted, 514-page book, Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas/San Antonio, exhaustively examines consultants’ forecasts in more than 50 cities…

          Yet, in city after city — including San Diego — self-appointed civic leaders listen to and act on these faulty forecasts. In almost all cases, mainstream media and politicians swallow the predictions whole without checking the consultants’ miserable track records.

          …But such warning signals are not flashed by consultants, who are paid fancy prices by cities. Who are these error-prone consultants? They are units of major accounting firms, such as Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, KPMG, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte & Touche. Then there are private purported research firms such as C.H. Johnson Consulting and CSL International. They crank out so-called studies for cities with the same conclusion: build! Often they use the same verbiage: “They are remarkably adept at saying exactly the same thing to other cities in exactly the same words. Much of the study for Anaheim was word-for-word from the study for Baltimore,” says Sanders….

          …Why do the centers tolerate such nonsense — and then worsen it by expanding? The whole process is basically maneuvered by the business community — banks, hotels, retailers, construction industries, others who will profit while the city loses

          “The fundamental motivation is increasing land values,” says Sanders. And picking taxpayers’ pockets.”

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Yes Don, we are talking about a conference center here and one that is privately not publicly financed.

          2. Don Shor

            So basically a 10 – 20,000 square foot building that is either part of a hotel or part of a nearby office building, built by private funds and basically just a small part of the business park. So most of the discussion here has been irrelevant with respect to costs to the city or taxpayers and relative profitability.
            I am baffled by the whole direction of this conversation about MRIC at this point.

        5. Rik Keller

          Greenwald: why did YOU link to a puff-piece op-ed on the Sacramento Convention Center? Sorry that you don’t want to discuss that now that you have found out that the actual overwhelming evidence from the real world shows the folly of going down that path.

        6. John D

          Rik & Ron,

          Responding to your comments above:

          I’m not advocating for a convention center in Davis.   What I am advocating for is a city with a vision for the future and a willingness to recognize the associated need for proactive investment to get there – and then to doing something about it.   A form-based code review is not a strategic assessment as to how we get from here to there.  It isn’t even the beginning of such a process – unless or until the conversation turns to the topic of what drivers will be required for its actualization.   And thus far, the Davis Planning Commission has been told to go pound sand when they ask such questions.

          As regards the the Sacramento convention center.   So what if it loses money – and same for the arena?

          I suppose you would rather have a continuation of a burned out hulk of a former mall cum homeless gathering place in the heart of Downtown Sacramento?   Do you really think that cities don’t compete with one another to attract the best and brightest – those who subsequently create new neighborhoods, employment opportunities and lift the overall quality of life for those in the urban hive?

          Do you somehow imagine that doesn’t come with major injections of capital – public and private?   Call it a loss leader or whatever you like but in the case of Sacramento and many other communities it is rarely the boondoggle that some would have you believe.   Take a look at assessed values and reinvestment in Midtown and Downtown Sacramento – those translate directly to increased property taxes, increased employment opportunities, increased economic activity – all of which “indirectly” feed into increased revenues for the hosting municipality/community.

          Must have missed it, but I don’t see any of your criticisms or analysis considering any of these very real – tangible and intangible – aspects of urban redevelopment initiatives and their associated return on public sector investments.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      PKF despite that analysis, which was included in their study, nevertheless felt that Davis could absorb additional hotels. One of the reasons they argued that Davis didn’t have a lot of hotels on this end of the market and did not have events suited for them as a result.

      Part of the reason I would caution against looking at hotels from that approach is the specific need generation of a conference center.

      1. Ron

        I believe that another commenter (who is generally quite supportive of more development) previously noted that conference centers don’t pay for themselves.  And, that’s ultimately the reason it wasn’t included at Embassy.

        Oh – I just noticed that Rik already addressed this, but I’ll leave my comment as well.

      2. Rik Keller

        Greenwald: the PKF study projected  that THEIR CLIENT’S PROJECT would be feasible and would achieve a good occupancy rate because of the location and the newness/amenity level of the facilities compared to some of the competition. It didn’t examine what impact the added rooms would have on the market for existing facilities.

