New safety measures for special events in Chula Vista have event organizers worried that added security costs might financially impact their events.
Events like last Sunday’s Lemon Festival required the use of K-rails with street closures. K-rails are temporary concrete barriers.
The extra safety procedure, implemented for the first time in April during CiclaVista, is set in place to prevent a tragedy from occurring, said Deputy City Manager Kelley Bacon.
“It’s really all about safety and looking at things that have happened around the world,” Bacon said. “And what can happen at festivals on the street if somebody decides to drive a car through a group of pedestrians.”
Bacon said recent situations outside Chula Vista prompted the city’s new security measure.
“We saw it happen a few years ago at Comic-Con when they had their Zombie Walk, we’ve seen things happen in Europe where people have intentionally been targeted with a vehicle,” she said.
In 2014 a deaf man drove through a Comic-Con crowd during its Zombie Walk, injuring a woman. During France’s national holiday in 2016 a driver of a cargo truck deliberately drove into crowds of people during festivities in Nice, France. This attack killed 86 people, injuring more than 400.
Chula Vista Police Lt. Henry Martin, who oversees special events, said there hasn’t been any threats made to the city that prompted such action but rather the city and the police department are taking precautionary measures.
“There have been no threats to Chula Vista,” he said. “There has been no mention of anybody doing something. We’re just trying to follow some of the best safety practices.”
Third Avenue Village Association’s executive director Luanne Hulsizer said she is all for making events safer, but wonders at what cost.
“We fully support having a safe event, a fun event for the community,” she said.
“The challenge is obviously how is this funded?”
TAVA runs the downtown Chula Vista business district and puts on multiple events throughout the year that require the closure of several busy streets in the heart of downtown Chula Vista.
The Lemon Festival held last Sunday was one of those events. The 2016 Lemon Festival cost TAVA $18,569, and it brought in a net revenue of $22,030 an invoice shows. Revenue from TAVA events pays for staffing and gets allocated to future events.
However, the cost to put on last Sunday’s Lemon Festival significantly increased to $30,385 and only brought in net revenue of $8,450.
The cost increase includes the full cost recovery of $8,560 for police security. Other added expenses include $2,460 for K-rails and $2,325 to buy water used to pour into K-rails. TAVA hired Diamond Environmental to pump out about 4,200 gallons of water from the K-rails at a cost of $1,566. None of these expenses were necessary last year, as the city did not implement its new security measures at the time.
Hulsizer said TAVA has a yearly set budget for events and allocations so they weren’t prepared for added costs to cover the cost of 28 K-rails.
Hulsizer said she was made aware of the security changes about six months ago.
Bacon said the city informed TAVA of its security changes last August.
When there is an event, the city in collaboration with the Chula Vista Police Department evaluates the security needs for each event.
The safety measures the city required for Lemon Festival take into consideration the closure of Third Avenue, the access to the street and what activities are being conducted, Chula Vista spokeswoman Anne Steinberger wrote in an email.
“We needed to better protect and safeguard the citizens when we are holding these festivals and events and the only way to do that is either to take large vehicles and block off streets or use k-rails to protect the public,” Bacon said.
Laurel McFarlane, CEO of McFarlane Promotions, puts on Chula Vista’s Starlight Parade. She said she would too have to use K-rails for the first time along the parade’s path.
“As the climate changes, it’s the city’s responsibility to make the event safer,” she said. “So events have to grow or figure ways (to get financed). Some events may have to go away (because of increased security cost) but you always have to think about the safety of the attendee.”
The city has purchased 18 k-rails that are stored at the public work’s department. The city has not yet estimated the staff cost to provide this service and have not yet provided the service.
Bacon said the city provided TAVA the option to use their k-rails to help trim cost of their event. But Hulsizer said she was told about this option too late.
“At the time we were on deadline to sign contracts to assure that we had enough K-rails for our event,” she said.
McFarlane said paying for k-rails could be a financial burden but that the cost of safety is priceless.
“As the budget person it hurts your budget but as a person who puts on events, you have to understand even though you may not like it, where the world is going.”