Letter: Transient Occupancy Tax Supports Laguna Arts


The Laguna Residents First ballot initiative promotes policies and programs that protect the unique value of Laguna Beach trying to preserve the local environment including the heritage and charm of Laguna Beach.

In his guest column opposing the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative Joe Hanauer writes Yet others have signed on with the hope of stopping the growth of visitors to Laguna. There seems to be distain for not only tourists but businesses as well. The value businesses provide to the City economically, their contributions to the Citys arts and charitable organizations, and their service to residents appear to have no value.”

Some weeks ago, Sam Goldstein wrote I will not apologize for my 43 years of efforts to improve Laguna Beach because Im proud of my work to establish the two percent hotel bed tax. Since its passage in 2001, over $18 million in funds has been directed toward the arts.”

Some readers may be confused about the source of funds they are referring to. Certainly, many local business owners contribute to charities, but the $18 million referred to comes from guests staying at Laguna Beach hotels and motels. Hanauer and Goldstein are not claiming that local business owners are donating $18 million of their own money to the arts.

Fridays Laguna Beach Independent included For Fiscal Year 2021-22, Laguna Art Museum received $147,000 from a 2% assessment on overnight Laguna Beach hotel and motel guests, according to an annual report. Following a strong summer and fall for the hospitality industry, the Museum is projected to receive $218,000.”

The funds are not businesses contributing to the arts, but lobbying to tax hotel and motel guests. You know, when you are quoted a $300 room rate but find out when you check out that the bill is something like $348. The person just gets stuck paying the Transient Occupancy Tax.

My understanding is the extra 2% self-imposed assessment is used to provide funds to the Laguna Art Museum, the Laguna Playhouse, the Laguna College of Art & Design, the Citys Arts Commission, and Visit Laguna.

Providing funds to Visit Laguna may not be necessary as Hanauer also wrote Lets get real! The only way to reduce the flow of tourists is to drain the ocean. So long as we have the gifts of sandy beaches and our beautiful pond we will have a growth in tourism.”

Gene Felder, Laguna Beach

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  1. Be careful what you wish for, Gene. If you want to kill the BID’s funding for Visit Laguna, it will kill the BID. It’s a voluntary, self-imposed tax by the hotels based on a win-win deal: half goes to Visit Laguna, and the other half is divided among the Museum, the Playhouse, LCAD, and the Arts Commission which also has a grants program to assist our many small arts organizations. You may think the BID is a Faustian bargain, but you will have a devil of a time proving it. It won’t do your LRF initiative campaign any favors either.

  2. Tax prosperity and spend on inefficient individuals who thrive on hand outs? If the Laguna Arts is so great why do they need subsidies? Back 30 years ago Laguna Artists had integrity. Now look at the ladies selling little ceramic ornaments of Big Bird, or dried orange peels, or the cheap pet portraits. LCAD is so fat they buy any property that comes up in the area. Arts Commission? HA! Tax the out of towners that LOVE coming to Laguna. Hey, there’s NOTHING they can vote on right? Except by stop coming.


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