        Before publishing articles like this, it would help the level of community discussion to do your homework beforehand, be better informed on the issues, apply critical analysis, and to actually be the “community watchdog” you claim to be.

        1. David Greenwald

          Yes, I read their report in 2015, I met with other hoteliers in early 2016, I cited PKF on the two points that I agree with them – the leakage issue and the TOT potential for additional hotels.  The biggest point I make here is on the potential for a hotel-conference center and the need for it in this community.

    3. Mark West

      “TOTs can be a great source of revenue! But at what point do new hotels cannibalize business from existing ones?”

      Why is that a concern for the City? Is it the job of the City to protect existing businesses from competition? As long as the total TOT revenue continues to rise with each new hotel, the City benefits.

      If we were truly reaching ‘capacity’ for hotels in town, we would not have three projects in or entering construction and another doing a major renovation.

      1. Matt Williams

        I concur 100% with Mark West’s point.  It is not the job of the City to pick winners and losers within local market segments.

        Regarding Rik Keller’s point about cannibalization, my meetings with the many local players associated with both hotels and conference centers led me to believe we are in a “Coke and Pepsi Wars” situation.  Regardles of one’s personal cola preferences during those dueling ad campaigns, the reality was that both companies “won” the Wars.  The reason was simple, the awareness of colas in general was raised to such a point that both Coke and Pepsi saw big spikes in their respective cola sales and revenues and profits.

        Right now our number of hotel beds is not a sufficient critical mass needed to provide local rooms for mid-sized conferences (and larger).  Therefore they go elsewhere.  The UCD Conference Center and related meeting space is more than large enough to handle the mid-sized conferences if we get enough beds/rooms to house the participants.  If that happens there will be no cannibalization of local stay days, only cannibalization of stay days in other cities that would have gotten the conference instead of Davis.

        1. Ron

          Matt:  “I concur 100% with Mark West’s point.  It is not the job of the City to pick winners and losers within local market segments.”

          The problem with Mark’s point is that it’s the wrong one, to begin with.

          It is not the job of the city to approve sprawling developments to try to create more market demand, much less subsidize that effort.  (Nor is it the job of individuals to interfere with investments by existing businesses, so that the “only alternative” is sprawl.)

          I can only imagine how quickly a proposal for city investment in a private, peripheral development on prime farmland will fall flat on its face. (That idea might fly at someplace like Aggie Square in Sacramento, but not in Davis.)

        2. Ron

          Here’s an idea:  If UCD wants a conference center, maybe they can fund it and find a spot somewhere on their 5,300 acres.  They also probably could have found a location for it at Nishi, if they weren’t so opposed to having traffic go through their land (in reference to the innovation center component that was eliminated).

          1. Don Shor

            If UCD wants a conference center, maybe they can fund it and find a spot somewhere on their 5,300 acres.

            Which would provide zero financial benefit to the City of Davis.

        3. Ron

          Matt:  “The UCD Conference Center and related meeting space is more than large enough to handle the mid-sized conferences . . .”

          Great!   I didn’t even know they had one. I guess that David wants another one.

        4. Ron

          Don:  “Which would provide zero financial benefit to the City of Davis.”

          If another one is located on campus, it could still help fill hotels, restaurants, stores, in the city.  Regardless, conference centers don’t pay for themselves (as noted repeatedly in the comments). (Assuming another one is even “needed”.)

          Any idea how much parking would be needed?

        5. Rik Keller

          Matt said:

          “I concur 100% with Mark West’s point.  It is not the job of the City to pick winners and losers within local market segments.

          Regarding Rik Keller’s point about cannibalization…”
          The data regarding the relatively low hotel occupancy rates in Davis compared to other nearby areas directly contradicts the idea that Davis is underbuilt in terms of hotel capacity.

        6. Rik Keller

          Don Shor said “[a UCD conference center] would provide zero financial benefit to the City of Davis.”

          The City would still capture hotel and retail expenditures, which is where the real $ is. 

          You didn’t read the links I posted? Conference centers are generally money losers and serve mostly as loss-leaders to boost hotel occupancy/revenue.

