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San Diego Nonprofits concerned about proposed fee increases to host events

Posted at 8:39 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 23:39:41-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Wednesday, the San Diego City Council's Budget Committee moved forward with proposed fee increases that could double and even triple the costs for some nonprofits and organizations to hold special events.

"It’s egregious. It’s just far too much, too quickly," said Kevin Leap, Executive Director of the San Diego Event Coalition.

The San Diego Event Coalition was formed in 2020 to advocate for event professionals in San Diego County.

"Events were one of the first to take it and one of the last to come back. There’s a lot of people that are just barely hanging on," said Leap.

A fee change proposed by the San Diego Police Department would increase the hourly rate to cover special events from $55 per officer to $89 in 2023 and $119 in 2024.

"There's this one particular event that happens downtown and it's just two city blocks, and 45 hundred people, and the fees have increased for that event from $21,000 to over $60,000," Leap said.

The police department said the current fee has been in place since 2003. The increase is primarily due to union-negotiated salary raises and benefits for employees.

"It’s easily tripling the amount of money that’s going to have to be laid out, which comes right out of nonprofits' pockets," said Leap.

"We haven’t even really begun to recover as an events industry," said Jen LaBarbera, Director of Education and Advocacy for San Diego Pride.

The pandemic canceled San Diego Pride's parade and rally in 2020. LaBarbera said they held a scaled-down event in 2021. She said even though the fees haven't changed on the books, the bill they received from the city to hold their massive event has increased by 91% over the past decade.

"We have no real negotiating power, and we just have to agree to whatever they decide to charge us," said LaBarbera.

LaBarbera and Leap said it's smaller events that will suffer even more from the fee increase, which help nonprofits give back to the communities they serve.

"Having this increase in fees that comes on the back of nonprofits, I don’t think reflects the values that San Diego really stands for, which is that vitality, is that cultural beauty and vibrancy," said LaBarbera.

The proposed fee increases will go before the full city council for a final vote next month.