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The article below is more detailed than the article which appeared in the print edition.


November 2008 | Henry Abarbanel


It’s 3AM and the concierge of the Palace Del Mar Hotel rings up 755 1522 to hail the Del mar Fire Department to a fire in her hotel. The room occupant, a visitor from Ohio for a week in Del Mar. is alerted in time, and escapes with his life and possessions from the room on fire. The damage is minor as the Del Mar firefighters arrive within minutes, douse the flames, and their paramedic colleagues attend to the shock and (fortunately) minor suffering of the visitors. Another excellent response by our Del Mar Firefighters!

Potential 13 Percenters at L'Auberge

Who pays for the crew of three on duty that morning? Who pays for the trucks and their maintenance and their fuel consumption and the supplies required for a successful fire rescue? Who pays for the roadways along which the firefighters travel, the signals alerting other traffic to their presence, and the street lights allowing safe passage that morning?

Well, you do.

Unless the visitor to the hotel purchases something in our City, so that the sales tax collected on that occasion is received by the City, visitors to Del Mar do not participate in paying for the services they receive, as a matter of course, when they are here. If they swim at our beaches and, unfortunately, require a rescue by our lifeguards, who pays for it? Well, you do. If they, again unfortunately, fall ill while here and are treated and transported to a local hospital by our paramedics in our ambulance, who pays for it? Well, you do.

Cities in California have essentially two ways to collect revenues for services rendered to nonresidents—sales tax and a fee on their hotel stays, if they have one, called TOT. Sales tax is supervised through State law, while TOT, the fees charged for hotel stays, are determined, administered, and utilized by local municipalities with approval of their voters. Del Mar has collected some level of TOT revenues for decades, and on occasion, the City Council asks the voters for authority to raise that TOT amount. If approved by the voters, the City Council consults with local hotels and other businesses, often through discussions with our Del Mar Village Association (DMVA), about what level of room use fee (TOT) would be commensurate with the regional competition—for us, in Carmel Valley and Solana Beach. Today that TOT collection stands at 10.5% on each hotel room bill, and those funds go directly to the City general fund to support all of the services I mentioned, and many I did not note.
On you ballot this year is a question from the Del Mar City Council: should we have the authority to raise the TOT to a maximum of 13% on each hotel room bill?  If this increase is approved, visitors to Del Mar will join in the support of costs for local services—costs presently borne by you and me—the residents.

Actually, only some percentage of the costs of those services to our visitors will be covered by an increase in TOT. We will still be paying for our services as well as part of those rendered to visitors. Probably, we will never collect 100% of those visitor services.

Over the past several years, much thought and much action has gone into revitalizing Del Mar’s commercial district. Residents and businesses have cooperated in this, often though the DMVA. As this is more and more successful, it will naturally result in additional visitors to Del Mar and increased room occupancy at our few, but excellent, hotels. TOT is on your ballot as Proposition H. This is your opportunity to pass the costs for fire services, law enforcement services, etc, etc rendered to visitors on to those visitors. A YES on Proposition H will reduce the burden on you, and, frankly, is only fair. Please vote YES on H on November 4 (or earlier if you have an absentee ballot).


Henry Abarbanel is a member of the Del Mar City Council.


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