History of and Reformulating the Special Events Committee

March 19, 2008 No Comments

These are my concerns regarding the future of the PB Special Events Committee. My opinions are based on my recollections as to the history of the group’s formation and are subject to correction if needed.

I share my concerns as to the entire process of approving special events, as well as which events are appropriate, in our community as well as make recommendations towards reformulating the process.

History

From my understanding, in the past, before a special event could take place in PB, the organizers had to get ‘community approval’ ie. endorsements by (a) various community groups such as Discover PB, the Planning Committee and the PB Town Council. These recommendations would be made to the Office of Special Events, which I believe is run by Carolyn Wormser. This department has an event application that includes the following statement under the heading ‘Mitigation of Impact’:

As an event organizer, you are required to develop mitigating measures to accommodate the negative impact your event may have on entities that may be affected by your activities. Most neighborhoods and business districts are represented by a number of community groups that are officially recognized by the City of San Diego. These groups include, Community Planning Groups, Town Councils, Business Improvement Districts, and Recreation Councils. If your event venue is in an area that is governed by one or more of these groups, you must present your event concept to these organizations for their support or endorsement. You must also meet with the residents, businesses, places of worship and schools that may be impacted by the noise and street closures related to your event.

At some point Councilmember Faulconer established what is now called a Special Events Committee. This group consisted of four distinct segments including two representatives each from Discover PB, the PB Planning Committee and the PB Town Council as well as three at-large members appointed by Councilmember Faulconer’s office.

I believe the intentions of forming this committee were to get every group in the same room who may have concerns about events in PB, where they could work together to shape events (i.e. discuss issues with organizers and have them sufficiently addressed) as well as give PB one voice to the city Special Events Department.

The SE committee took many, many months working on their bylaws. Then, from what I’m told the PB Town Council representative at the time suggested the SE committee must have insurance to protect the members from future litigation relating to events. That is, I understand their thought was that if a recommendation was made to the city to let an event take place, that someone who was harmed at the event may one day turn back and sue the committee.

My thoughts:

1. I don’t understand why this committee was formed in the first place. It seems there are only two main benefits: one, make it easier for event applicants to get their permit and two, make it easier for the city to hear from one group to answer the ‘community support or endorsement’ issue outlined above.

What wasn’t working from the past? Organizers had to present their event idea to one or all three groups (Discover PB, Planning and Town Council). Each of our groups naturally has different concerns. Discover PB clearly represents business interests (ideally both owners and consumers), while the Planning and Town Council represents the entire community (i.e. ideally business owners, consumers, residents, visitors etc.). When groups wanted to do an event they pitched it to these three entities. Each of these three groups then made recommendations to the city Special Events department as to their approval or disapproval of events.

2. Pacific Beach has a historical issue with alcohol. We have over three times the number of liquor licenses the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) recommends for our size town at our level of crime rates. Many of these licenses were granted under a “public convenience and necessity” clause essentially ignoring other ABC guidelines – because there was an overwhelming demand for more alcohol outlets. I believe in census tract 79.01 (the core of PB) there is a liquor license for every 85 residents! I remember the ABC saying, back in the Beach Alcohol Task Force meetings of 2007, that the reason we have so many liquor licensees is that no one complained back in the 80’s and 90’s. So now we’re stuck with them?

PB has the highest levels of drunk-driving arrests in the city of San Diego. We have astronomical levels of alcohol-related crimes. We do not need several events a year that promote alcohol or, the overwhelming number of liquor licensees throughout Pacific Beach.

3. I believe PB is the last place many residents, especially families, want to visit on weekends. Most parents do not want their young, impressionable kids to be exposed to the alcohol-fueled environment. We have unusually high numbers of people coming from house parties, going from bar to bar and trashing the place without any consideration of our community. Do we really need more events that promote this culture?

4. What we do need are family-centric events that promote fun, family and community – without it turning into a massive drunk-fest. Can anyone tell me for instance how the current event at the Special Events committee helps the community of PB? This is the StayClassy.org ‘charity’ event which will consist of having an open-air concert in the parking lot of PB Bar and Grill. I heard the organizers plan on bussing in 2,000 people to attend a 9-hour party, complete with bands etc.. This all under the guise of raising money to give back to charities that help the environment?

5. I sincerely believe that there are many people in the business community that just don’t get it. Our community is tired of being branded the party-zone of San Diego. We’ve had enough. Evidence? The Block Party was out of control – now gone. Beach alcohol has gotten out of control – now gone (for at least a year). House parties? Now we have the Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP) and the Administrative Fines program.

The bars and business district? Still more of the same. More pub crawls, more drunks staggering around, same as usual drunk-driving and alcohol-related crimes. Nothing has changed in this area. And they want to have more alcohol-focused events?

6. If the SE committee is to continue staying intact under the current configuration I believe a few things should happen before the PBTC gets involved. These include:

a. I believe the insurance question is a red herring. If all the SE committee is doing is making recommendations to the city Special Events department, who ultimately gives the approval or dis-approval to the applicant and event, why do we need to be insured? Aren’t they just making a recommendation to the City who makes the ultimate decision on if an event should take place? Why would we need insurance for making a suggestion?

b. The SE committee should immediately sever any ties to Discover PB (i.e. the SE committee is technically a sub-committee of Discover PB – ostensibly for insurance purposes).

c. The committee should be chaired by a representative from the Town Council. The PBTC is the most reasonable choice since they represent the entire community of PB – not just one segment – and especially the one segment that represents the alcohol licensees (read: huge conflict of interest).

d. The PBTC should have a weighted vote. That is, since the PBTC represents the entire community they should have more votes than say, the business district which only represents the local businesses.

Finally, just because we have too many bars and alcohol outlets doesn’t mean that we as a community have to tolerate events that promote this culture.

My Recommendations?

Reformulate the way PB works with special event organizers by:

1. Disbanding the current Special Events committee.
2. Each group, Discover PB, Planning Committee and PB Town Council designate two ‘Special Events’ representatives that agree to represent their organizations and membership accordingly.
3. When event organizer applicants wish to hold an event they invite the three group’s representatives, and anyone from the general public, to a meeting no less than 120 days before a planned event. At this meeting the event applicant presents their ideas, while the community representatives and/or public make their suggestions.
4. The two groups then meet no less than 90 days prior to the event to discuss final accommodations and compromises.
5. Each of the three community groups makes their recommendation to the city Special Events department no later than 60 days prior to the event.

Following this process gives each community group time to take potential events, recommendations and suggestions back to their groups. The groups can then gather feedback from their constituents and communicate those concerns to the event applicant in time for all group’s members to be kept in the loop as well as for changes to be made.

What type of events would work in PB?

I think each Board from the three groups, Discover PB, PB Planning Committee and PB Town Council should poll their members and develop a consensus of what type of events their constituents want and will or will not tolerate in the PB community.

I think it’s clear that Discover PB for instance wants to promote events that serve their bar, restaurant and liquor-outlet constituents. What I don’t hear clearly is what events will promote all the other businesses in PB.

I believe the majority of PB Planning Committee and Town Council members want events that are more family-centric and less alcohol-focused. What we may have to consider is what types of events are ok for PB that do serve the bars, restaurants and alcohol outlets but, on a much more community-oriented scale. I’m not against bars making money but, I am against their doing it at the expense of our community’s reputation and family-centric environment.

I’ll stop here. Hopefully this will give you some food for thought. I don’t think the current SE committee idea is working. I don’t think the business district gets it yet. I do however believe that we as a community can work together to find a happy balance between all of our group’s interests.

Tags: Special Events

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