Santa Monica Lookout
|Affordable Santa Monica Hotels Oppose Proposed Assessment Rate||
By Jonathan Friedman
August 26, 2016 -- Lower-priced hotels and motels are asking for some relief in the amount they must contribute to the Santa Monica Tourism Marketing District (SMTMD), which was formed in 2012 to enhance promotion of the beach city as a travel destination.
The amount local lodgings pay to the assessment district is based on their average nightly room rates, with those charging under $100 not included. The cost is added to the guest's bill.
A proposal on the table to renew the district through 2027 calls for a three-tier system in which the top lodgings (average rate over $300) are charged $5.25 per room each night, second tier ($200 to $300) are charged $4.25 and third tier ($100 to $200) are charged $3.25.
An annual increase of as much as 25 cents could be assessed each year.
Daniel Gregory, owner of the Ocean Lodge Hotel, told the City Council on Tuesday that the current proposal hits affordable lodgings more because the cost percentage is higher.
“The guests who can afford it the least are being charged the most,” he said.
Gregory wants the tier structure adjusted and the possible annual increase decreased for the lower-priced lodgings.
He said he met with Misti Kerns, president and CEO of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism (SMTT) and hopes to reach a good compromise before the council votes on renewing the assessment district in October.
“I think we need to find a way to unify and bring everybody in in a fair and equitable way because we’re on our way to the future," Gregory said.
Chris Metz, owner of the Sea Shore Motel, said the assessment district has been tough on his business because it has been unable to raise its rates other than the amount to cover the district fee.
“We’re raising our rates for other people to make money off us,” he said. “That’s very, very tough for us.”
The hotel owners received a sympathetic ear from council members, who said Santa Monica’s affordable lodgings are important to the city.
“We need those affordable lodgings around town because a lot of our hotels are extremely expensive, particularly for our residents who have family members coming in from out of town to stay here,” Councilmember Ted Winterer said.
Councilmemebr Gleam Davis added, “We all are aware that Santa Monica is very expensive and out of reach for many people.
"I think having affordable lodging alternatives is really key to maintaining the diversity [and] the kind of community that we as Santa Monica want to be.”
Two years ago, a study by the website CheapHotels.org determined Santa Monica was the most expensive city in the state for hotel stays(“Santa Monica Named Most Expensive Destination in California,” June 18, 2014).
The website determined Santa Monica’s top ranking based on its research that the least expensive double room in the city cost $213 per night at the time.
While it might be expensive to stay the night in Santa Monica, that has not meant people are staying away. Recently released SMTT statistics shows tourism in the city is on the rise.
The number of visitors in 2015 was 8.3 million, an increase from 7.9 million the previous year, with annual spending up from $1.72 billion to $1.84 billion.
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