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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 24, 2016 -- After a nearly month-long break, the Santa Monica City Council will meet again on Tuesday with several important items on the agenda.

The council will discuss an early-stages project possibly involving the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) to build a multi-sports field in the Civic Center.

One option includes a permanent field along with a subterranean parking garage. The project could cost as much as $85 million, according to staff report. A financing plan would need to be developed.

There are cheaper options, and various other scenarios the council would need to consider, including that California Coastal Commission approval would be required to finalize the project.

City Council members had budged $200,000 earlier this year for a project design. But bids the City received for the job ranged from slightly more than $420,000 to more than $800,000.

The council could decide to change the amount it had budgeted.

Also on the agenda is a proposal to renew the Santa Monica Tourism Marketing District through 2027. The district was formed four years ago to enhance promotion of Santa Monica as a travel destination. Local lodgings pay an assessment fee to fund the district.

Representatives from some of the lower-priced hotels and motels had complained to the council in August about their assessed amount (“Affordable Santa Monica Hotels Oppose Proposed Assessment Rate,” August 26, 2016).

Their assessment, which is added to a guest’s bill, was higher in relation to the total cost of a night's stay than the one for higher-priced lodgings.

"The guests who can afford it the least are being charged the most," said Daniel Gregory, owner of the Ocean Lodge Hotel, at an August council meeting.

In response, City staff has a new proposal that reduces the lower-priced lodgings' ($100 to $199.99 average daily rate) assessment from $3.25 per room each night to $1.25.

Under the revised proposed, the rate could only increase as much as 10 cents per year, as opposed to the previous proposal of 25 cents.

The proposal still features top hotels (average rate over $300) being assessed $5.25 per room each night and the second-tier lodgings being charged $4.25.

Any lodgings that have an average daily rate under $100 are not part of the district.

Also on the agenda is a proposal from three council members for the City to support a so-called carbon tax.

The proposal does not specify if the target were a federal tax, but it states the council would be joining "the California legislature and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu" in favoring a concept, and both support a federal tax.

Both houses of the California legislature passed a joint resolution in August calling on Congress to create a tax on "carbon-based fossil fuels" as a method to reduce emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Revenue from this tax would go to "middle- and low-income Americans to protect them from the impact of rising prices due to the tax."

Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed a resolution in June condemning any potential carbon tax as "detrimental to American families and businesses."

The vote for the resolution went mostly along party lines, with Rep. Lieu (whose district includes Santa Monica) voting in opposition with other Democrats. Only six Democrats supported it. No Republicans rejected it.

Lieu harshly responded to the non-binding resolution in a statement issued after it was approved.

He said, "Instead of working to find solutions to help the American people and fight climate change, House Republicans wasted taxpayer dollars with a pointless vote to condemn a carbon fee."

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