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San Ramon council supports creating new tourism district

City to break ties with Visit Tri-Valley

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The San Ramon City Council gave its support Tuesday to developing a new San Ramon-focused tourism district and separating the city from its affiliation with Visit Tri-Valley.

"Focusing on five cities is very difficult for anybody to do," said Pam Callahan, from the San Ramon Hyatt House and member of the city's Tourism Ad Hoc Committee. "I think to really hone in and focus on the city of San Ramon and the hoteliers here and what we have to offer is important, and this is probably the best way to do it."

For nearly a decade San Ramon has participated in a regional marketing effort through Visit Tri-Valley along with Danville, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton. As the communities are being asked to renew a seven-year agreement with the organization, San Ramon plans to pull away.

The city's Tourism Ad Hoc Committee comprised of city commissioners and members of the business and hotel community met four times since mid-December to review three options related to San Ramon tourism efforts: renew the agreement with Visit Tri-Valley, do away with a tourism district completely or form a San Ramon-specific district.

According to assistant city manager Eric Figueroa, the committee agreed that the best decision would be to develop a San Ramon-focused district.

"San Ramon should choose its own destiny," said Chris Truebridge, Sunset Development's senior vice president of planning and entitlements. "There's nothing wrong about cooperating with other jurisdictions, but there's also nothing wrong with being a little bit selfish."

San Ramon hotels contribute about $470,000 annually to the Tri-Valley Tourism Marketing District, with San Ramon Marriott as the largest single contributor in the Tri-Valley, according to Figueroa. The council and representatives from the Tourism Ad Hoc Committee expressed interest in putting those funds toward San Ramon-specific efforts.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do with that money here in San Ramon to promote activities here and keep the people staying in the hotels here, eating in the restaurants here, and buying in the stores here," said Councilman Scott Perkins during the council meeting Tuesday night at San Ramon City Hall.

The council provided various examples of activities that could bring people and families into San Ramon, such as cricket, bocce ball and golf tournaments as well as small conventions.

Part of developing the city's own tourism district requires compiling a governing body which, as recommended by the Ad Hoc committee, would be made up of a five-person board including three hoteliers, one representative from Sunset Development and one member from the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce or business community.

Councilman Dave Hudson said he was concerned about the balance of the proposed board. He said he did not think there should be three members from one group controlling the vote. Hudson suggested there be two hoteliers, one chamber member, one Sunset Development member and one at large to be either a city representative or from another entity.

According to Figueroa, the guidelines for forming a tourism district require that it benefit the hoteliers, which is why the board would consist of three hoteliers so they would hold the majority of the vote.

Hudson also suggested that the new district's focus or branding point should not be tourism but instead be geared toward the visitors and the business groups that come into the city.

"We are a bedroom community that has very strong business parks, so that's what we're supported by consistently," said Nany Fullmore of the San Ramon Marriott and a Visit Tri-Valley board member. "On the weekends, we need to attract leisure which is where the tourism comes in."

Hudson suggested modeling the organization as more of a convention and visitor bureau with a tourism component as opposed to making tourism a top priority.

There was one public comment card submitted, which city clerk Renee Beck read aloud, from a resident who opposes the formation of a San Ramon specific tourism district. The resident said San Ramon is not yet a destination city and she would prefer it remain with Visit Tri-Valley until it becomes a destination.

Toward the end of the approximately 40-minute discussion, the council voted unanimously to move forward with a San Ramon tourism district and directed staff to develop proposals for the structure and formation of the new organization.

City staff will return to the council with further details at a later date yet to be determined.

Mayor Bill Clarkson commended the Ad Hoc Committee and city officials for "not entering into destructive conversation about why San Ramon is pulling away from Visit Tri-Valley." He said he is "happy" that the city has taken the "high road" and focused on the positive points when questioned by residents.

In other business

The council held a public hearing on an ordinance that proposes changes to the San Ramon Municipal Code sections related to the city clerk's office and city elections.

No public speakers took to the podium to address the proposed changes. The council voted to hold the second reading and final adoption of the ordinance on March 24.

Earlier in the meeting, two new city employees were introduced to the council. Janice Keller (human resources office technician II) and Teresa Noble (permit specialist) were welcomed into their new positions and given San Ramon lapel pins.

The council also presented a proclamation to April Rovero, founder and CEO of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, declaring this as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by SR Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 12, 2015 at 8:14 am

If our hotels think this is a good idea then I agree that we should go ahead with this. Sending half a million dollars to Livermore and Pleasanton to promote their wineries doesn't sound like it helps San Ramon very much.


2 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Mar 12, 2015 at 8:37 am

One of the highlights of bizarre is the idea of a tourism council for San Ramon. As if anyone comes here to vacation is absurd. This is a bedroom community not a destination.


2 people like this
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

Here is another example of how Big Government is becoming absurdly large and is crossing the boundary of entering into doing the business of Private Business, which it should not do.

Someone enacted a "tax" to charge the hotel for each hotel guest, regardless of their category (business person, relative of local citizen, "tourist"), $2 per day per rented room TO CREAT A LARGE SLUSH FUND from which the politicians will take governmental time and effort to decide how to spend.

Hey, ditch the tax!
Let the Hotels decide how they want to market themselves and what they want to do with their own money. Maybe they want to charge less per room. Maybe they want to charge more and then take that money and do marketing. It should all be a business decision.
If they do a good job of their business and they supply a real need for their product, then the Hotel will survive. If not, then they don't deserve to survive and won't.

WHY is the government involved in this at all?

