Editorials

Will pricey new hotels be the ‘ruination’ of downtown SLO — or its salvation?

Watch as this rooftop pool is lifted onto downtown SLO’s newest hotel

Marsh Street was shut down Monday night as workers installed a rooftop pool on top of Hotel Serra, under construction in downtown SLO. Watch as crews lift the halves of a stainless steel pool all the way up.
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Marsh Street was shut down Monday night as workers installed a rooftop pool on top of Hotel Serra, under construction in downtown SLO. Watch as crews lift the halves of a stainless steel pool all the way up.

Friends, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Our laid-back college town — where main attractions include cow statues and a montage of slimy, chewed-up bubble gum — will soon be home to swank, $1,000-a-night hotel rooms..

And that has some San Luis Obispo locals freaking out.

Take a look at these Facebook posts:

“These are Manhattan prices!”

“$1,100/night in SLO? That’s a complete rip.”

“Just stick a dagger through my heart right now. This ridiculousness will be the ruination of SLO and the Central Coast.”

Our advice: Let it go, people.

The downtown hotels are here. No amount of pining for days gone by is going to change that.

Besides, it’s not like we didn’t see this gentrification on steroids already happening. The $20 cocktails ... $200 designer T-shirts ... $2 million brownstones were a foreshadowing of things to come.

Rates at Hotel Cerro, with 65 rooms, a rooftop pool and a 4,000-square-foot spa, range from $285 to $805 a night, excluding taxes.

The 78-room Hotel San Luis Obispo is even pricier, with rooms starting at $400 and, during high season, going all the way up to $1,100 for the largest rooms, called the Morro Suites.

What does that buy you?

“The six Morro Suites, each over 800 square feet, accommodate families or groups of four seeking an indoor-outdoor living area with spacious closets and a full bathroom with a deep soaking tub and walk-in shower, perfect for R&R,” writes Lydia Bates, director of sales and marketing.

The suites are ideal for wedding parties, she continues, as well as for entertaining. “Amenities ... include a separate living area with large-screen TV, Vifa sound system, a king-size pull-out sleeper sofa, wine fridge, separate powder room, plus a large terrace with lounge furniture seating and an outdoor dining table.”

Before you book your room, be forewarned: On certain weekends there’s a two-night minimum. With bed tax, that comes to a grand total of $2,393.34.

That’s a splurge, especially when you consider that for the same amount, you could vacation in Hawaii, buy a couple of seats at the World Series or purchase one of those new Samsung folding phones, if they ever get released.

And as many readers have pointed out, you also could enjoy a two-night stay at most oceanfront hotels along the coast — unless we’re talking ultra-high end. A room at Big Sur’s famous Post Ranch Inn, for example, goes for around $2,000 per night.. And the poshest bungalows at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara run $8,000 a night.

That almost makes the downtown SLO hotels sound like a bargain. That’s a good thing, because bed tax may be one of the city’s best tickets to increased financial stability, given the uncertain future of retail sales.

City Manager Derek Johnson expects that bed taxes — estimated to generate $7.8 million this year — will increase by 2% next year, due in part to the new hotels coming on line. He believes sales tax will increase too, since guests will most likely dine and shop downtown.

Let’s hope he’s right, because the city has big revenue needs. It’s looking to raise $400 million for several major improvements, including a new police station, a redesign of Mission Plaza and more bikeways.

To fund those project, it’s been talking about tax increases.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but the more tourist dollars the city collects, the less we have to pay?

So welcome, visitors!

And if there’s anything we can do to help you enjoy your stay (and spend more money), just let us know.

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