Newport Votes to Hike Hotel Tax, May Put Trolley Back on Track

Times Staff Writer

The Newport Beach City Council voted 4 to 3 Monday night to approve an additional 1% hotel bed tax, effective April 1, and by the same vote approved an agreement calling for the city's Conference and Visitors Bureau to develop a study on the future of the Newport Trolley.

The bureau had proposed a $100,000 plan under which the daily operation of the trolley, halted last month by a council vote, would be resumed with bureau and city funds.

Assistant City Manager Ken Delino said Monday night that, while the council had stopped short of approving resumption of full trolley service, "what they have approved is a big impetus to the trolley." He said the bureau's study on the future of the trolley probably will be completed before May 1.

Proponents' pleas and 2,500 signatures did not sway the council when it voted 6 to 0 on Jan. 26 to discontinue the trolley service because it was too expensive for the city to subsidize and advertising revenue was not as high as expected. The trolley now runs only as a charter service.

Although it unanimously voted to halt the trolley service, operated by American Trolley Lines, an Arizona company, the council did agree to a complete review of trolley operations to determine whether the system could be resumed more economically. Assistant City Manager Kenneth J. Delino said a decision was expected by April.

The Conference and Visitors Bureau's plan to revive the trolley included a pledge to return to the city $50,000 in revenue it receives from the hotel bed tax in two $25,000 installments, as well as a pledge of $50,000 in ad revenue and charter service to pay for the trolley operation.

City officials said before Monday's council meeting that they believed the likelihood of re-establishing the trolley's daily operations would be very high if the increase in the hotel bed tax passed.

"If it passes, the trolley has an excellent chance," Delino said. "It's a good start toward continuing regular service during the summer and having it available for charters during the rest of the year."

Voting for the increase were Mayor John C. Cox Jr. and council members Philip R. Maurer, Ruthelyn Plummer and Clarence Turner. Voting against it were council members Phil Samsone, Don Strauss and Evelyn R. Hart.

The visitors bureau hopes that its plan will help the council decide in favor of resuming the trolley line.

Jerry King, president of the bureau's board of directors, said before the meeting that he believed the City Council was looking for business to be "responsible and responsive" by helping to underwrite costs, and that is his agency's goal.

"They're looking for some real commitment from local business," King said, "and that's what we're trying to do."

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