NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 22, 2014 –
By Steve Marschke
West Sacramento officials will try, with at least their third serious effort, to bring a Marriott Hotel to the city riverfront. They envision a project complete with conference center and other amenities.
Last Wednesday, the city council approved an “exclusive negotiation agreement” with Portman Holdings, an Atlanta-based developer whose projects include a Marriott at Union Square in San Francisco and a project in Shanghai, for a possible development deal.
The new hotel is still slated for a three-acre spot near Raley Field, on land now under negotiation. The design has been pared down a bit, from 343 rooms during the last attempt to 300 “keys” in the current iteration, and with reduced conference space.
City officials believe that market forces may well support a hotel, but that public participation is needed if it is to include a conference center and ballroom. So the West Sacramento Finance Authority, a city-related entity, plans to invest up to $28 million to build and own the conference center in of the project.
Portman Holdings, LLC, was chosen from among applicants responding to city outreach to a “short list” of possible hotel developers. Portman Holdings and the city have given themselves 120 days to try to hammer out a project deal. They anticipate Portman will also hammer out a deal to acquire the property from Bridge District Riverfront LLC.
“The direct benefit to the City is the generation of increased property, transient occupancy and sales taxes that in the long term will fund municipal services and construction of public infrastructure,” said a city staff report on the new agreement.
Only one member of the public spoke at Wednesday’s meeting on the project. Jeff Lyon of the north-area Washington Neighborhood Association asked the developer to pressure the city to clean up the homeless camps along the riverfront.
“Why does the mayor welcome the homeless to illegally camp along the river?,” Lyon asked from the podium. “We want to send a message loud and clear, far and wide, that our mayor is not enforcing the law.”
He said the riverfront was “infested” with illegal homeless campers.
The four council members in attendance, though, focused on expressing support for the development deal.
Councilman Mark Johannessen noted that projects are percolating on both the Sacramento and West Sacramento sides of the river.
“Hopefully, the arena is going to be starting on the other side of the river,” he said. “We have, hopefully, a streetcar that will be coming in a year after that. So the timing couldn’t be better.”
His colleague Bill Kristoff added:
“It is not just that stand-alone hotel – it’s the other things that happen because of the hotel.”
“It’s really prime real estate,” observed council member Oscar Villegas. “It’s one of the best corners in the region.”
And Mayor Christopher Cabaldon added that the new hotel project could serve local residents, providing a place to dine and hold weddings. Noting that the city has tried before to make the project happen, he added:
“There is no ribbon cutting yet. . . but this represents a very strong opportunity to make the hotel a reality.”
All four council members voted in favor of the 120-day period for exclusive negotiations with Portman Holdings; Council Member Chris Ledesma was absent.
In other business, the council voted 4-0 to support a bill by State Senator Alex Padilla to phase out single-use plastic bags such as those offered by supermarkets. The bags are believed to be a problem for sewage systems and waterways. Padilla was on hand for the vote.
The council will hold a special strategic planning session, with a facilitator, on Monday and Tuesday at city hall. Monday’s meeting begins at 9:30 a.m., and Tuesday’s at 9 a.m. The meetings are public.
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