San Francisco Hotel Tax Increase, Measure J (November 2010)
If voters approve the measure, it will raise the hotel tax in San Francisco by 2%. It also changes the way that the hotel tax is assessed when hotel rooms are booked online.
San Francisco’s hotel tax is currently 14%. If Measure J passes, the tax will go to 16%. If a visitor stays in a San Francisco hotel that charges $200/night, the hotel tax under Measure J will amount to an additional $32 nightly charge for that visitor.
Currently, hotel taxes are assessed so that when a customer books a hotel room through an online booking service such as Expedia or Orbitz, the hotel tax is only assessed on the amount that a hotel receives, not on the amount that the website charges the customer. If a website sells a room to an online customer for $150 a night, but only $120 of that goes to the hotel, the customer under current law is only charged a hotel tax on the lower amount. If Measure J passes, the customer will have to pay a hotel tax on the full amount paid to the online booking service, not the lower amount that the hotel actually receives for its room. This change is expected to generate $6 million a year.
Measure K, on the same ballot, is a competing measure.
The hotel tax increase ballot proposition is supported by a coalition that includes five members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the SF Labor Council, UNITE-HERE Local 2, Young Workers United, Senior Action Network, SEIU 1021 and Coleman Advocates.
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is opposed to Measure J. They say that if Measure J passes, it is likely to result in fewer people choosing to stay in hotels in San Francisco. This would result in increased unemployment for hotel workers, as well as the money lost to the city and to San Francisco businesses that those visitors would have spent on restaurants, shopping and other activities.
The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helps large organizations book conferences at city hotels, says that at least five organizations have said they will re-think whether to hold their events in San Francisco if Proposition J passes because it will make it harder for them to provide hotel lodging for conference participants at reasonable and affordable rates.
Path to the ballot
The hotel tax increase was petitioned onto the ballot with labor union support. About 14,000 signatures were required to qualify the measure for the ballot.
- "Local ballot measure campaigns reach the finish line", July 6, 2010
- BeyondChron, "City Needs Revenue, But What Can Pass in November?", July 12, 2010
- BeyondChron, "Labor, Avalos Launch Hotel Revenue Measure", May 19, 2010
- San Francisco Examiner, "Battle of hotel measures", September 16, 2010