Del Mar is the smallest city in the county in terms of square miles and permanent resident population. And according to a 1996 outside audit of its efficiency and effectiveness “it is a sopisticated and professionally managed municipality ... serving the city’s needs well and tailored to local conditions.”
Those local conditions involve providing services to more than 3 million visitors each year, influencing regional decisions that impact the community, and implementing a significant number of regulations imposed by state and federal programs.
In 2004, Mayor Richard Earnest reported that “the city no longer operates in the same environment as we did 45 years ago when we originally incorporated in 1959... Del Mar has developed and has experienced a dramatic increase in visitors, traffic, and technological demands...our staff of 53 full-time employees provides a wide array of services: firefighting, lifeguarding, planning, maintaining and repairing our streets and infrastructure -- to name only a few.”
It is impressive that in 2013 we are holding steady with a staff of 53 even with ever increasing workload demands from outside the city, from visitors to our parks and beaches, and an ambitious appetite for services from our citizens.
It is also impressive that our fiscal health has been prudently protected during this run-up in service demand and the recent years of economic challenge. So far, that is.
We think it is time for Del Mar to take a hard look at our future economic and service trends. The basic equation is that 2500 households are financing the needs of not only ourselves but well more than 100,000 visitors on average. Our revenue from visitors comes mainly from hotel taxes and some from parking meters. These revenue sources are considerably lower than the costs of service levels for parks, beaches, streets, safety, infrastructure, and more provided for visitors. There is not an equitable distribution of revenue and services between visitors and residents. The bottom line is that visitors enjoy our community largely at our expense. That can only last so long, before we begin to eat into our resident service levels.
We urge the Council and the community to begin conversations about how we can develop some “fair share” policies and practices. There are numerous alternatives for how visitors can help fund expenses. Let’s continue to welcome visitors, but ask them to pitch in to help pay for what they are enjoying with us.