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November 6, 2018 — California General Election

City of San Clemente
Measure W Ordinance - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results


12,727 votes yes (45.3%)

15,369 votes no (54.7%)

100% of precincts reporting (28/28).

Transient occupancy tax
— undefined

Shall Ordinance No. 1657 be adopted to increase the transient occupancy tax ("TOT") to 12½ percent in perpetuity, for an estimated annual increase of $570,000, and to clarify the definition of "hotels" that are subject to the tax?

What is this proposal?

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

The following official argument was submitted in favor of the measure:[1]



Increase Hotel Tourist Tax in the City of San Clemente Vote ‘Yes’ on Measure W. The Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), also known as the hotel tourist tax, is paid by hotel and vacation rental visitors to help support municipal services in San Clemente. A “Yes” vote would result in a modest tax increase to these visitors while providing much needed revenue for vital city services. Unlike many cities around us, the San Clemente TOT has not been changed since 1991. The rate increase from 10% to 12.5% would affect visitors to San Clemente hotels and shortterm lodging establishments.

Measure W would generate approximately $570,000 in new revenue annually to the San Clemente General Fund. It is a sensible approach to the challenge confronting our city of 65,000+ residents, as we strain to provide services to an estimated 2 million visitors each year. This new revenue would be 100% locally controlled and help provide enhanced fire and police protection, emergency response services, and improved maintenance of public areas such as beaches, parks, sidewalks and streets, and other services extensively used by tourists.

The San Clemente City Council supports this rate change as a practical answer to the recent and rapid increase in demand for city services while ensuring fiscal health. The TOT increase is an equitable way for visitors who utilize city services to pay their fair share.

Your City Council respectfully requests a “Yes” vote on Measure W, to help protect and maintain essential services and our local quality of life.

NO vote means

The following official argument was submitted in opposition to the measure:[1]


This tax increase is not necessary - the money will not be earmarked or dedicated to public safety. SC voted to reject this exact same tax increase two years ago.

Our City Council leads the county in spending on litigation - not for paying out people who slip on sidewalks - but for BAD PUBLIC POLICY. In the last five years, taxpayers have had to pay nearly $5 MILLION DOLLARS IN ATTORNEY FEES because the City was successfully sued over and over again for its illegal actions.

Despite warnings, the Council approved a severely flawed ordinance it claimed would ‘tackle’ sober living homes in residential neighborhoods. The City was successfully sued. The legal settlement allowed the most notorious Sober Living Operator to INCREASE the number of its “facilities” in SC. The Council’s incompetence cost taxpayers over $1.1 million in legal fees and opened the door to allow more sober living homes in SC.

State law mandated that cities adopt zoning to allow for emergency shelters. Other cities complied. Our City Council refused to - it cost taxpayers nearly $900,000 in legal fees and the City had to comply with the law anyway.

The City Council illegally altered the terms of how many outdoor signs could be at the Outlet mall. There was a contractual agreement on the number of signs prior to construction. The owner filed a lawsuit and prevailed. Cost to the taxpayers - nearly $700,000.

Our City Manager makes over $330,000; his Assistant gets over $250,000. This same Assistant, who conceded that this increase is “basically just a boost to our revenues,” charged $500 on his city credit card to enter a golf tournament and played in the middle of a work day.

We need new city leadership who won’t squander our money and who can be trusted --- NO BLANK CHECKS

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Measure W would:


  1. increase the San Clemente’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) from the current 10 percent to 12 1/2 percent;
  2. clarify the existing scope of the definition of “hotel” in the TOT ordinance by including additional examples of structures that might constitute a “hotel” by virtue of a short-term occupancy;
  3. authorize the City Council to repeal or refine the TOT ordinance without seeking voter approval, as long as the repeal or amendment does not result in an extension or increase in the tax that the voters approved.


The TOT is collected from persons who stay in hotels, motels, and similar lodging for fewer than 30 days. The existing tax is 10 percent of the hotel charge, and the passage of this measure would increase the tax by 2 1/2 percent. These taxes are collected by the hotel operator and typically transferred to the City on a quarterly basis. The TOT is a general tax, and the funds collected are authorized by law to be used for general government purposes and basic services, such as police, fire, public works, parks, and recreation programs. An increase in San Clemente’s TOT from 10 percent to 12 1/2 percent is estimated to generate an additional $570,000 in annual tax revenue.

