Dave Druker | 10th Street
On Tuesday, June 8, voters went to the polls. The hotly contested issue in Del Mar was Proposition J – a TOT tax on tourists for short term residential rentals. The proposition put on the ballot by the City Council was defeated by a margin of 56% to 44% with a turnout of 45%.
The Sandpiper asked Council supporters Carl Hilliard and Richard Earnest and opponent Hershell Price for their take on the results.
Carl responded – “Prop J lost by only 163 votes – just .05% of registered voters. I think the opposition’s positioning the proposition as a tax on struggling seniors who rent out spare rooms during racing season confused some voters. They saw it as a tax on residents – not at all true. The City Council’s decision now will be whether to enforce our zoning regulations, which do not permit vacation rentals, or to legalize those rentals, which some residents believe will turn Del Mar into a vacation rental town. I foresee a robust community discussion.”
Richard responded - “The people have spoken. Fortunately, we didn’t have that potential revenue in the budget. I guess that means we are no better off and no worse off. We will continue to look for ways to have our visitors pay their fair share of the city resources they use.”
Hershell responded – “In my opinion, the voters of Del Mar voted against the enactment of Prop J due to the anti-tax mood of the electorate, the dismal state of our economy and the desire to have less government intrusion into our lives. Also, the proposed tax was not dedicated to beach services and would have gone into the General Fund to be used for more studies, consultants, and additional employees to administer and enforce the tax measure.”
Ultimately, the proposition failed just like Prop N (the real estate transfer tax) in November, 2004 because the City Council did not set the ground work for the need and rationale as they did to get the Clean Water Fee passed in November 2008. Also Hershell was able to successfully frame the issue as an unfair tax burden for people just renting out their houses on an infrequent basis.
In other election news, Crystal Crawford and Francine Busby easily won their primary elections and now face up hill battles against Republican incumbents in districts that have a plurality of Republican registered voters. In terms of absolute numbers, the results are skewed towards Republicans in this primary because of the heated battles for governor and senator. In the 74th Assembly district 29% of the Democrats voted while 39% of the Republicans did, so Martin Garrick had over 17,000 more votes than Crystal. In the 50th Congressional district 36% of the Democrats voted while 45% of the Republicans voted so Brian Bilbray had 26,000 more votes than both Francine and Tracy Emblem. Both Busby and Crawford are optimistic because of anti-incumbent voter sentiment and increasing numbers of independents in this area.