        7. Mark West

          “The data regarding the relatively low hotel occupancy rates in Davis compared to other nearby areas directly contradicts the idea that Davis is underbuilt in terms of hotel capacity.”

          In between your attacks on David for not doing his homework, perhaps you might consider doing your own. Your understanding of the hotel industry and your in-depth ‘analysis’ here are both lacking.

        8. Rik Keller

          Mark: please elaborate and provide evidence. Unlike Greenwald, I have provided actual analysis (not “in-depth”. I am only scratching the surface)_and links to real data. You are welcome to try to refute any specific points. Would you like to provide evidence for example, that refutes the conclusions that the 500+-page book written by the foremost expert on convention centers makes that I linked to?

        9. Mark West

          Rik –

          Sorry, it is not my job to protect you from your own ignorance.

          “Would you like to provide evidence for example, that refutes the conclusions that the 500+-page book written by the foremost expert on convention centers makes that I linked to?”

          Ooh…500 pages…that are completely off-topic.

          Reading comprehension is a skill you might consider working to improve. My comment referred to your misinterpretation of the hotel vacancy data and had nothing at all to do with your convention center ‘spaghetti.’

          By the way, if your goal is to gin up confusion and distrust within the community, you are on the right track (with Ron as your able assistant). Solving our community’s serious challenges?…yeah, not so much.

        10. Rik Keller

          Mark West: before you keep tripping over yourself in your zeal to insult me, try a little situational awareness on for size and scroll up in the thread to see that my convention center comments were in direct response to John D wistfully bringing up the Lancaster Convention Center as something we should be doing in Davis.

        11. Matt Williams

          Rik, have you gone over to the UCD Meeting Planning Office and talked to the folks there who manage the UCD Conference Center and related meeting spaces?  My meetings with them several yeafrs ago confirmed that they are forced to turn away numerous substantial-sized conferences every year because Davis does not have adequate hotel rooms/beds to house the conference participants. That pent-up, unmet demand for hotel rooms does not appear in your vacancy statistics.  Putting Davis hotel room inventory over the capacity threshold needed to actually serve those conferences would mean the natural academic conference magnet that UCD is would actually be able to retain rather than just attract visitor stay days.

          I strongly suggest that you take a visit to A Street and get to know the meeting planners there.

        12. Matt Williams

          Rik, here are some key comments from the Lancaster website

          Lancaster enjoys a low cost of living with high quality of life, providing more value for your meeting dollar. Our facilities combine the best of new world sophistication and old world charm, with dedicated space for meetings from five to 5,000 attendees.

          90,000 square feet of meeting space in 27 meeting rooms

          That is pretty modest as convention centers go.  Compare that to UCD’s capacity, which is currently 70,235 square feet with the recent closing of Freeborn Hall.  Prior to that closing UCD’s available space was 89,651 square feet.  That is a rounding error from the 90,000 square feet Lancaster reports it has. Meeting space is not Davis’ problem.  Hotel room capacity is the challenge.

  2. Ron

    I seem to recall another hotel operator in town, expressing concern on the Vanguard’s website regarding oversupply of hotels (in regard to the Embassy, Hyatt, and/or Residence Inn proposals – all of which were subsequently approved).

    Isn’t there still some kind of lawsuit pending regarding Hyatt (unrelated to neighbors’ concerns)?  If so, what was that about?  Is it still active?

        1. Ron

          Normally, it seems that you do quite a bit of “uncovering”, regarding local lawsuits related to development proposals.

          Was it initiated by the same hotel owner who (as I recall) expressed concern about oversupply, on the Vanguard?

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, I met with the plaintiff a number of weeks before he filed the lawsuit.  If you really want to know what his perspective is I would suggest you reach out to him.  He is the owner of the Holiday Inn Express on Research Park Drive.

  3. Matt Williams

    “There are several different issues that the city has sought to address through hotels.  The first is that the city simply has not had sufficient quality hotel room supply.”

    Agreed

    “Depending on the market segments targeted by a given hotel project, new hotels included in the innovation park projects may capture currently unmet demand without affecting demand available to support existing hotels.”

