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Hayward Wants Voters to Raise Local Hotel Tax

City seeks vote for non-citizens to serve on boards too

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Hayward voters will be asked this November to increase the city's current hotel tax up to 14 percent. A charter amendment to allow non-citizens to serve on city boards and commissions will also appear on the fall ballot, the Hayward City Council decided last week.

Hayward's 8.5 percent Transient Occupancy Tax, also known as a hotel tax, languishes below the percentage levied by several East Bay cities. By contrast, the rate in Oakland and San Leandro is 14 percent, Union City is 12.87 percent and Fremont charges 10 percent.

The hotel tax helped swell Hayward's coffers by $2.8 million over each of the last two fiscal years, Hayward Finance Director Dustin Claussen said. If approved, the measure could yield roughly $3 million a year in revenues.

Those gains, however, will not be fully realized for some time as the region faces low hotel occupancy during the pandemic and a continuing recession, he added.

If the hotel tax increase is approved by voters, Claussen recommends the council move to freeze the rate at 8.5 percent, for at least six months after the November election, while local hoteliers recover from the shelter-in-place.

Hayward hotel owners, in opposing the tax increase, said they have incurred losses during the pandemic of up to 30 percent. Hayward also levies an additional two percent excise tax, they note.

With most municipalities suffering through the recession triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, measures to increase revenues through sales tax increases will be a hard sell. Hotel tax increases, however, have proven successful in many other local cities, and could be recession-proof since they do not typically affect Hayward residents, but travelers from other cities.

The charter amendment coming to the Nov. 3 ballot hopes to allow Hayward's board and commission to become more inclusive, in addition, to removing gender-based pronouns from the City Charter.

The proposal introduced by the city manager, city attorney and city clerk aims to give the city greater flexibility for filling its boards and commissions. In the past, they argue, some applicants have been disqualified from consideration for appointments to board and commissions because they were not citizens.

The number of applicants unable to serve is three over the past two years, City Manager Kelly McAdoo said. The idea of allowing non-citizens to serve on advisory boards and commissions, however, has been bandied about Hayward City Hall for several years, Mayor Barbara Halliday added.

Despite the unanimous vote to place the issue on the November ballot, some concerns were raised.

Councilmember Aisha Wahab said the charter amendment proposal was created without transparency and community involvement and swiftly, despite a number of other quality-of-life issues remaining unaddressed by city staff.

Wahab asked city officials whether there had been any consideration for national security or city security issues if non-citizens are allowed to serve on board and commissions.

"I don't see a particular issue with that," McAdoo said. "Board and commission members don't typically have access to city databases or voter databases that might create some of the issues I think you're talking about that have been talked about in the national agenda."

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