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L.A. cuts spending for nonprofit events

December 22, 2008|Diane Haithman

The Los Angeles City Council voted to cut by half the amount the city is spending to provide city services for many special events presented by nonprofit organizations, such as arts and community festivals.

In recent years, the city has made a practice of providing numerous groups with a fee waiver to cover 100% of the cost of police, traffic cops, firefighters, street custodians and street inspectors required for their events. But Lynne Ozawa, assistant chief legislative analyst for Los Angeles, says those annual costs were getting out of control.

"It's at least $5 million," she says, adding that overtime for safety and custodial services probably boost the costs far higher.

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 among the council districts. She says the budget will be adopted within 60 days and begins with the 2008-09 fiscal year already underway.

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 spring 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.

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diane.haithman@latimes.com

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