    I also agree with that statement.

    “The one thing we have not addressed in this regard is the need for a large scale conference space.  The city of Davis really lacks sufficient meeting space in general.  If you wanted to have an event with 400 to 500 people, which is really not a huge event, it is not clear where in town you could go.

    UC Davis does have a conference center, but that would negate some of the advantages to having a large event in the community.”

    This is where we disagree.  In my opinion the Conference Center on the UCD campus is an ideal location.  The reason is pretty simple.  If/when Davis gets enough hotel rooms to be able to host conferences, the largest proportion of those conferences are likely to be from technical/academic societies that currently have their annual national meetings in rotating cities around the country/world.  Currently there are a wealth of UCD academics and academic departments who would like to be the host of their respective national meeting.  There is a natural synergy between the University and those societies.  The “host” will naturally want to show off their facilities and endeavors related to the subject matter/focus of the society.  All of that happens on the campus.  Being able to walk from the Conference Center to the laboratories and research facilities is definitely a positive.

    With that said, let’s look at the question from a City revenues perspective.  The biggest revenue generators from a Conference are (1) the TOT, which will be governed by the hotel location, not the Conference hall location, and (2) the purchases that the visitors bring to the local businesses, which again are independent of the Conference hall location.

    The originally planned Olive Drive Conference Center did (in my opinion) have significant positives.  It is very close to both the campus and the existing UCD Conference Center … an easy walk.  A conference center located at or adjacent to MRIC would not have that proximity positive … either to the existing facility or to the downtown businesses.

    JMO

    1. Rik Keller

      Matt: I agree with most of your points here. For a whole host of reasons, it makes much more sense to hold UC Davis-related conferences (and others!) at UC Davis.

      And this isn’t theoretical: look at this large list of conferences that are actually happening and have recently happened at the UC Davis Conference Center (that Greenwald wants to pretend won’t help the City even though hotel stays and retail spending are the primary revenue generators from this kind of activity): http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/conflist/

    2. David Greenwald

      Matt – I said it would negate some of the advantages.  The other problem is that even UC Davis doesn’t have a facility large enough to host major conferences – that’s why the Agri-Tech conference is in San Francisco not the UC Davis campus.  I suppose you can argue they could build one, but then I would argue, so should we.

      1. Ron

        From Matt: “All of that happens on the campus. Being able to walk from the Conference Center to the laboratories and research facilities is definitely a positive.”

        From article:  “Perhaps they want to have the conference in San Francisco anyway.”

        1. Ron

          They apparently have a mid-sized facility, on campus.

          Matt’s statements note the advantages of having another one on campus, and not at MRIC.  (Regardless, that’s up to UCD.)

          Here’s some other, related quotes from Matt (above):

          “In my opinion the Conference Center on the UCD campus is an ideal location.”

          “A conference center located at or adjacent to MRIC would not have that proximity positive … either to the existing facility or to the downtown businesses.”

      2. Matt Williams

        Davfid, Davis is never going to be a worthy destination for major conferences.  There simply isn’t enough to do in Davis for the thousands of participants major conferences attract.. Our sights really can’t rise above mid-level conferences. There is a “there is not enough to do in Davis” theme is regularly heard from young Agri-Tech professionals (especially single young Agri-Tech professionals) who choose to live in San Francisco rather than Davis.

        There is an old saying about Davis that applies to this situation.  “Davis is nowhere, but close to everywhere.”  Major conferences want more than “close to.”  They don’t want to hear in their participant evaluations that the conference was boring.  For those of us who like the closeness of Point Reyes and Mendocino and Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe and Yosemite and Locke, the definition of “close” is somewhat liberal.

      3. Tia Will

        First, my disclaimer. I know absolutely nothing about the hotel/conference center industry.  Having said that, it seems to me that the very first principle is not being addressed adequately. That of need. While I understand it would be nice for the city to be able to generate more money through TOT, I believe there is a basic assumption here that the city is the most appropriate place to locate a conference center.

