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Hotel tax: Menlo Park challenges ballot language

Original post made on Sep 2, 2012

Ballot review came to a screeching halt in Menlo Park recently when a perusal of the rebuttal to Measure K, the city's proposal to raise the hotel tax from 10 to 12 percent, lighted upon a single sentence.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 30, 2012, 1:35 PM

Comments (13)

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Menlo Park is a very desirable destination city. We have two types of hotels:

1) Luxury Hotels such as the Stanford Park and the Rosewood, and
2)Hotels that compete on price such as the Mermaid Inn

The Menlo Park Luxury hotels compete against the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto, the Garden Court in Downtown and the Westin Palo Alto.

The Mermaid Inn's competition are the price concious hotels in Redwood City.

By having a lower TOT rate than the surrounding communities makes Menlo Park a more desirable hotel destination than East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Redwood City. What little is lost on the TOT rate is more than made up by our sustained volume.

We don't want to see our TOT revenues decline because we have unilaterally forfeited our TOT rate advantage.

This is not the time to be greedy. This is the time to be smart. We need to be focused on maximizing TOT revenues not maximizing TOT rates. If we raise the TOT rates we will see a dispoportionate decline in hotel bookings which will result in less TOT revenues. We don't want to give away our competitive TOT rate advantage.

Keeping the TOT at 10% is a win-win for the City of Menlo Park and our local hotels.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm


I hate to tell you this, but when most people book a hotel room they don't pay any attention to what the hotel taxes are. Maybe you do because [portion deleted. Please don't attack posters], but no one else does. We book our rooms based on location and the base rate. Don't believe me? Go on line and book a room. See when the room taxes show up.

Raise the tax. I will have no effect on booking rates.

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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I'm with Menlo Voter, [portion deleted]. I've never seen the tax until I pay the bill. Hank should find a new hobby.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm

True, MV. People who stay at the Stanford Park and Rosewood pay no attention to tourist taxes on their hotel bills. Or their mini-bar bills, for that matter.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2012 at 9:01 am

I agree that people don't pay attention to the actual amount of the tax until they see the bill.

However, taxes such as these are usually passed on to the customer which mean higher hotel rates. Therefore, a person looking for a hotel might be more inclined to stay in Menlo Park than other cities if the rates were lower.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm

How will the city waste (oh, I mean use) the extra money?

More six figure salaries?

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

If you (more accurately, your company) can afford $400+ a night, I don't think you're really gonna think about (much less sweat) the sales tax.

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Posted by Gov't Out of Control
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I book hotels online quite a bit. You do see the total including the taxes before you confirm the reservation for online bookings. (Car rentals are different.)

I agree that a person booking a $400 a night hotel for a non-business trip may not be bothered by the extra tax. However, an increase in tax may effect the corporate accounts that have on-going business relationships with hotels.

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Posted by Henry Fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

When you book online--which most of us do--you see all fees and taxes as part of the room rate. The decision is based on the bottom line.

What annoys me is that after one month in Menlo Park, our new city manager proposed a TOT increase. Watch out.

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Posted by It's Just Not That Difficult
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Hank, the TOT rate will not affect bookings. But even if you were to buy the argument that a lower TOT rate gives our hotels a competitive advantage, why should the residents and other businesses provide Menlo Park hotels with a competitive advantage when it means significantly less revenue for the city of Menlo Park? Why don’t we allow the hotels and motels to develop their OWN market advantage, as other businesses have to do?

And Henry, the proposal to raise the TOT was raised at least two years ago. The Council held off because of the uncertain economy, but I agree with Rich Cline – the increase is just a long over-due market correction.

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Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The discussion about whether the rate should be higher or not misses the point of the article, which is about whether the ballot language is misleading. So back to the point, Webster's ( does _not_ "say otherwise" on "neighboring" -- it has "to adjoin immediately or lie relatively near to" as the definition. I don't think MP's usage is misleading in regard to EPA, PA and RC, which clearly meet the first listed sense in addition to the second, in a way that more distant towns like SC do not.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Does the City's budget rely on the passage of this tax to be balanced?

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 7, 2012 at 6:10 am

Again, whether it's for business or pleasure, people who stay at a Rosewood Hotel for $400+ a night - not a Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn - don't pay attention to the taxes on their hotel bill.

I just reserved a rental car at the Philadelphia airport from a major on-airport company. The taxes were actually MORE than the car rental.

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