On November 2, Inglewood residents will head to the polls to answer two Yes-No questions: Measure H and Measure I.
Measure H addresses Inglewood’s Transient Occupancy Tax. It would raise the hotel visitor tax from 14 percent to 15.5 percent. A 15.5 percent hotel tax rate is already in effect in neighboring cities such as Santa Monica, Culver City, and Los Angeles. According to the city of Inglewood, voting Yes for Measure H will generate an additional $730,000 annually towards essential city services.
Measure I would increase the city’s Property Transfer Tax on real estate transactions valued over $1.1 million. According to Inglewood officials, voting Yes on this measure would ensure that large developers pay their fair share towards Inglewood’s development. Measure I would only apply to the top 2 percent of real estate transactions in Inglewood, and would generate $3.5 million annually towards essential city services.
Last week, Inglewood constituents gathered at Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen with Mayor James T. Butts as he urged residents to vote Yes for both Measure H and Measure I on their upcoming November ballot. And while nearly everyone at the gathering was on board with a Yes for Measure H, the mayor was met with apprehension and backlash when it came to Measure I, the property transfer tax.
As Mayor Butts spoke on a microphone in the back of the closed-for-event coffee shop to a crowd of about 20 constituents, he first reminded them that the entire council has already voted Yes for the H and I Measures. “But that doesn’t really mean anything,” said Mayor Butts, adding, “what matters is, what’s good for you, what’s good for your children, and what’s good for Inglewood has to make sense.”
He proceeded to point out that nearly no one lives in the same home that they lived in when they were a child. “You aspired to greater things, and then you were willing to spend the money to live a different quality of life. That’s the same comparison to what happens with these two measures. What the city is doing is preparing itself to have a sustainable future,” said Butts.
The mayor reiterated that the increased property transfer fee would only affect properties selling for more than $1.1 million, meaning mainly commercial properties, apartment buildings and a select few number of houses in Inglewood. “We have investors coming in and buying property like nobody’s business. And that money should be collected, because the city is going to have to provide the services to support all of this growth,” said Mayor Butts.
But to those at the community meeting who expressed their concerns that they are at risk of being affected by the increased transfer property tax when they one day potentially want to sell their homes, the solution that Mayor Butts offered was, “If you get to the point where your house sells for $1.2 million, and the $800,000 you made in profit isn’t enough, then you just put it into the escrow instructions that the buyer will pay the increase in that real estate transfer fee, and that’s about as simple as it can get.”
Additionally, constituents are uneasy about the fact that the money from these fees, which Mayor Butts and other city officials claim will go toward “essential city services”, will be placed into the city’s general fund. One constituent at the community meeting spoke with Inglewood Today afterwards, expressing her concern about the broad term of a “general fund”, and how she’d like to see more transparency about what exactly the money from the property transfer tax is going towards.
“They can use the money for whatever they want. If they want this money to go specifically for infrastructure, or specifically for tree maintenance, then it should go into a special fund. Then they can only use the money for that. But when it goes into a general fund, they can use it for whatever they want. So that’s why I’m encouraging people to vote No. And it’s not that you don’t want to pay taxes, you do. You know you have to pay taxes. But make it specific for what you want it for,” she said, adding, “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to pay your attorney fees, and I don’t want to give you a raise,” she said, referring to Mayor Butts and other city officials.