        Matt touched on this with his comments about the campus being the more appropriate location. Perhaps the SF Agri-Tech conference is simply a bad example, but it seems to me that if you are trying to draw a very large, international crowd, they are going to prefer a world-class city such as San Francisco,  Seattle rather than a small city attached to a major university. This was certainly true of the nationwide ABOG conferences I attended when practicing. I am having a hard time envisioning Davis as competing with these major metropolitan cities for this type of large group any time in the near future regardless of revenue generation for the city.

        1. Mark West

          There is a big difference between a relatively small conference center and an international convention center, just as there are big differences in attraction between a small city like Davis and that of a major metropolitan city like San Francisco. Conflating the two is more than silly.

          Davis could use another small to a medium-sized conference center, but I don’t see it as a major financial benefit to the City simply because we lack the hotel space to accommodate the existing conferences and events being held at the University. If we cannot handle the traffic coming to the existing conferences, why would we want to build another facility?  Where we should focus our efforts is in expanding our hotel inventory as that is what will bring significant revenues to the City. Adding a privately funded conference center and attached hotel to an innovation park proposal, makes a good deal of sense, but there is no reason to consider a convention center sufficient to meet the needs of a major international convention.

        2. Howard P

          In the eyes of the beholder… City of Loveland, CO hosted a national conclave on ’roundabouts’ … in the ’90’s… I attended, representing Davis… Loveland currently has a pop. of ~ 77,000… about 60 miles N of Denver… about 15 miles south of Fort Collins… CO State University there, and in Golden, CO (~ 65 miles,) CO School of Mines (a prestigious University, for those in the know, particularly for engineers).

          Loveland did well from that… but not the basis for the City budget… a component, yes… Davis needs a balance of revenue generators, and cost containment.  Taxes are a component.  TOT, sales (nearby restaurants did well!), etc., in Loveland.  Part of the mix.

        3. Matt Williams

          Mark, while I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of your comment above, the following needs some explanation.

          Adding a privately funded conference center and attached hotel to an innovation park proposal, makes a good deal of sense,

          Are you saying that the innovation park is going to generate its own self-sustaining demand for conferences?  I have a hard time envisioning that.  Help me better understand what you have in mind.

  4. Matt Williams

    I’m going to make a constructive suggestion, and I hope Don does not take it down under the provisions of the new policy.

    Some of the posters here in the Vanguard really need to get a room and hash out their differences without imposing their back and forth whining on all the other Vanguard readers.  Although our detailed reasons probably differ, I share Don’s sentiment in his earlier comment, “I am baffled by the whole direction of this conversation …”

  5. Ron

    John:  “As regards the the Sacramento convention center.   So what if it loses money – and same for the arena?”
     
    I suppose you would rather have a continuation of a burned out hulk of a former mall cum homeless gathering place in the heart of Downtown Sacramento?   Do you really think that cities don’t compete with one another to attract the best and brightest – those who subsequently create new neighborhoods, employment opportunities and lift the overall quality of life for those in the urban hive?

    Davis already has the “best and brightest” (due to UCD, and proximity to employment in Sacramento), and doesn’t have derelict malls, schools, or neighborhoods.  This is ultimately the same reason that massive change (which brings its own costs and problems) will be rejected.

    Other cities should be so fortunate to have the “problems” that Davis has.

    1. John D

      Yeah, Ron……….

      unless you’re one of the unfortuate few who has recently graduated from UCD and would like to find a suitable job and place to live in this town (not unlike the path a lot of DV posters actually enjoyed), or someone who hopes to raise their young family in a place like Davis……..or should that privilege only be reserved for the fortunate few like you and me?

      1. Ron

        John:  I was responding to the question you asked of me.  You’re asking something different, now.

        Regardless, I’d say that no one is preventing others from pursuing the possibilities you describe.  Perhaps some are attracted to Davis because of its (relatively) slow-growth policies.  I know that’s one of the things I appreciate about it.

        I’d probably move to Marin (or somewhere similar), if it was more affordable. However, I don’t expect such locations to adjust their policies, in a fruitless attempt to accommodate someone like me. (Simultaneously destroying much of the reason that I like Marin in the first place.)

