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Is Art Walk Worth $8,731 to Downtown Businesses and Property Owners?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, at 02:48PM
August Downtown Art Walk Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Pedestrians pass by the Medallion project, at 4th and Main, during the August Downtown Art Walk.

Is the Downtown Art Walk worth $8,731 to Downtown businesses and property owners?

That is the amount that event's non-profit organizer will owe for October under new rules that require the event to go through the city's special events permitting process.

Those rules will not actually become official until they receive final City Council approval on Tuesday. The recommendation forwarded on this Wednesday by the council's Public Works committee call for the event and any food truck lots to be declared special events, allowing the city to require reimbursement of costs for additional personnel it must deploy.

"The fact of the matter is that the city has been subsidizing this event, and it has not been fair to other events that are required to go through the process," said Councilman Jose Huizar, the committee chair.

As of Friday afternoon, no food truck lots had applied for the special event permits they would need for Thursday's Art Walk.

Art Walk executive director Joe Moller will have a large task in front of him in convincing more businesses and property owners to pay their share of the $9,000 bill and keep the Art Walk going. Even with the lots forced to contribute their share—an amount that would be in addition to the fee estimate given to the Art Walk—the new requirements represent a big step up for a group that until now has only had to pay several hundred dollars in cleaning and permit fees each month.

"Our concern is that ... if what's left exceeds our budget it will cripple and ultimately kill Art Walk," he told the committee on Wednesday.

"I think we should be part of the financial solution," Moller told blogdowntown on Friday, though he emphasized that he hopes to see the number whittled down. "Let's really look at these costs and how much is essential."

Under the special events rules, city departments bill for the resources they actually deploy. The organizer must pay the estimated amount up front, but that number can be revised if more or less personnel actually end up involved. The final total will go up and down each month as attendance fluctuates.

"The costs that are going to be associated with the Art Walk are largely going to be roaming costs," explained Andrea Alarcon, President of the Board of Public Works and chair of the city's Art Walk Task Force. That would include traffic control officers, street services inspectors on bike patrol, and fire inspectors.

What it will not include is LAPD officers. The department's costs for the Art Walk are approximately $25,000 each month, but city rules say that police costs are not recovered for non-commercial events. The Art Walk was given that designation despite the clearly commercial nature of many of the individual events that make up parts of it.

That fact was not lost on Moller.

"Everybody but Art Walk is a commercial enterprise," he noted, hoping that the incentive of the designation would help convince participants to pay to keep the beneficial setup.

At the end of the day, he believes the business and property owners will come through because of what Art Walk brings to the neighborhood.

"Where else in Southern California do you have 40,000 customers walking right outside your door every month?" he asked. "It's Christmas twelve times a year."


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