On Sept. 22, the Del Mar City Council scrapped a controversial ordinance allowing for the formation of a tourism marketing district (TMD) in the city.
Filed in conjunction with a November ballot measure that allows an increase in hotel transient occupancy tax from its current 10.5 percent up to 13 percent, the ordinance prompted the ire of five former City Council members who filed an argument against the TOT measure. The measure appears on the ballot as Proposition H.
Contention centered on a subsection "D" in the ordinance, that included language allowing for any future hotel marketing tax to be considered as part of a TOT hike. Although the ordinance did not guarantee the city would ever agree to such a marketing district, or any TOT raise for that matter, the former council members, nonetheless felt the ordinance allowed for the directing of city funds toward hotel marketing at the expense of more important city projects. Current council members like Deputy Mayor Crystal Crawford disagreed, saying the ordinance only provided future options.
"We just said it would be part of our analysis," said Crawford. "The irony of this situation is my vote for D was to provide more public awareness."
According to Councilman Carl Hilliard, the subsection was also designed to deflect opposition from hotel operators.
"We wanted to reassure hoteliers that we wouldn't pull a Lucy and take the football away from Charlie Brown," said Hilliard.
"You seem inclined to minimize the significance of D," said former mayor Whitehead to the council, "yet if D is not binding, why insist on including it? Council has stated that including D in the ordinance was aimed at heading off hotel opposition. So if D was included to mollify the hoteliers, how can it be non-binding and meaningless?"
Council members promised to reexamine the issue after results of the November election were realized.