Del Mar council to consider alternatives to tourism district at next meeting

Despite the looming deadline, the Del Mar City Council is delaying its decision on whether to renew the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District.

At the request of Councilmen Don Mosier and Terry Sinnott, the council on Sept. 8 continued the second public meeting on the subject to Sept. 21. A public hearing will take place Oct. 19.

“I’ve had so many proposals in front of me, and so many reports, but I don’t know the best interest of Del Mar at this point,” Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks said.

The council authorized formation of the district in September 2010, allowing hotel operators to charge guests a 1 percent fee that’s used to attract more visitors to the city. Five years later, the district is set to automatically expire at the end of September.

The council on July 6 declared its intention to renew the district, prompting a public meeting on July 20 regarding the renewal.

Although the district was seeking a 10-year extension, the council, at that time, asked the district to bring back a proposal for a five-year term with a reopener and to identify metrics and performance goals that would allow early termination.

The council also asked for an alternate proposal on how to support the ongoing marketing efforts without the district. The council scheduled a second public meeting for Sept. 8 to address alternative options and set a public hearing for Sept. 21 to consider the approval of the district.

Since then, Mosier and Sinnott requested a continuance on both the meeting and the hearing. In a letter dated Aug. 22, Mosier and Sinnott said that the first proposal is defined, but the second proposal needs to be described more thoroughly.

In a 3-1 vote with Sinnott absent, the council continued the second public meeting to Sept. 21 and the public hearing to Oct. 19.

Voting against the motion, Mayor Al Corti said he disagreed with the reason for the continuance.

“From my perspective, this discussion has been going on for four years,” he said. “The last six or nine months have been pretty intense in trying to figure out if this is the right course of action or not, and is there a better alternative.”

Mosier, however, said he felt no alternative had been “fleshed out.”

The Finance Committee has also since reviewed the issue and made recommendations.

The committee requested specific metrics from the district, including quarterly financial data. The committee also explored the city’s annual cancellation rights, recommending that the city retain the right to review the district on an annual basis and modify or cancel the program if it does not meet its performance objectives.

Mosier, who with Corti serves as a liaison to the district, said he has been “disappointed” by every Finance Committee report.

The metrics the committee has requested are already being provided, Mosier said. Financial reports and progress updates are given at monthly board meetings.

“I’m, frankly, embarrassed at their work product,” he said.

Corti, who is a liaison to the committee with Sinnott, contended that the committee “does an excellent job at everything they evaluate.”

By the end of the discussion, the council directed staff to return Sept. 21 with three options. The council will consider an alternate approach that would support the ongoing marketing efforts without the district; a scaled-down district that would focus solely on specific efforts such as the website; and an approach that would follow the Finance Committee’s recommendation to assess the district annually. The district will also have its own proposal.