By Janene Scully

Noozhawk North County Editor

Renewal of the Santa Ynez Valley’s tool to attract tourists received support from the Solvang City Council on Jan. 12.

Council members voted unanimously to support extending for six years the Santa Ynez Valley Tourism Improvement District.

The district assesses a small fee per hotel room rented and uses the revenue to fund Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, or Visit SYV.

The organization markets the valley’s six diverse communities — Solvang, Buellton, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Ballard and Los Alamos — plus holds educational classes on tourism and customer service for local industry workers.

About 93% of hoteliers supported extending the tourism improvement district. To be approved, the district needs more than 50% support from hoteliers. 

“We need this program to compete in the marketplace and not be ignored or overlooked,” said Shelby Sim, Visit SYV chief executive officer and president.

Santa Barbara County, the city of Buellton and local hoteliers urged the renewal.

“Visit Santa Ynez Valley is extremely relevant, extremely important, and has shown extraordinary dedication, flexibility, sensitivity and resiliency during this pandemic,” said Linda Johansen, a partner in two valley hotels and a charter member of Visit SYV. “We have risen to the occasion. We are responsible, and we are completely transparent in our efforts. Visit Santa Ynez Valley is vital to help sustain our share of the tourism market along the Central Coast. This new six-year contract will ensure that all six communities in the Santa Ynez Valley are represented and marketed effectively and efficiently at no cost at all to us.”

The annual assessment of $3 per room per night may increase to $3.50 in 2024, under the plan. 

For the first year under the renewal, it’s expected that the district could raise $900,000.

Dave Pollock, owner of ForFriends Inn, said Visit SYV provides a vital voice for smaller hotels.

“Visit SYV provides information to hoteliers,” he said. “The information and the support that they provide is more relevant and more timely than that which is offered by state and national entities.”

He also noted that the organization gives back to the community and hosts events.

“This is a good investment into an important organization that’s run by good and professional folks,” Pollock said, urging the council to support the renewal. 

Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Lompoc have tourism improvement districts along with San Luis Obispo County.

Originally formed in 2010, the tourism improvement district was renewed the first time in 2015 for six years. 

The newest renewal takes effect July 1 and runs through June 30, 2027.

In other matters, the City Council:

  • Appointed Solvang planning commissioners, with each council member picking someone to serve. Selected unanimously were Aaron Petersen, Jack Williams, Joan Jamieson, Scott Gold and Justin Rodriguez.
  • Discussed renaming the Branding and Design Committee — the former Board of Architectural Review — as the Design Review Committee. With limited candidates, the council agreed to extend the filing period for applications and make appointments at the Jan. 25 meeting. The council also debated defining the Santa Ynez Valley for possible future members who may not live in the city.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at