Councilman proposes using hotel taxes to tackle homelessness issues in SA

Taxes in original plan to be used for marketing

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana wants the hospitality industry to help fix the homeless problem in the city.

He’s asking other council members to vote no on a proposed Tourism Public Improvement District, or TPID, on Thursday.

The TPID would include a self-imposed tax for more than 100 hotels and lodging businesses in the tourism district.

Liza Barratachea, CEO of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association, said the plan has been in the works for nearly two years to help boost marketing and tourism in the city. 

About 65 percent of the association's members have signed in support of a petition that was presented before the City Council in the summer.

“We as an industry have seen flat occupancy rates, and we know there’s competition for the market share,” Barratachea said. “We have seen a flat budget. We are looking to boosting that budget.”

The TPID would bring in about $10 million annually for the next eight years. Saldana is asking that 20 percent, or about $2 million, be given to Haven For Hope to help the homeless population. 

“The safety net should not be just on the backs of taxpayers,” he said. “The safety net for people who hit hard times should also be supported by billion-dollar industries who benefit from a clean and attractive San Antonio destination.”

He said that, as the plan is presented, he cannot support it, and he’s asking other council members to side with him.

Saldana is asking that the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association return in a few months with a better plan that includes helping the homeless.

“What we are voting on Thursday is giving $10 million away to an agency that's mostly controlled by hotel owners, so the folks who really win are the hotel owners,” he said.

Barratachea said the agreement made by the hotel owners, which the city tentatively approved, was very specific about TPID being used for marketing.

“There’s no way we could say that homelessness or aggressive panhandling doesn’t impact the tourist experience. We know that. We want to be a part of the solution,” Barratachea said.

She said a more thoughtful discussion should be had in the future, but TPID isn’t the solution.

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