(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Proposed ordinance could keep hotels closed, hurt environment and worse

By Thomas J. Baltimore

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the hospitality industry. Travel globally has been brought to a virtual standstill as governments and health authorities work to determine when to ease restrictions and provide guidance on how we engage with one another to prevent further spread of the virus. San Francisco has not been immune to the challenges of this pandemic, and many of its iconic hotels including the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Parc 55 and Le Meridien San Francisco have had to close their doors due to COVID-19’s devastating impact on business, ultimately requiring hotels to furlough or lay off thousands of employees.

Park Hotels & Resorts, as the owner of the iconic hotels mentioned above through its subsidiaries, expects to keep the doors shut on these hotels if the proposed “Healthy Buildings Ordinance” under consideration by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is adopted. I’d like to use this opportunity to address both the threats posed by the proposed Ordinance to San Francisco’s hospitality industry – and the related erosion of the city’s progress on sustainability that the proposed Ordinance will cause.

The proposed “Healthy Buildings Ordinance” first and foremost unnecessarily puts our employees and guests at substantially increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. By prioritizing daily cleaning of all guest rooms, there is a blatant disregard for the personal safety of housekeepers and guests who may not wish to be in such close proximity to another person or their personal effects.

The proposed Ordinance also takes both the hospitality industry and the city several steps backwards on their commitment to sustainability. Water preservation goals, especially in a state that has a notable history of drought, are entirely disregarded in order to have bed linens and towels changed every single day – not by the request of the guest.

Leading hospitality brands have already introduced thorough and detailed cleanliness programs like Hilton CleanStay and Marriott’s Committed to Clean, each designed specifically with both employee and guest safety in mind. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has also launched Safe Stay, an industry-wide initiative that provides hotels across the country access to employee training and workplace protocols for safe hotel practices in the wake of COVID-19. From these initiatives, it is very clear the hospitality industry has responded rapidly and purposefully to address the safety needs of guests and employees created by a global pandemic.

Local ordinances and requirements such as the proposed “Healthy Buildings Ordinance” contradict the exceptional work already done by an industry that is committed to providing welcoming, safe gathering places for all. The undue burden these half-hourly and daily requirements will have on the bottom line of our city’s hotels will become untenable, risking permanent closures and thousands of jobs.

The proposed “Healthy Buildings Ordinance” is senseless business overregulation, puts employees and guests at our hotels at greater risk of COVID 19 infection, threatens San Francisco’s progress on sustainability – and should be voted down.

Thomas J. Baltimore is the chairman and CEO of Park Hotels & Resorts Inc.

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