         

  6. John D

    Yeah, but….as you expressly avoided address the actusl thrust of my question and left it out completely with uour reply.

    Here’s the rest of the quote:

     

    ….best and brightest – those who subsequently create new neighborhoods, employment opportunities and lift the overall quality of life for those in the urbsn hive.

     

     

    1. Ron

      I thought I did respond to that.  Compared to your example (e.g., the mall in Sacramento), the quality of life in Davis doesn’t need “lifting”.  In fact, the quality of life will worsen, with sprawl.

      One might also ask what happens to the homeless people that you cited, in your Sacramento example.  (Similar to gentrification.) Do they just get pushed out, to somewhere else?

      1. Howard P

         In fact, the quality of life will worsen, with sprawl.

        Some folk, who were in Davis circa 1965, might agree… you are likely part of the sprawl, Ron… own that.

        As a”newbie” am tempted to draw the line @ 1972 (student), or1979 (‘real person’ with a job here)…when did you arrive, Ron, and how old/where is your housing?  Wasn’t it “sprawl”?

        1. Ron

          Howard:  “Some folk, who were in Davis circa 1965, might agree… you are likely part of the sprawl, Ron… own that.”

          That is true.  But, I’d likely still be alive (somewhere else), probably just as happy.  But then again, we wouldn’t be having this fine conversation, today.

          I’ve been “priced out” of my original home town, but harbor no ill will regarding the circumstances (“newbies”, and unbridled economic growth) which led to that. Nor do I feel that my original home town “owes me” anything, or needs to change on my behalf. We have “parted ways” (probably permanently), and I’m fine with that.

  7. Don Shor

    There is so much distraction and misdirection on this thread that it makes your head spin.

    Example 1: a conference center proposed for Oakhurst, population 2,829, with a request for revenue sharing to make it work. Relevance to Davis?

    #2: Comparison of Davis hotel occupancy rates with “Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano.” County-wide rates for those counties? Can you think of a reason they might have generally higher occupancy rates than Yolo County? Relevance to Davis? Does that mean a lower rate would not be profitable in Yolo County and/or Davis? Is this really a relevant comparative statistic in any way?

    #3: discussion of public financing of convention centers. Nobody is proposing a publicly-financed convention center. Actually, nobody is even proposing a convention center. It’s a conference center.

    #4: Reference to big book about how convention centers usually cost cities money, evidently in reference to large convention centers in large metropolitan areas. Relevance to Davis? None. Nobody is proposing a convention center. Nobody is proposing that the city finance it in any way.

    Then, further conflation of conference centers with convention centers.

    Finally, proposal that UCD build a conference center “if UCD wants a conference center.”
    They already have one. That isn’t the point.”

    It’s getting pretty hard to understand what the real objection is here.

    1. Rik Keller

      Don Shor: I’ll respond to the points that I have been involved in discussing

      2) OK, compare to some other localities if you wish. Be my guest. For example, Denver = about the same as the other localities I cited. Point is Davis has a lower occupancy rate than lots of other places, indicating that there isn’t a giant untapped demand, and that further hotel development might just cannibalize from existing hotels rather than add new revenue.

      3) John D brought up convention centers in his comments saying that the discussion to that point was “sub-par. He brought this up in the context of making public  “investments” to realize public benefits. So I addressed that. I brought up actual data demonstrating that we should be really cautious about that kind of rah-rah rhetoric. And the same caveats brought up in that subs-thread apply to conference centers too: over-reliance on rosy projections, new hotel rooms cannibalizing from existing, etc. Lots of relevant overlaps in the discussion

      4) see above. Also, see Greenwald bemoaning that we can’t get giant conventions in Davis that require convention center-level scale.

      5) Greenwald blew off the existing UCD Conference Center at UC Davis, in trying to argue for some sort of peripheral conference center that he then wants hotels to serve, and that he then wants a bunch of retail and restaurants to serve, etc. Meanwhile, as Matt discusses, the UCD Conference Center actually the the best solution that type of activity. And it already has proximity to exiting retail and hotels that we are presumably trying to keep viable.

