Texas hotels more progressive than San Francisco's?

Improvements to San Antonio's riverfront were among the improvements funded by increasing its hotel tax.

Prop. J would increase San Francisco's hotel tax of 14 percent – which is lower than such big cities as Seattle, Chicago, and New York -- by 2 percent. Opponents of the measure, such as District 8 supervisorial candidate Scott Wiener, say they are concerned that San Francisco would have the highest such tax in the country and that tourism could suffer as a result.

Yet in the city that actually has the highest hotel tax, San Antonio, Texas – where the 16.75 percent rate would still be higher than San Francisco's even if Prop. J passes – representatives of the hotels have been among the bigger supporters of the tax, unlike in San Francisco where hotels are leading the campaign to defeat Prop. J with help of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Dee Dee Poteete, the director of communications at the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Guardian there are more than 25 million people that visit that city each year, a number that held steady even after the tax was put in place in 1999. The tax rate was reauthorized two years ago, with the hotels in support.

“Our city provides a very full and rich vacation or meeting experience that is an extremely good investment for [visitors],” Poteete said when asked about how tourism in San Antonio is affected by the tax, revenue from which is currently used to help support and promote tourism. And like San Antonio, San Francisco is a rich destination with a large tourism industry. Supporters of the tax believe the tax will also help keep San Francisco attractive to tourists.

“Money will go back into the general fund, but tourists use the same city services such as Muni and the parks so the money is also going back to them,” Gabriel Haaland with SEIU Local 1021, which helped gathered signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, told us. “City services have been so dramatically cut that it would undermine the tourism industry if the city degraded and that’s what would deter tourists more than the $3 a night [that the measure would add to the average hotel bill].”

San Francisco Controller Ben Rosenfield has estimated that the revenue generated by the tax would be $38 million annually.


"Background: The San Antonio HOT is one of the highest in the nation at 16.75%, of which 1.75% is Bexar County, 9% is the city, and 6% is state."

From some reading, some of the money is earmarked for actually advertising San Antonio and Texas as a destination on the state and local level. Also from some reading that tax money is taken and spent elsewhere at times outside the earmark. While in SF the money will just be taken with no benefit to the hotels or input from the hotels.

In SF when the hotels lobby for something or asks for a little law enforcement directed their way the cities entitled don't care, then the entitled wonder why the hotels are against all their schemes and endorse such things as sit lie.

The Guardian/SEIU begging is disingenuous, they give the hotels the middle finger at every turn and then act like they are doing them a favor by raising their taxes. It's such a strange way to look at the world on the part of the left, they know that hotel money enables their schemes but treat the industry with such disdain.

Also Tim Redmond got into near hysterics with Scott Wiener over this in the endorsement interview, Redmond was concerned that Wiener was using biased non union sources and studies. I am glad that the author didn't venture off into non approved areas in this blog by consulting anyone but Gabriel Haaland it seems.

Posted by matlocl on Sep. 20, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

Your point that SF hotels don't benefit from taxes is ridiculous, Glen. There is a disproportionate amount of police services and street and sidewalk cleaning in the hotel district, which also happens to have the city's highest concentration of public transit services, all paid for by city taxpayers. The local visitor and convention bureau (whose director makes more than $300,000 per year) and its tourism promotion services are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Hotels in this city have a disproportionate political influence on fiscally conservative politicians, who push things like Cash Not Cash and the Sit-Lie Ordinance on their behalf, yet an outsized sense of entitlement when it comes to shooting down revenue measure that the entire city needs. Also, lets remember that it is their guests, not the corporate-owned hotels themselves, that are paying these taxes. They should take a cue from San Antonio and begin to realize that adequately funding local government is in their interest.

Steven T. Jones

SFBG City Editor

Posted by steven on Sep. 21, 2010 @ 11:55 am

The comparison with San Antonio is not all that great of one, from reading a bit on-line, much of their tax goes to the state which has a dedicated earmark for tourism as does the city itself.

Them and most people who are pro sit lie is a result of not "enforcing laws already on the books." I'm not for it really, but howling every time the laws already on the books are enforced as the left does in this city, really doesn't give them much credibility. I would guess that having the number one complaint from tourists being the state of the city might lead them to be for more laws such as sit-lie.

There is differing views on what adequately funding government is and around setting priorities, it will never be adequate for some, so that is just a bottomless pit.

It's also interesting that the complaint about the Adachi measure is that the unions were never consulted, one wonders if the unions consulted with the hotel people on the tax? I would guess that they would be just as interested as the union folks in not letting things pass they are opposed to.

As it was pushed by the SEIU types many people probably realize the law os about them not getting any more pay cuts, and not about keeping the cities hobo's in SRO's.

Posted by matlock on Sep. 21, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

When a visitor stays in a hotel in downtown San Francisco, they currently pay a 14% hotel tax PLUS and 1.5% tourism assessment. The assessment pays for renovations at the Moscone Center (a city owned facility) and to promote San Francisco. An additional 2 point tax would make it 17.5% total, the highest in the country. Visitors already generate nearly $500 million dollars a year in local taxes that pay for lots of local services, most of which (schools, police, fire, social services, etc.) they don't even use. Why didn't you interview the other side for your story?

Posted by Charles on Sep. 22, 2010 @ 8:09 am

Amazing, outsourcing stops the moment we leverage incessant demand for San Francisco and ask those who don't vote here to pay their fair share. The hotels have opposed paying their freight on water usage as well, expecting San Franciscans to carry their freight. The tourism industry inflates the local economy, making basic goods and services less affordable to residents, most of whom have seen wages flatlined for decades.

Hotels are always attacking their workers, paying them below median income, increasing their rate of work for greater profits. This is where San Francisco "moderates" channel their inner Ronald Reagan and insist that trickle down economics is good for San Francisco.

We Need To Make The Tourists Pay because they don't vote here and they have money.


Posted by marcos on Sep. 22, 2010 @ 8:18 am

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