The previous Tri-Valley thing was probably a costly effort that was just about Government shifted money from the Hotel Guest's hand to other people with their hands out (and in the pockets of government employees).
And you know that, for every dollar of "tax" collected, there will be a certain amount of that money just wastes on the overhead costs of running the marketing organization (where it was the Tri-Valley one....or the new SR specific one).

Are San Ramon citizens contributing to this SLUSH FUND? Does San Ramon itself put tax money into the pot? Or just give a lot of governmental time and effort from its paid employees and Politicians (who should be otherwise busy).

And WHO is getting the marketing contracts for whatever marketing programs are dreamed up?
And WHO is paying for all of the marketing materials, meeting locations, organizational costs of created agencies? Are they using Government rooms and offices?

Are the Hotels really happy and clamoring for this tax? (Or are they really trying to ask the Cities for a hand-out of funds to go do some Marketing Promotion?)

I believe in SEPARATION OF BUSINESS AND STATE!
City government should GET OUT OF PRIVATE BUSINESS and let them do it on their own!


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 12, 2015 at 1:32 pm

The Hoteliers will control the use of the money NOT the local politicians. that is the way these things are set up. The General Manager of the Marriott group and the GM of the Hyatt BOTH spoke in favor of this at the meeting. The city is participating at the request of the hotels NOT the other way around.

Both hotels want to find ways to fill their empty weekend rooms. Check the price of the Marriott on weekends vs the Tuesday or Wednesday price. If they are not already booked up the room is $299 for Tuesday and $99 for Saturday the same week.

The hotels want to promote events and activities in San Ramon to fill their empty rooms.


Like this comment
Posted by Cindy
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 12, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Agree money should not be going out of San Ramon, but San Ramon as a tourist destination - now way. Agree with Hudson on this (which is rare for md). Sounds like hotels are paying and hotel has the possibility of benefiting - if that is the case, okay with me.


Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Mar 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Yes, it makes sense to keep SR money in SR.

Here's the question:
What is the Hotel getting out of this arrangement--of taking money from them, having it go through government hands (at all that time, cost, and inefficiency), and then getting the money back to them (having it spent on a marketing effort that they ultimately want and think will be effective)?
Why doesn't the Hotel just keep the money in the first place and do what they want with it in terms of marketing?

Something doesn't smell right here! The whole equation is not being spelled out.
If I am a Hotel, I'd want to handle my own money and my own marketing ideas--UNLESS I'm getting some additional "benefits" or government "favors" out of this arrangement.

What hidden extras are the Hotels getting here?
Is it that departments of government employees are spending hours working on the Hotel's "marketing programs" for them? Having special committee meetings and meals in city meeting rooms?
Are they getting "matching funds" or additional funds?
Are they getting discounted or city-paid materials, brochures, publications, advertisings, posters, and street banners?
Are entertainment events being organized for them by city depts. And then are police services and road crews being provided to direct traffic for these new events (which means more personnel and road barriers need to be obtained).

The Hotels ARE getting something significant-- something extra out of this arrangement.
And SR citizens are paying for these extras, above and beyond what is collected by the room tax.
There is a "subsidization" of business going on here.

The government is getting involved in the business of doing private business at a cost to the citizens.
And it is working with certain businesses and to the sometimes intentional exclusion of others (the favoring of PC "green" industries over non-PC industries--although that is not an issue here).

It is NOT NECESSARY for government to be involved here. And it just makes for a LARGER, MORE INTRUSIVE, MORE "EMPIRE-BUILDING" BIG GOVERNMENT and more barriers to competition from individuals and small business.
It should NOT BE ALLOWED!

And it all started with somebody getting a Politician to sign on--a Politician that sees no boundaries to what government can and should do.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm

It comes down to state law to set up a Benefit District. The only way to set up this kind of activity is to create a Benefit District. That's the law and it applies to all hotels in the city. The creation of the district must be done by the city. The hotels collect the money give it to the city which gives ALL of the money collected to the Board of Directors of the Benefit District.

The Board decides how to spend the money. The city is NOT a voting member of the board and they do not provide any employees to run the district. The Board could set up shuttle busses to take their guests to the new City Center. They could sponsor sports events for teams from out of town. They can do things allowed by law to support getting people to spend the night in San Ramon on a weekend.

This does not create a bigger government. The hotels vote to tax themselves to create this and they use the money to support their businesses. The city only passes the money through to the Benefit District.


1 person likes this
Posted by San Ramon Observer
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:33 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Resident,

You explained this very well. I was getting ready to agree with Cindy and Macintosh, but you made clear that the $$ raised by the Hotels for the "Tourism District," would be retained by the hotels to use as they choose.

When I first read that San Ramon was creating a "Tourism District," my first thought was, like other residents, "Tourism?" What is there in San Ramon for tourists?

As they used to say about New York City, "It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." Well San Ramon is a nice place to live, but there's not much to visit here except relatives.

Roz


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Forget this "tax", which is just another example of the intrusiveness of the "government-industrial-complex" (to coin a new term & almost plagiarizing Ike's famous quote). If the Hoteliers like it & are going to "use" it, then they ought to use their own revenues for whatever purpose they choose, & they ought not camouflage a &$2- hidden price hike as a "tax".

This is another reason why the business climate is so much better in Texas---the government there tries to stay out of the way of business. (Too bad the weather is so bad in TX, otherwise we'd all move there to get away from intrusive liberal nanny-state government.)


2 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 14, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Yes, Texas is so much better. Oh wait...
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 16, 2015 at 6:16 am

This has very little to do with government but it has a lot to do with the business of hotels. They have low occupancy on Friday and Saturday nights and they want to fix that. A hotel room is a perishable commodity and empty rooms are lost revenue. If they can attract people to their empty rooms then their business will be healthier. This money will be used by the San Ramon hoteliers to help their businesses collectively.


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