J.J. Gasparotti nailed it again with his recent column about the impacts of tourism on Laguna residents.
It is reasonable that those of us who are fortunate enough to live here should be willing to share our good fortune. And that means we will be physically impacted by lots of visitors. That’s not the issue.
The issue is the role the city plays in encouraging ever more visitors when we know there are already plenty, and the role it plays in seeing that visitors are not a financial burden on the residents. And there is, as J.J. points out, growing awareness on the part of those living here that in addition to being on the receiving end of the physical impacts of tourism (parking, traffic, congestion, etc.) the residents are also on the giving end of subsidizing the extra costs of those visitors.
J.J. points out the common refrain of the hospitality industry of the importance of the industry to those making a living from it, but goes on to point out that few of those people working in the industry live here. This is no longer a place where the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are your neighbors, if it ever was. In fact, the vast majority of the people who work here do not live here, and the vast majority of the people who live here do not work here.
J.J. points out that the hospitality people tell us about the big benefit we have of there being more food and beverage choices than if we had fewer tourists. We also have more DUIs and public intoxication items to read about than if we had fewer tourists.
You have to wonder how many people who live here feel those extra bars and restaurants are worth the $2,000 or so per year of the average Laguna household’s taxes that go to cover the visitor costs that are not covered by the visitors and the businesses that cater to them—that $4 per visitor shortage multiplied by 6 million visitors.
And you’ve got to love the Beverly Hills example of a city with about the same number of visitors that receives the vast majority of its budget from taxes on business activities, while Laguna is just the opposite, with most of the city budget coming from tax dollars paid by residents.
That could be corrected if the city’s tourist-focused businesses and the City Council had the will to do so.
John Thomas, Laguna Beach