Advocacy Overview and Position Statements
SCHA strives to present a united voice for hospitality and tourism issues in Sonoma County. We review and take positions and educate our members on key issues, host candidate forums and meet with elected officials regularly to identify issues and concerns impacting hospitality in tourism.
Additionally, SCHA will monitor California state legislation that affects our hospitality and tourism partners. This will be done primarily through Cal Travel, the California Hotel and Lodging Association and other industry advocacy groups. When appropriate, SCHA will:
- Share details of new legislation with members that directly affects Sonoma County hospitality businesses
- Create talking points and ask members to advocate with locally elected state officials on specific bills in the state senate or state assembly.
SCHA supports the following position statements:
The Power of Tourism
The importance of tourism in Sonoma County cannot be understated, for it is a key driver of our economy. Tourism creates jobs, supports the local economy, enhances lifestyle and culture, and helps to fund local government programs, nonprofits, and regional parks.
The tourism industry is one of the largest employers in Sonoma County, with hospitality employment comprising one in ten jobs (22,330 jobs in 2018). Government revenue generated by the local tourism industry ($102.1 million in 2018) is used to help support regional parks, economic development, arts and culture, education, roads, public safety, education, affordable housing and workforce development among other community programs.
Additionally, local tourism supports opportunity and growth in other parts of the local economy. Economic growth keeps Sonoma County thriving and relevant. A strong local economy is essential to supporting a healthy community.
SCHA stands in support of all work that individual businesses and collective organizations here are doing to ensure that Sonoma County moves with intention toward sustainability.
The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “… management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic goals can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and balanced life support systems.”
The tourism industry is committed to planning and integrating sustainable measures that help ensure the natural and cultural abundance found in Sonoma County endures well into the future. Sustainable tourism is a platform for achieving development objectives in several sectors, including economic growth, environmental conservation, education, and good governance.
In fiscal year 2019/20 our colleagues at Sonoma County Tourism will the lead the local hospitality and tourism industry in new sustainability initiatives and long-term destination stewardship planning. Planning will include input from all key stakeholder groups in Sonoma County.
Importance of Tourism/Destination Marketing
SCHA believes in the power and importance of marketing our destination. The success demonstrated by marketing efforts of Sonoma County Tourism cannot be overlooked in the development and growth of our industry since its founding in 2005.
In addition to creating jobs, taxes generated through tourism fund many parks and other services enjoyed by residents year-round. Tourism also allows more businesses to exist, such as restaurants, tasting rooms, attractions and retail establishments that provide our residents with excellent selection and variety.
While some tourists would find Sonoma County without promotion, it would be a small segment of our current visitors. Marketing the destination has been a huge driver of our success, and it is essential to continue to market the destination, or face losing market share to those who do.
Tourism promotion dollars are constantly being considered for other uses because they are one of the few flexible areas of the county’s budget. SCHA will continue to provide our elected officials with a fuller understanding of the role tourism plays in our economy, educate them on the direct and indirect benefits and dollars generated as more data becomes available, and be advocates for the marketing and promotion of Sonoma County.
Short Term Rentals
Note: Short Term Rentals are defined as being inclusive of the rentals for periods of less than 30 days of a private residence and “Hosted Rentals”, defined by Sonoma County as the rental of one bedroom in a single-family home where the owner is in residence.
SCHA stands ready to engage in a dialogue about options to address community concerns about Short Term Rentals, while providing information on the contribution of short-term rentals to the local economy.
Short Term Rentals have been part of the lodging offering to visitors to Sonoma County for decades. Taken together, short term rentals, both professionally and owner-managed, make up a significant portion of TOT and BIA in the unincorporated county and are an important part of our hospitality and tourism industry. Sonoma County has been a leader in drafting regulations designed to mitigate potential negative impacts of rentals and has tools to facilitate rental owner and guest compliance through the county Vacation Rental (VR) permit process, VR operating standards, and TOT compliance and collection.
It is important to note that Short Term Rentals are prohibited under County ordinance in high density zones (R2 and R3) and other specified areas, which helps preserve affordable housing stock in areas with a high percentage of potential affordable housing units. Short Term Rentals are not allowed in Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s), but these units may be rented for more than 30 days.
SCHA believes that current regulations must be consistently enforced, including compliance with County Vacation Rental and Hosted Rental Permit conditions, County zoning and the TOT and BIA ordinance. Enforcement will reduce potential negative community impacts and help preserve affordable housing stock by identifying and penalizing illegal Short-Term Rentals of Accessory Dwelling Units across all zones and illegal rentals in the high density R2 and R3 zones. The SCHA encourages all cities to adopt Short Term Rental Regulation in line with the county regulation.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EVENTS
SCHA supports the use of well-conceived, legally permitted and produced events that that bring much needed business to our region. The staging of special events, ranging from winery events to fairs to bike races and other athletic events, is important to many wineries and other small businesses and brings visitors to Sonoma County who spend money here. At the same time, events sometimes impact residents with traffic, noise and other potential negative impacts.
SCHA supports proper planning, coordination, communication with residents and other policies designed to support these events while reducing the negative impacts on residents.
COUNTY AND LOCAL COMPLIANCE AND PERMITTING
- SCHA is working to be actively engaged in any County and/or local governing body on pending policies and compliance issues that will impact the Hospitality industry. We strongly believe that an open dialogue between the hospitality industry, citizens, and government will result in win-win solutions and less acrimony. As new policies and compliance requirements are approved by County and/or local agencies, SCHA will work to educate and build awareness industry-wide to support a smooth transition, minimize violations and help businesses achieve compliance.
SCHA supports public and private efforts to address our long-term housing deficit. These efforts include construction of many more housing units, support of high-density housing and housing close to transportation, reduced barriers to development and building, and creative and innovative approaches to address the county’s housing needs.
The challenge posed by lack of housing available for our workforce, which has been compounded by the North Bay Fires of 2017, is a key threat to the future, not only for the hospitality industry, but for all industry in Sonoma County. The County’s ability to attract and retain the quality workforce necessary for us to thrive as a community and an economy depends on affordable housing options and is essential for sustainability and growth.