State law requires general taxes to be approved by a majority of those voting on the tax measure. This measure has been placed on the ballot by the City Council.

A “YES” vote on the measure will increase the TOT from 10 to 12 1/2 percent, clarify the definition of “hotel” by including additional examples of structures that might be a “hotel,” and authorize the City Council to refine the TOT ordinance without voter approval, as long as the changes do not result in an extension or increase in the tax.

A “NO” vote on the measure will leave the TOT rate, the “hotel” definition, and the City Council’s authority unchanged

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Read the proposed legislation

Proposed legislation


WHEREAS, under California Revenue and Taxation Code section 7280 et seq., the City of San Clemente (“City”) has authority to levy a transient occupancy tax (“TOT”) on the privilege of occupying a hotel, including a short-term lodging unit or STLU, as defined in Chapter 3.24 of the Municipal Code; and

WHEREAS, the TOT is a general tax, the proceeds of which are deposited into the City’s general fund. The general fund pays for essential City services such as police protection, fire and paramedic services, street operations and maintenance, library services, parks and recreation services, and general municipal services to the public; and

WHEREAS, many other municipalities have higher TOT rates than San Clemente does, such as the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County (12 percent), the city of San Diego (12.5 percent between TOT and a supplemental transient-lodging assessment), the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and San Francisco (14 percent), and the city of Anaheim (15 percent); and

WHEREAS, the TOT rate has not increased in 27 years; and

WHEREAS, the City desires to approve an increase of the TOT rate from the existing 10 percent to 12½ percent for general-tax purposes; and

WHEREAS, the proposed increase has been submitted to the voters at the general municipal election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018; and

WHEREAS, all other legal prerequisites to the adoption of this ordinance have occurred.

NOW, THEREFORE, the people of the City of San Clemente do ordain as follows:

Section 1: The definition of “hotel” in section 3.24.010 of the Municipal Code is amended to read in its entirety as follows: “Hotel” means any structure, or any portion of any structure, that is occupied or designed for occupancy for short term, temporary, or impermanent lodging or sleeping purposes, including any hotel, inn, tourist home or house, motel, studio hotel, bachelor hotel, lodging house, vacation rental, boarding house, rooming house, apartment house, dormitory public or private club, bed-and-breakfast, private single-family residence, private multi-family residence, condominium, townhouse, guest house, mobile home or house trailer at a fixed location, or other similar structure or portion thereof. Any reference in this chapter to “hotel” includes “STLU” (defined in this section), unless otherwise indicated.

Section 2: Section 3.24.020(A) of the Municipal Code is amended to read in its entirety as follows: For the privilege of occupancy in any hotel, including an STLU, each transient is subject to and must pay a general tax in the amount of 12½
percent of the rent charged by the operator. Such tax constitutes a debt owed by the transient to the City, which is extinguished only by payment. The transient must pay the tax to the operator of the hotel, including an STLU, when the rent is paid. The tax is a general tax and all revenue from the tax shall be allocated to the City general fund.

Section 3: Section 3.24.020(E) is added to the Municipal Code to read in its entirety as follows:Without voter approval, the City Council may repeal or amend any part of this chapter in any manner that does not result in an extension of or
an increase in the tax above the rate approved by the voters, as enacted in subsection 3.24.020(A). If the City Council repeals any part of this chapter, it may subsequently reenact it without voter approval as long as the reenacted ordinance does not result in an extension or increase in the tax that is duly approved by the voters.

Section 4: If any part of this ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining parts of the ordinance. The City declares that it would have adopted this ordinance, and each part of it, irrespective of the possibility that some part or parts of it might be declared invalid or unconstitutional.

Section 5: This ordinance relates to the levying and collecting of the City transient occupancy tax, which is a general tax, so the ordinance only takes effect if it is approved by a majority of the voters that vote on the ordinance at the November 6, 2018 General Municipal Election. If so approved, the ordinance becomes effective 10 days after the City Council declares and certifies the results of the election by resolution. The TOT shall be collected in the manner provided pursuant to Chapter 3.24 of the City Municipal Code

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