Summer is here, and that means we will soon see throngs of people from all across the region, the state, the country, and the world flock to our city.
All members of our community — the people who live, work, and go to school here — benefit tremendously from the millions of visitors who come here each year.
As stewards of 245 acres of public beach, the ocean that it meets, and iconic destinations like the Santa Monica Pier, this is our time to shine, to show our neighbors near and far that we are proud to share with them our beachside city, which has truly become an international destination.
It’s also important to remember that Santa Monica wouldn’t be the place it is today without these visitors. The diverse crowds that come to our shores enrich our community in many ways.
The coast belongs to everybody, whether you are from Boyle Heights, Baldwin Hills, Berlin, Beijing, or Boca del R√≠o. Santa Monica was founded as a coastal destination and we take seriously the century-and-a-half-old tradition of keeping safe, clean, and open for all, the three-mile stretch of our coastline.
It’s a place where children can play together no matter how much money their parents make or what language they speak, a retiree can watch the sunset off the Pier for free, and a local on a stroll in Palisades Park can overhear conversations in languages as varied as Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Farsi in just a matter of a few minutes.
These visitors enliven our city’s public spaces. They give us the opportunity to engage in conversations, exchange ideas, and otherwise enjoy the company of people from all walks of life, nationalities, and socioeconomic status. These visitors also help keep our city running.
In 2014, the so-called “bed tax” levied on hotels alone generated $45.5 million to help fund our schools, pay for high quality police and firefighter services, and keep our parks clean and safe, among many other city services, according to data collected by Santa Monica Travel & Tourism.
Without the “bed tax,” we would be faced with the choice of cutting funding to our libraries, schools, police and fire, and other city services, or increasing the amount of taxes paid by each resident by $1,209 annually. Thankfully, we don’t have to make that choice.
In addition to the “bed tax” from hotels, there is also the sales tax from the $1.72 billion spent by visitors to our city in 2014.
And let’s not forget the nearly 14,000 jobs supported by the visitors to our community, including the nearly 1,000 union workers whose lives are substantially improved by being able to find well-paying, secure jobs in our hotels and restaurants.
Whether they come just for the day to catch Jimmy Cliff at the Twilight Concert Series at the Pier or they come for two weeks to get away from the muggy New England summer weather, these visitors bring vitality and diversity to our shores.
While most hotel guests don’t drive during their stay — about 75 percent go carless — many other visitors often do and that can cause congestion in our streets, which can be frustrating.
But, with bike share launching later this year, Expo opening next year, and our continued commitment to building a safe, walkable city, especially Downtown, we are making it easier to get around for people who can’t or don’t want to drive. By doing so, we can mitigate that less desirable aspect of being a popular destination, traffic, while not losing out on all the benefits. And the benefits are many.
We at Santa Monica Forward want to say welcome to all the visitors who will come to our city this year, and thank you for your part in making Santa Monica a better place for all.
Juan Matute,Cynthia Rose,Lizzy Tooke,Ernie Powell andCarl Hansenfor Santa Monica Forward