One-percent tax increase proposed for overnight guests

Editor's note: This corrects the amount of the bureau's budget.

COSTA MESA — The City Council on Tuesday plans to discuss increasing a city hotel tax in hopes of better promoting tourism.

If approved, 1% would be added to the Business Improvement Area tax on bills for the city's overnight hotel and motel guests. The tax is in addition to the transient occupancy tax (TOT), which is also charged for overnight stays.

The Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau's board of directors — made up of 10 participating hotel general managers, a representative from the City Council and a city staff member — would administer the tax. The 1% increase would make the tax 3%, according to a city staff report.

The increase is estimated to bring in an additional $500,000 and would go toward the bureau's ailing $1.15-million budget, which has declined by about 30% due to the downturn of the economy, the staff report states.

In a letter to the city, Shaun Robinson, chairman of the bureau and general manager of the Hilton Orange County, said the 1% would help the organization implement its plans to re-invest in city tourism and increase revenues, especially during weekends and holidays.

Organizers said the levy would allow the bureau to hire a new president, move the bureau office to a more "prime" location, market Costa Mesa as the "heart of Orange County" and create special events and partnerships, the letter states.

The City Council plans to vote on scheduling an Oct. 19 public hearing on the issue.

In the November elections, city voters will also be asked to approve a TOT increase.

In other city business, the council and Orange County Fairgrounds Authority are scheduled to vote on approving the ground lease agreement with Facilities Management West, the Newport Beach-based real estate company that will finance and operate the 150-acre property for the city.

The council approved the lease agreement in a 4-1 vote in August, but some negotiations continued on some outstanding issues, including community use and access.

The council is also scheduled to review the Planning Commission's approval of two electronic signs that would be installed at Triangle Square.

Commissioners approved the signs, planned for where 19th Street meets Harbor and Newport boulevards, as part of a plan to help revitalize the center. In recent years and months, many of the center's businesses have closed their doors. Greenlaw Partners, the center's owner, is trying a new concept: entertainment instead of retail.

But some residents near the center are opposing the signs, saying the lights will be flashing through nearby windows and balconies.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece asked for the review on behalf of the residents. Greenlaw has asked for the issue to be moved to another date for discussion to give the firm time to prepare more information. If the postponement is approved, the review is Oct. 5, according to city staff reports.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, 77 Fair Drive.

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