Inside the 8-year-old light rail station, Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells gazed at the bustling skyline of this once sleepy Westside suburb known for movie studios, auto repair shops and affordable single-story homes for aerospace workers.
Everything has changed for this city of 39,000 people sandwiched between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The mayor pointed to the north, where a five-story building with red trim is now being constructed -- a future home for HBO's West Coast headquarters.
To the southwest, the historic Culver Studios -- a site that once was home to such movie productions such as "Gone With the Wind" and "Citizen Kane" -- has been transformed by Amazon Studios since it started leasing space there in 2017. "All of it is Amazon," she said, scanning construction several blocks away.
"Let's face it. We're kind of hot right now," Sahli-Wells said. "There are a lot of major companies that are locating in Culver City. Especially as we welcome some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, it would be appropriate to ensure that all businesses are paying their fair share."
Culver City has become one of the fastest-growing digital media hubs in Southern California as Amazon, Apple, China-owned TikTok and other firms have expanded into the area, drawn to its location and movie history. The influx has brought thousands of new jobs to the city but also caused some growing pains. Now, Culver City officials are considering a tactic that Silicon Valley cities have pursued: raising business taxes to help manage the inevitable costs of growth.
If history is any guide, such a move could create tensions between the city and the towering tech giants reshaping it. Amazon and Apple have occasionally clashed with cities in other areas over proposed tax hikes or policies deemed unfriendly to their interests.
Colin Diaz, president of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, said his members, which include Amazon and Apple, are "open to discussion," but warned that some businesses may be forced to move.
"It will definitely cause businesses to leave," Diaz said. "There would be a noticeable impact."
Under the current tax, many businesses pay 0.1% to 0.3% of their gross receipts (depending on the industry type), while some companies pay a flat fee.
On Wednesday night, members of the city's financial advisory committee will discuss potential changes to the business tax. Discussions are in the early stages, however, and any increase would have to be approved by a majority of the council and by residents in a ballot measure.