       

      1. Don Shor

        Average hotel occupancy rate nationwide, 2001 – 2017: https://www.statista.com/statistics/200161/us-annual-accomodation-and-lodging-occupancy-rate/
        So with respect to your comparison of

        2015 PKF report cited showed annual average hotel occupancy rates in Davis at 66.8% in 2014 (p. 18) before all the new construction. That figure is significantly lower than comparable figures in Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano ranging from 75-86% in 2017 and 2018.

        Davis is slightly above the current national average (65.9%), and the counties you cited are substantially above it.

        In my opinion, as one who has in the past arranged for events for my industry and related ones, and once arranged a public event in Davis, this city would definitely benefit from a privately owned modest-sized conference center. If we’re lucky, a sit-down restaurant of high quality might locate nearby.

        1. Mark West

          I believe it is helpful to understand a bit about hotel ‘occupancy rates’ as it was described to me by someone in the industry. Hotel customers fall into two general classes, business travelers who tend to arrive on Monday and leave on Friday, and vacation travelers, who tend to arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday. The impact of these two trends is that most hotels are empty (or nearly so) on Sunday nights. This is because the vacation travelers have already left and the business folks haven’t arrived yet. So your hypothetical hotel that is 100% occupied Monday – Saturday and is empty on Sunday would have an occupancy rate of 85.7% (6/7). Thus 85% is essentially the maximum capacity of this hotel, not 100%. The reality though, is that not all of the rooms in the hotel are available to be rented out on any given day, due to a variety of reasons, and there is rarely an equal demand for business and leisure visitors in an area. As a consequence, the ‘functional capacity’ of the combined hotels is an area is generally considered to be in the range of 60-80% occupancy depending on the relative levels of business and pleasure travelers.

          To illustrate this, an area that has a high demand for business travelers, but fewer vacationers, might be ‘at-capacity’ Monday -Thursday, but only partially full Friday-Sunday. So for example, four days at 95% (M-Th), two at 60%(F-Sa) and one at 25%(Su) results in an occupancy rate of roughly 75%. With UCD being our primary demand generator, our greatest demand for rooms will be M-Th, with the exception of a few major weekends each year (Picnic Day, Graduation, etc.). If Davis were a major vacation destination we might expect to see occupancy rates more akin to Napa and Sonoma, but without that weekend demand, the lower occupancy rate is what is expected, even when our hotels are operating ‘at-capacity.’

        2. Rik Keller

          Mark West: that is a good breakdown of part of the equation. But you are not using data from Davis  to see if it fits that pattern you posit. Nor have you looked at the wide variation in seasonal occupancy rates in Davis. And your idea of “major vacation destinations” doesn’t fit with the data showing Solano County having significantly higher occupancy rates than Davis. In short, you are hypothesizing that Davis is at capacity for hotel space wyth providing evidence showing this to be the case.

  8. Rik Keller

    David Greenwald says ” By July 2017, Richards Hotel was down to about 110 rooms, with only 6500 square feet of meeting room area – no longer would it be a conference center.”

    And yet the UC Davis Conference Center has a capacity in Ballroom A/B/C of 4,000 sq. ft. with another 1,400 sq. ft. in Conference Rooms A/B. And it IS a conference center! It even hosts conferences. Lots of them!

    The idea that Davis is missing out on booking large-scale international conferences like the example given in the article hosted at the Hilton in downtown SF is ludicrous. You are never going to convince an event planner to host one of those in a business park on the edge of a farm field several miles from entertainment and dining options (such as they are in downtown Davis, compared to SF).

    1. Matt Williams

      Rik Keller said . . .  The idea that Davis is missing out on booking large-scale international conferences like the example given in the article hosted at the Hilton in downtown SF is ludicrous. You are never going to convince an event planner to host one of those in a business park on the edge of a farm field several miles from entertainment and dining options (such as they are in downtown Davis, compared to SF).

      On this point, you and I are in complete agreement.  They won’t host one of those large-scale international conferences anywhere in Davis.

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