Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to delay or suspend payments of various assessments and permits, looking to provide some financial relief to the many downtown businesses, employees and hotels that are experiencing struggle through the COVID-19 crisis.
The 7-0 vote ratified and extended several preemptive actions taken by the City Administrator Paul Casey to suspend and delay assessments and permits including the Parking and Business Improvement Area assessments, Monthly and Commuter Parking Permits and the Transient Occupancy Tax and Tourism Business Improvement District assessments for hotel operators.
The council affirmed Mr. Casey’s decision to offer deferral of payment of the TOT and the TBID assessment for 60 days without penalty or interest to help hotels with cash flow obstacles.
The TOT is imposed on “transient” guests staying in any hotel for a period of less than 31 days, and is collected by the hotel operator and forwarded to the city on a monthly basis. Hotel proprietors can also include assessments for the South Coast TBID in that monthly payment, a tax designed to increase tourism by creating a supplemental funding source for marketing the south coast region of Santa Barbara County.
“We did this during the Thomas Fire,” said Mr. Casey. “Not all hotels took advantage of this, but some did and they felt it was a help to them from a cash flow standpoint.”
Hotel operators will have to request the deferral, said Mr. Casey, who stressed the measure was a deferral of payment and not a waiver, and would ultimately not affect the TBID’s revenue for 2020.
“We’re trying to keep Visit Santa Barbara with some income going because as soon as we get through the other side of the health crisis, we’re going to have an economic crisis and we’re going to need to jumpstart our economy and getting some especially just regional tourism for people to come back and be visiting Santa Barbara is going to be important to help our retail, our restaurants, everyone kind of get back on our feet,” said Mr. Casey.
Hotels that opt into the deferral program will have the TOT and the TBID assessments for the months of March and April deferred until June 10. The city may extend the deferral if Gov. Gavin Newsom chooses to extend the business closures and stay-at-home orders established by his executive order.
While the TOT and TBID taxes are deferred, the City Council waived billing for monthly and commuter parking permits until the city resumes collection of hourly parking lot fees when the COVID-19 crisis ends.
“Each month that monthly permit billing remains suspended will result in a loss of approximately $113,525 in revenue for the Downtown Parking Fund. The suspension of commuter permit billing for the second half of March will result in a loss of approximately $11,780 in revenue. Each additional month that commuter permit billing is suspended will result in a loss of approximately $29,315 for the Downtown Parking Fund,” according to a Transportation Planning & Parking Division report.
Approximately $84,207 in monthly parking permit deposits will be refunded, however there is no impact to revenues, according to Mr. Casey.
Council has also suspended parking and business improvement area assessments for January through March, which typically generates $250,000 in revenue per quarter for the Downtown Parking Fund.
“They have reserves in the parking fund and we think it’s only appropriate for businesses who are not up and running not to have to pay that parking assessment,” said Mr. Casey.
In other business, City Council unanimously approved staff recommendations of the Community Development and Human Services Committee for use of Human Services and Community Development Block Grant funds for 2020.
The grants, which are awarded annually, come from a combination of $726,150 in city human services funds, $902,268 in CDBG entitlement funds, $18,053 in prior-year unexpended CDBG funds and $60,000 in CDBG program income funds for an estimated total of $1,706,471.
The CDHS, which is a citizen review panel appointed by the council to make funding recommendations, scored applicants based on their written proposals and verbal presentations, and each member recommended a funding amount. The council approved funding for 50 proposals, with 45 in the public/human services category receiving $861,490 and five in the capital category receiving $604,527.
Organizations set to receive funding include the Transition House’s Family Emergency Shelter, the Organic Soup Kitchen, New Beginnings’ Safe Parking Shelter and Rapid Rehousing, the Freedom Warming Centers, Domestic Violence Solutions’ Emergency Shelter, and Showers of Blessing. A full list can be found at https://bit.ly/2JQ0RAA.
“Looking down the list, it’s such a stellar list of community members who are always at the forefront helping,” said councilmember Kristen Sneddon. “As a councilmember, this is the proudest work that I feel that I do.”