My Last “President’s Letter”

It is not uncommon for a professor, upon retirement, to offer up to the academic community a summation of his or her career in a formal presentation usually titled “My Last Lecture.” As I reach the end of my tenure on the Board of San Francisco Suites, as both Board member and President, I’d like to offer the Association some parting thoughts which I hope will appropriately characterize the Board’s work during the past six years and inspire other Association members to carry it forward by joining the Board.

None of the Board members with whom I’ve served, including myself, came from backgrounds in the hospitality industry although several had related experiences in law, interior decorating, accounting, and real estate development. As a retired English Professor, I admittedly brought little to the Board Room table except having previously served on my Palm Springs condominium’s HOA Board. However, I must say that serving on the Suites’ Board for anyone involves accelerated coursework in real estate law, hospitality practices, interior design, and construction, not to omit Human Resources and even psychology. Suddenly one feels as if he or she has acquired several new degrees in fields far from one’s own specialty but which have very practical and immediate outcomes on the Association’s success.

The Suites Boards on which I’ve served have done their work extraordinarily well, carrying out their regular duties with dedication and intelligence, but also meeting sudden challenges and crises with a seriousness of purpose and a commitment to get the required work done well and efficiently To give a few examples of the former, I must mention the kitchen and bathroom remodeling as well as the rooftop landscaping, the gradual raising of staff salaries and improvement of their benefits, reupholstered chairs and window seating throughout, the renovation of the “4” suites, new hires to replace retired staff, and the sales or adoption of Suites-owned shares to assure the Association’s major revenue source. Of course, none of the above could have been accomplished without the General Manager’s essential help and expertise.

Regarding the Board’s resourceful, even imaginative responses to the unexpected, I must identify two: the need to immediately revise our Bylaws and other governing documents to comply with Governor Newsom’s signing of SB 323, which in effect voided our election rules; and the best actions to take during the Covid-19 pandemic to safeguard guests and staff. Eventually “restating” the Bylaws, with the Association’s approval, divested the Association from California’s often irrelevant and burdensome Davis-Stirling Act, which oversees HOAs but poorly fits timeshares – in effect a “Declaration of Independence” for San Francisco Suites!

With a foresight not given to many others in San Francisco’s hotel industries and timeshare organizations, who remain closed to this day due to staff shortages, this Board decided to keep the business of the Association operating during the mandated shutdowns to handle reservations, to maintain and secure the property; and to not lay off any staff, thereby ensuring that our staff would stay healthy, not seek employment elsewhere, and could return to work at the last minute. This was done without any budgetary shortfall, mostly because our revenue is not dependent on bookings but on assessments and partly due to the government-provided Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loan, which was subsequently forgiven precisely because we kept all our staff employed.

Once the Suites reopened, the Board devised a compensation plan to allow owners who had lost share time during the shutdown periods to rebook that time up to August of this year. It was an extraordinary move, given the Bylaws’ prohibition on banking unused share time, but the Board felt strongly that doing so was fair and that it would create goodwill and confidence in the Association. Were we not independently owned, managed, and governed, unlike so many corporate timeshares, the Board would not have been able to act in a way specific to our owners’ needs and preferences.

Finally, I must say that what is truly exceptional about the San Francisco Suites is precisely that responsiveness to our ownership, in making sure that every guest feels as if he or she were visiting their very special second home, which incidentally is shared with an extended family of over 600 people. The Board’s explicit function is to ensure the financial integrity of the Association while maintaining or even enhancing the high standards of service and accommodation that owners expect of San Francisco Suites. I can say with confidence that for the past six years this Board has met and even exceeded these responsibilities.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to serve you.

Geoffrey Bellah