One of my father’s favorite sayings when we were growing up was ‘common sense is not so common.’ Not a great revelation I realize but like most adages hard to argue. That’s certainly the phrase that comes to mind when thinking about the current situation with hoteliers in San Francisco, which has long been one of the country’s hottest hotel markets, at least prior to the pandemic.
If you’re not familiar, hotel owners, along with several hospitality associations, including the AHLA, recently filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco regarding its Healthy Buildings Ordinance, which was passed by the San Francisco and County Board of Supervisors.
In what can best be described as an abundance of caution, the ordinance requires hotels to clean and disinfect all lobby surfaces, fixtures, elevators, stairwells, meeting rooms and loading docks not just once but multiple times daily. In addition, each and every guestroom and bathroom must be cleaned every day unless a guest doesn’t want to. Even if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt on that here’s where it comes of the rails: hotels are required to employ gloved doormen at each exterior door that doesn’t open automatically. What? Aren’t we trying to keep people away from each other as much as humanly possible?
We all agree that cleanliness is a top priority but at what cost? The crux of the issue here is the contention of the AHLA, and the Hotel Council of San Francisco and the California Lodging Association, that the ordinance is really about the unions creating jobs and not as much about ensuring a safe environment, which we would all agree should be a top priority for any property. In short, it just lacks common sense. The lawsuit that was filed has asked the Superior Court/County of San Francisco to declare the ordinance unlawful and unenforceable.
In addition to endangering the health of hotel employees by increasing contact with employees and not recognizing federal and state infections disease expert guidelines for hotels, there is a very real and tangible cost to the ordinance, according to the AHLA. The association estimates that the ordinance will cost the city’s 215 hotels some $220,000 on average.
The average 250-room hotel is already estimated to be spending some $498,000 to implement best practices for cleaning and social distancing to adhere to recommended guidelines. What’s worse is these added costs come at a time when there is little to no excess cash as demand, particularly in major cities like San Francisco, has plummeted. Many of these properties are struggling to keep the lights on, not to mention their employees.
Unfortunately, unions have outlasted their usefulness and become far too powerful and focused on their own agendas. The days of workers being exploited and taken advantage of are far behind us and collective bargaining does not work for all parties involved.
Right now this is a San Francisco problem, but the eyes of the industry should be on this lawsuit because if a precedent is set who’s to say other union heavy cities like New York or Chicago won’t be next. The bottom line is a doorman is a luxury nobody needs right now and all it’s doing is potentially opening the doors to more problems for hotel owners.