S.F.’s unwieldy rules are needlessly keeping hotels from reopening

Six months into the global COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry faces a sobering reality: When will tourism in San Francisco return? And can hotel employees wait much longer?

Since March, when tourism, business travel and conventions were brought to an abrupt standstill, hotels have been unable to provide work for the frontline employees who are the city’s de facto ambassadors, providing unmatched hospitality to guests visiting from all over the world.

We, like many other hotel owners in San Francisco, have made the difficult decision to keep the doors closed at several of our hotels until there is a viable economic path to reopen. For some hotels in San Francisco, this viable economic path to reopening could be sooner. For others, it could be many more months with the doors closed.

The leaders of San Francisco have left us no choice but to keep our doors shut as we are unable to operate our hotels at our high standards when faced with the following:

• An increase in crime and offensive street behavior that have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and chased away families, businesses and significant convention business;

• The proposed reduction of San Francisco’s workforce to 60% by the work-from-home mandate recently approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission;

• Potential for future tax increases as the city’s November ballot has three separate tax initiatives that will impact businesses;

• No conventions or large meetings and events before late 2021; and

• The newly permanent Healthy Buildings Ordinance, a blatant example of overregulation that puts housekeeping employees and hotel guests at greater risk of COVID-19 exposure, contrary to health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health, Cal/OSHA and even San Francisco County’s own Department of Public Health.

Like many hotel owners and operators, Park Hotels & Resorts takes pride in being an outstanding corporate citizen for San Francisco. Our hotels are recognized as great places to work, and we are committed to being an impactful member of the community as we celebrate all that makes this city unique.

Like many businesses, however, we are frustrated with the aforementioned changes to the business environment in San Francisco that have been spurred by City Hall. Business owners, hotel employees and neighbors look for leadership that will improve conditions for businesses and residents to thrive. Without this strong leadership, San Francisco risks no longer being the beacon on the bay.

The Board of Supervisors should be working with — not against — businesses, especially those who are large employers, to bring tourism, business travel, conventions, meetings and events back to San Francisco as soon and as safely as possible. The Healthy Buildings Ordinance is an example of supervisors ignoring science-based health guidance and openly kowtowing to selfish demands of union leadership. Instead, the Board of Supervisors should be governing for all San Franciscans.

I have great faith in this vibrant city. San Francisco is a metropolis of diverse people and thought, full of resilience and global appeal. With time, and a collaborative approach between City Hall and the business community, San Francisco can find its way back to its true self.

Thomas J. Baltimore Jr. is chairman and CEO of Park Hotels & Resorts Inc., which owns six hotels in San Francisco, including the Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Parc 55.

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