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L.A. City Council adopts policy to limit fee waivers for parades, festivals, special events

December 19, 2008 | 10:30 am

La_greek_festival

Culture Monster thinks this photo makes the annual L.A. Greek Festival seem like a lot of fun.

But the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles is finding it less than fun that, for many such festivals, parades, fairs and special events, it has been picking up the tab for the services needed to make such events happen.

In recent years, the city has made a practice of providing many nonprofits with a fee waiver to cover 100% of the cost of police, traffic cops, firefighters, street custodians and street inspectors for their events. But Lynne Ozawa, assistant chief legislative analyst for the city of Los Angeles, says those annual costs were getting out of control.  "It's at least $5 million," she says, adding that overtime costs for safety and custodial services probably boost the costs far higher.

So, earlier this week, the City Council adopted a policy that would cut those costs in half: Nonprofits may now obtain a fee waiver for only 50% of such costs and can apply for waivers for only two events per year. Before now, nobody was really keeping track of how many events each organization was putting in for, Ozawa says.

The new annual budget for fee waivers, Ozawa says, is $2.5 million. Of that, $1 million is designated for citywide events, and $1.5 million is to be divvied up among the individual council districts. She says the budget will be adopted within 60 days and begins with the 2008-2009 fiscal year already underway. (UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the new annual budget for fee waivers was $2,500.)

It's not necessarily a function of the cut but probably of the economy: Will Caperton y Montoya, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, says there will be about 30 fewer festivals listed in Cultural Affairs' annual Festival Guide for 2009 than there were in 2008. The guide, however, also lists many Southern California festivals that are not held in L.A. or funded by the city.

Ozawa says it is impossible to predict exactly how the 50% waiver cap will affect the recently announced Ring Festival L.A., a 10-week event planned for the spring of 2010 that will involve more than 50 Southern California arts and educational institutions, inspired by Los Angeles Opera's upcoming production of Richard Wagner's epic "Ring" cycle.

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Dancers at the 2004 L.A. Greek Festival. Credit: George Themelis

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