Los Altos Opinions Exchange

First Street: more tax revenue or a better downtown for the community?

Issue: Downtown Parking
Date of Posting:3/30/01
Author: King Lear

Why put in a hotel that the public clearly does not want, just to gain more tax revenue for the city? As far as I can determine, we are building gyms, building pools, finished a new museum, and paying the new salaries which seem to be sufficient to hire excellent employees. We do not have a hiring problem today. Our problem is completing the necessary training time for new employees in public safety.

Also, we are opening a new hotel in Los Altos this November and another Los Altos hotel in April of next year with over $1M tax revenue, or $1.25M if we change the tax rate to 10% from 8%. There will be at least $2.4M of business from these hotel guests that we can attract downtown if our downtown were a little less boring. Adding a movie theater and enlivening our whole downtown in the evening will gain more hotel customers from our El Camino hotels than if we were to add a hotel downtown.

Thehotel recommended by city staff would increase sales to existing businesses at only $0.34M per year versus $1.44M for the theater and condos. This does not include the effect a theater would have on attracting customers from our new hotels on El Camino.

The theater combination will provide more money than we paid for the property as well as over $4M worth of free public parking during the weekdays that will not be charged to our business owners. The long term goals in our 1987 General Plan for the downtown include more parking and more evening activity. Nothing has been done for either goal for years. Lets do it.

Buying four of the condos for the city and renting them to employees is also a possibility that could help us hire sharp employees, especially those in public safety and public works who can help us during the next big one.

The hotel adds 27% to the daytime peak AM traffic turning left from Main to go onto First Street, according to the hired traffic consultant, versus only a 1% increase for the theater. The theater adds evening traffic when we want more traffic (more people) while a hotel adds daytime traffic which we do not need.

The ethics of the city taking money to do something the public does not want is indeed a concern. This would be the case should we vote to put in an unpopular hotel just to get a tax benefit for the city. A gift from a citizen to help the city buy condos for employees if the condo/theater option is taken would help the city decide to provide WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS. This is wonderful and poses no ethical problem. We get gifts of similar magnitude conditioned on some use of public land. The gift would be a legal tax exempt deduction as a gift to a non-profit public benefit organization (the city). If the gift were to be offered by someown benefitting from the development contract, then it would be part of the offer, which we encourage to be as high as possible. In neither case is it a problem. It is only a problem for hotel supporters who are trying to eliminate the opposition.

Some might argue that we should contract with an Indian tribe to put in a casino at First and Main for even more money for the city government. Why stop with a hotel? The answer is simple, it would provide no value for our community nor for our Downtown.

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