How to find the City of San Bernardino’s Transient Lodging Tax (elsewhere known as a bed tax or a transient occupancy tax)

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Someone found my blog looking for the City of San Bernardino’s “bed tax rate.”  You won’t find it using those terms. In my almost five years as a Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino, litigation regarding the Transient Lodging Tax seemed ever present.

Revenue and Taxation is found in Title 3 of the San Bernardino Municipal Code.  The Transient Lodging Tax is found in Chapter 3.55 of the San Bernardino Municipal Code, commencing at San Bernardino Municipal Code section 3.55.010.  The rate is found in San Bernardino Municipal Code section 3.55.020(A):

For the privilege of occupancy in a hotel, each transient is subject to and shall pay a transient lodging tax in the amount of ten percent of the room rental charged by the operator.

The ordinance was added by the City of San Bernardino’s voters on November 5, 2002.  Chapter 3.52, the Uniform Transient Occupancy Tax of the San Bernardino Municipal Code was repealed by the Mayor and Common Council by Ordinance MC-1006, on November 17, 1997, and Chapter 3.54 was repealed by the Mayor and Common Council by Ordinance MC 1127, on July 15, 2002.

The legal background of these changes is found in various court cases.  Chapter 3.52 was struck down as unconstitutionally vague by the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2 on November 18, 1997.  City of San Bernardino Hotel/Motel Assn. v. City of San Bernardino (1997)  59 Cal.App.4th 237.   “In a published opinion, this court struck down the City’s original occupancy tax as unconstitutionally vague. The City then revised its occupancy tax, hoping to remedy the defects we had identified. In an unpublished opinion, [City of San Bernardino Hotel/Motel Assn. v. City of San Bernardino (June 22, 2000, E025364) ]  however, this court strongly suggested that the revised occupancy tax was still unconstitutionally vague. The City therefore revised its occupancy tax yet again.”  City of San Bernardino Hotel/Motel Assn. v. City of San Bernardino (2005)  (Not officially published, found at 2005 WL 3198904).   In 2005, the Court found that the revised transient lodging tax passed constitutional muster.

There is a happy ending, at least for the City.  In the 2005 unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeal had this to say: “Although the City had two strikes against it, it has at last hit a home run.”

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
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