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Long Beach proposes upfront payment to cover event costs

Long Beach officials want to increase permit fees

Long Beach officials want to increase permit fees for community events such as the annual Polar Bear Plunge, seen here on Feb. 4. Credit: johnny milano

Long Beach organizers are pushing back against a new city proposal that would raise permit fees and require upfront payments for special events previously absorbed by the city. 

City officials said the proposed requirements are intended to cover $400,000 the city pays in overtime for police and other workers to host events such as Pride on the Beach, Irish Day and the Polar Bear Plunge. 

The city council held its first hearing on the permit changes on Tuesday, with another hearing and a potential vote on changing the city’s code of ordinances planned for its July 3 meeting. 

City officials approved a 2018-19 budget that includes $225,000 in revenue from special events. Officials said they could no longer absorb the costs after the city had to bridge a $4.5 million deficit with an 8.3 percent tax increase starting July 1. 

Officials said events like Irish Day and the Polar Bear Plunge cost the city more than $100,000.

The city is raising its special event permit fee from $120 to $250 and will do a cost analysis for each event before asking for payment for anticipated costs. If the payment exceeds the city’s costs, organizers will be refunded. If the costs are not covered, the city will issue an invoice, Long Beach Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi said.

“We have a jewel of a resource in the city that everyone wants to have their events here. We have a very generous policy for special permits,” Agostisi said.

The policy has drawn concern from event organizers such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Hibernian members say they pay the city $15,000 to $20,000 for Irish Day, which usually commands a large police presence.

The Long Beach Polar Bears say they’ve raised $6 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“We understand there’s a cost to our event,” Polar Bears co-founder Pete Meyers said. “But there are probably a 100,000 items out there that say ‘Long Beach’ on them, and there’s a price to goodwill you can’t really calculate.”

Meyers said the event draws 20,000 people to Long Beach every February to spend money in shops and restaurants. He said if organizers receive a $50,000 bill from the city, that would limit 10 wishes to needy children.

The Polar Bears are not a registered nonprofit organization.

“Everyone supports the good will it brings to our city,” Meyers said. “It’s priceless.”

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