Q. WHAT IS THE TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX (TOT)?
A. The TOT is a tax charged to visitors in overnight accommodations (e.g., hotels, Airbnb, VRBO). It is collected by owners of short-term lodging and paid monthly to Marin County, where it goes into the County’s general fund. It is presently 10% of the rental amount.
Q. WHAT DOES THE BALLOT MEASURE DO?
A. The ballot measure proposes increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax in West Marin from 10% to 14% and using the additional 4% for two purposes: creating affordable housing and supporting emergency responders in our West Marin communities. This will allow overnight visitors to West Marin to help address the two major problems that a growing visitor base has created in the region: 1. The conversion of existing long-term rental housing into short-term lodging, creating a severe lack of rental properties for fulltime residents, and 2. The increasing number of calls handled by our mostly-volunteer first responders/firefighters.
Q. HOW MUCH IS THE TOT IN OTHER COUNTIES?
A. San Francisco is 16.25%, Napa and Sonoma are 14% (including add-ons), Monterey is 15.15%, San Diego is 15.75%, and Anaheim is 17%.
Q. DO ALL MARIN LODGING OPERATORS CURRENTLY COLLECT THE TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX?
A. No. While there are presently no exact counts of how many short-term rental operators are not paying the required TOT, anecdotal evidence indicates that the number is substantial. In January of 2018 Marin County hired a consultant, Host Compliance, to identify those operators who are not presently complying with the law and paying the TOT. Marin County estimates that all operators of short-term rentals will be licensed and in compliance with the TOT code by the end of this year. However, even with 100% compliance 10% of TOT revenues will still go into the County’s general fund. Only 4% of the 14% collected in West Marin will be earmarked for addressing housing and emergency response issues in West Marin.
Q. WILL THE BALLOT MEASURE RAISE THE TOT IN ALL OF MARIN COUNTY?
A. No. The TOT will be increased only in West Marin. The boundary of the area affected is from Muir Beach to Dillon Beach, including Nicasio and the San Geronimo Valley.
Q. WHY JUST WEST MARIN?
A. Because of the large number of visitors attracted to West Marin, we collect almost 80% of all TOT revenues in Marin and our area has borne the brunt of supporting this ever-growing influx of visitors, creating large stressors on both the housing market and on our local volunteer emergency responders. Raising the TOT in West Marin in order to fund housing and emergency services allows overnight visitors who use the facilities and services of this beautiful area to contribute to keeping West Marin healthy and thriving.
Q. HOW MANY VISITORS ANNUALLY?
A. According to the National Park Service in 2017 Muir Woods had 834,000 visitors, Stinson Beach National Park had 680,000 visitors and Point Reyes National Seashore had 2,466,000 visitors.
Q. HOW MUCH MONEY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
A. The TOT revenues from 2017 for the entire County were approximately $3,746,427, of which approximately $2,800,000 was generated in West Marin. The proposed TOT increase will provide annual funding of approximately $600,000 for community housing development, approximately $600,000 to be shared among the seven fire departments serving West Marin.
Q. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THESE FUNDS WILL REMAIN IN WEST MARIN?
A. By limiting the increase to West Marin and passing the ballot measure with a 2/3 majority, the allocations of the funds delineated in the ballot measure are preserved by law in perpetuity. Only another ballot measure passed with another 2/3 majority can alter those allocations.
Q. WHO WILL DECIDE WHAT SPECIFIC PROJECTS WILL BE FINANCED BY THE FUNDS CREATED BY THE TOT INCREASE?
A. The ballot measure will provide for the creation of two advisory groups, one for housing and one for fire, each group with a representative from each of the communities in West Marin. The advisory groups will meet to examine all proposals and opportunities to increase housing and first responder capabilities and select which ones to fund. A third group will oversee the expenditure groups tonsure compliance with the allocations of Measure W , audit their disbursements and write an annual report on their activities.”
Q. HOW WILL THE FUNDS BE USED? THE COST OF A SINGLE HOUSE OR TWO FIRE TRUCKS EXCEEDS THE AMOUNTS ALLOCATED FOR HOUSING AND THE RESPECTIVE FIRE SERVICES.
A. $600,000 every year for the purpose of acquiring or creating long-term housing in West Marin will provide the land trusts in West Marin and other affordable housing developers with the money needed for offers, inspections and due diligence so that they can move quickly when purchase opportunities arise. It can be used for bridge loan funding for the acquisition of properties, loans or grants for rehab work on properties acquired by affordable housing organizations, repair loans or grants to owners willing to commit to below market rental rates and down payment assistance for buyers willing to commit to affordable housing deed restrictions. Assistance for renters could include security deposit loans, first-and-last month’s rent loans, emergency rent loans or grants and modest rent reduction grants.
$600,000 every year would be shared by the seven fire departments serving West Marin. The West Marin Fire Chiefs report that the number of calls to which they must respond increases as the size of they communities from which they draw their paid staff and volunteers declines. This decline is largely caused by the lack of community housing, and is the nexus between the two uses of the increased TOT funds. The Chiefs state that some of the uses of additional funds would be enhanced training, additional firefighter and paramedic staffing especially during peak visitor season, new equipment and recruitment and retention of volunteers which would include building public awareness of volunteer agency needs.
Q. HOW CAN I HELP?
A. Vote yes on Measure W in November. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Q HOW DID MEASURE W GET ITS START?
A. In early 2016 several representatives from all the hamlets in unincorporated West Marin came together to discuss the noticeable housing issues that we were experiencing. We called ourselves the No Name group as we could not agree upon a name, but we could agree on one thing: there was a housing crisis and it seemed to be linked to real estate speculation.
After much research we realized that coastal communities up and and down the west coast were also experiencing similar housing issues and they were creating legislation to stem the tide of overwhelming growth of short term rentals and loss of long term rentals.
Our group was attracted to a beautiful piece of legislation adopted in Santa Monica requiring a full-time resident to live on site in order to offer a short term rental. We also discussed increasing the TOT in unincorporated Marin, therein legislating to increase the funds for affordable housing and emergency responders. We took our research and met first with Steve Kinsey who was supportive, but admitted it would take longer to pursue than his current term allowed. So, we waited for Supervisor Rodoni to take office and met with him. He is also supportive of the increase in TOT. A couple of us No Namers attended a few housing meetings at CLAM about a year ago that assembled housing advocates from all over unincorporated Marin. These meetings were inspiring.
It was there the energy to create the TOT increase legislation really took flight and that is what we are voting on today. Measure W is an idea that began with concerned West Marin residents getting together to see what we could do about an issue that is hollowing out our communities — Measure W is democracy in action.