By J Baltazar/ Solvang Journal Editor
The city hosted event had two sessions. The first one was free and open to the public at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall in the morning.
The 2nd session was a ticketed luncheon with a question and answer session at the hotel Corque Hall. Both sessions had big crowd participants made of residents, the business community, state and county, and city officials.
This year, the State of the City focused on the “Spirit of Solvang, History, and Vision.”
City, county and industry professionals talked about the City of Solvang’s accomplishments and goals for the future.
Mayor Ryan Toussaint said “We want to create experiences and sell the Santa Ynez Valley. We want to encourage people to come to stay here in Solvang. We have the most amount of hotel rooms.” Mayor Toussaint’s reason for preparing a two-part session was to improve communication with citizens.
Many residents attended the morning session at Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall Building to listen to the various speakers coming from different professional backgrounds. It began with a video presentation by Mayor Ryan Toussaint, which featured last year’s accomplishments and a peek on what’s to come for Solvang. Sticking true to this year’s theme, the attendees looked back on Solvang’s history through the years, how it has grown to be what it is now, and discussed future goals as well.
The public meeting was proceeded with the invited speakers namely Jim Knell, chairman the SIMA Corporation, Shelby Sim, president and CEO of VisitSYV, Esther Jacobsen Bates, Executive Director of Elverhøj Museum of History and Art, Ken Hira, president of the Kosmont Companies consulting firm, and a group of Danish exchange students from the Niels Brock Copenhagen Business College.
The second session was a ticketed luncheon at Hotel Corque Hall. There were also additional speakers like Monique Limón, California State Assemblymember, and René Gross Kærskov, co-CEO of Hirsch Bedner Associates and owner/developer of The Copenhagen House.
The luncheon was followed by breakout sessions in separate banquet rooms where city, county, and industry professionals discussed different infrastructure topics and other important matters for the betterment of Solvang. Just like the first half, there was a big crowd during the latter part that consisted of residents, business people, and various state, county, and city officials.
According to Mayor Toussaint, some of last year’s highlights were reorganizing the Planning and Community Development Department for smoother business approval processes and offering amnesty to bring unpermitted improvements into compliance without penalties. Water management has been taken care of as well.
Mayor Toussaint also explained his focus on encouraging more people to come and stay in Solvang. Mayor Toussaint proudly stated that all needed improvements have been done without raising utility rates. The city also has systematized traffic calming measures on some places where traffic can be quite heavy, brought in 700 goats to eat poison oak, cleared out Alamo Pintado Creek and is scouting for the measure on how to beautify Solvang Park even more.
The most noticeable speaker was Jim Knell, chairman of SIMA Corp a real estate investment company that owns and operates, Hotel Landsby.SIMA Corp and Jim Knell who plays a huge role in the tourism of the city. He purchased the Petersen Inn seven years ago and converted it into the today Solvang’s most prestigious Hotel Landsby. Jim Kennel Said :
“What I saw here [then] was a city that didn’t have a vision for the future,” However partnership between businesses and the city is important. We can’t be successful without that partnership. We are currently in the works of turning the PAR office building into a marketplace, where the units are already fully leased by businesses and we expect to produce almost $4 million in gross sales annually. This means more jobs for locals and more to offer for the visitors. When we bought the Petersen Inn in 2013, ( today’s Landsby Hotel) its gross income was a little more than $1 million a year; today, Landsby’s revenue is nearing $6 million annually.
In 2013, the inn generated $155,000 a year in transient occupancy taxes; that rose to $425,000 in 2019. The sales taxes it generated in 2013 were $11,000; in 2019, sales taxes totaled $175,000.
The inn’s payroll in 2013 was $390,000 a year. In 2019, it was about $1.8 million. That “means a lot jobs. It means purchasing power for people who live in the area. The Landsby had brought a new demographic to Solvang. You do that by creating a culture, a culture that attracts visitors to our city, noting other hotels are now looking to emulate that.
We are also in the process of turning the PAR office building into a marketplace, where the units are already fully leased by businesses he expects to produce almost $4 million in gross sales a year, which will translate into about $325,000 in sales tax revenue for Solvang”.