Does the Wet Suit You


Comida Por Turistas

By J.J. Gasparotti

Reports by Laguna’s hospitality industry clearly show, with great detail, how important that industry is to all those who make a living from it. This used to mean more to folks in town when many of us made our livings from hospitality and tourism.

It’s not like that now. Most folks who live in Laguna can’t afford to work in Laguna. The money isn’t big enough. Laguna is seeing a relentless process of change as properties come up for sale or rent at prices that can’t be paid with a working stiff’s earnings today.

“It’s getting so bad that soon, normal people won’t be able to afford Laguna,” Runa Coen, circa 1960.

The surviving businesses in town are mostly focused on the tourist trade. The hospitality people inform us this is a plus. We couldn’t get the food and beverage choices Laguna has in a normal town of 22,000.

Most of the folks who live in town and eat out don’t go to spots in Laguna. That’s because much of the food served here is tourist food, that just fell out of the back of the big semi-truck. We all know that truck, the one double-parked all over town.

This is a village where you can get a New York steak so tough you could sole tap dance shoes with it. It’s priced at a mere $60, entree only. There’s that special place where you can wash down your rack of baby back ribs, small enough to have come from a Guinea Pig, with a $100 flight of flat bitter beers. It’s true, you couldn’t find these choices in a normal town.

An area where everyone can agree, about the hospitality industry, is our goal of recapturing the costs of all our tourists by taxing some. This seems to be working. More is needed. The contributions of the good, hotel room renting, tourists have reduced the average cost of all our tourist visitors down to $4. Without them, it could be more like $8 each.

Beverly Hills sets a good example in two areas. They outlawed tobacco sales and the majority of their municipal budget is funded by taxes on business activities while residential property taxes fund the minor portion. That is the polar opposite of Laguna Beach. Our residential property taxes fund the majority of the budget, with a large portion of it dealing with the cost of our visitors.

We need to figure out how to increase our cash flow from tourists without increasing the trash flow.

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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