Long Beach to stop footing the bill for some special events


The Long Beach City Council has decided that non-city sponsored special events will no longer get a financial free ride.

The city has covered the costs of police overtime and emergency services for a number of special events over the years, but at its meeting on Feb. 21, the council approved changes in the permitting process for individuals, groups and organizations planning to hold such events. The city will no long absorb the cost of these events as it seeks to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Those interested in hosting an event will now be required to apply to the city clerk at least 45 days in advance, and pay a $100 fee. If the event involves alcohol, the fee will be $500.

Councilman Roy Lester questioned the processing fees. “I don’t quite understand paying $500 when you might not get a permit,” Lester said. “It seems to me there should be metrics where we should be able to determine whether a permit should be issued or not beforehand, so people don’t go in and hand over money blindly.”

Corporation Counsel Rich Berrios, who, since last week’s meeting, has resigned, planning to move to Florida, said that application fees are just processing fees. When an application fee is paid, it doesn’t just disappear, he said. Instead, the application is evaluated by every department that will be involved with the event, including police, fire, parks and other city units.

“Yes, these fees are upfront nonrefundable, but it’s not like it just gets dumped in,” Berrios said. “There are no criteria for considering the application for a special event.”

The city describes a special event as any athletic, entertainment or filming event, or a demonstration or other organized gathering that involves the use of streets, sidewalks, parks or other city property. These events include concerts, parades, boardwalk fairs and festivals, community gatherings, marathons and foot and bike races or tours.

The city no longer covers the expenses of the tournament, the Super Bowl Sunday Polar Bear Splash, which raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or the Waterfront Warriors weekend, when wounded military veterans are honored with a parade and a barbecue.

Karen Adamo, co-president of the Long Beach Historical Society, asked at the meeting what the city would do if a nonprofit or group didn’t have the money to pay all the fees for the event upfront, including the cost of police overtime, emergency services and the use of city property.

“Not having the money upfront doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from holding the event,” Berrios responded. “What it does do is put them on the hook if they can’t pay it” — meaning costs that can total thousands of dollars.

Berrios said that if a person, group or organization can’t cover an event’s expenses, the city will have to consider recouping them in any way it can. But an inability to pay upfront will “not prevent an organization from holding an event.”

The city is making changes, City Spokesman John McNally said, so that it doesn’t keep losing money on these events, subsidizing them, in effect.

“Over the past three years, we’ve been working to analyze profits and losses to really determine what the true costs of events are and make sure that the city and our taxpayers are made whole,” McNally said. “We’re not making profits off of any of these things.”