Rec Center users to see fee hikes

Fee increases for users of city parks passed by the City Council last week will weigh heavily on Rec Center users, and will cramp, but not crimp, efforts of La Jolla nonprofits hosting special events, say those who run and use the parks.

“They will affect just about everyone using the facility,” said Rec Center Director Dianne Brittingham.

Most increases are slight, she said, such as the 50-cent additional surcharge per child per meeting raising the cost from $2.50 to $3. But for the first time ever, nonprofits like

Brownies will be charged $2.50 an hour to use the facility.

Other groups will be impacted too.

“Community college continuing education classes use our facility for seniors, they no longer will be free after all these years,” Brittingham said.

Room charges

Also, rental fees are now being charged to use the center’s auditorium, rooms, fields and courts.

“That’s going to $5 an hour for small meeting rooms, $20 an hour for the auditorium,” she said. The city is also now taking 10 percent of what the Rec Center takes in from its weight room.

Brittingham said the cost to La Jolla Parks and Recreation Inc.--which operates the center--of buying hours to keep the center open longer than the 40 hours the city provides due to budget cuts has been hiked $6.50 from $37.50 to $44 an hour.

“When you total everything up it goes from $42,600 to almost $47,000,” she said. “We’re going to have to come up with another $5,000 just to be open and provide better services, our special events and things like that. The Board will be voting on that in May.”

Filling the holes

Meanwhile, community groups dodged a bullet when the council scuttled a part of the fee plan that would have nearly doubled the rate police charge for event services.

Among fee increases planned to raise an estimated $7 million to close a $60 million budget gap, the council last week eliminated a $1,000 credit for nonprofit groups using city services for special events.

They also increased late library book return fees from 25 to 30 cents a day, although La Jolla’s librarian, Catherine Greene, said she expects the extra nickel patrons will be paying per day for late returns will have negligible impact on the $3,000 the branch takes in monthly.

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said the council tried to minimize the impact of increased fees as much as possible through the city.

“The mayor’s staff presented a proposal that was well-reasoned and maintained existing hours and programs to the extent possible,” she said. “As we go forward, we will be watching the impact on our community, and we may be able to reconsider certain fees.”

‘Event buster’ busted

Most noteworthy, perhaps, was the fee increase the council didn’t pass: a proposal to raise the per-hour rate police charge nonprofits for special events from $55 to $96.

That increase could have been an “event buster” for community functions like La Jolla’s Christmas parade, said Darcy Ashley, president of La Jolla Town Council which hosts the year-end event.

“It would have killed the parade if they had doubled the police expense,” she said. “The $1,000 increase is going to make our job a little harder, but it doesn’t make it insurmountable.”

Several other high-profile community events staged by La Jolla nonprofits including the annual Fourth of July Cove fireworks display hosted by restaurateur George Hauer and First Republic Bank and the Promote La Jolla-sponsored Motor Car Classic in January, are feeling the continuing pinch of rising costs for city services.

Now in its 25th year, the annual La Jolla Cove Fourth of July event is a community tradition. But staging it every year has become a monumental undertaking, between getting the permits and the costs.

Adding it up

“It’s getting prohibitively expensive,” said Hauer. “The incremental expense increase over the last two years will be $7,000 to $8,000 on top of the $22,000 it takes to put it on. Even in good times, $30,000 is a lot of money to spend.”

Promote La Jolla (PLJ), the Village merchant district, sponsored its fifth annual Motor Car Classic in January, exhibiting 145 vintage antique autos.

Executive Director Tiffany Sherer said increased park fees passed by the City Council won’t impact their event, though costs associated with it are rising along with its profile. “We don’t use any police services,” she noted, attributing much of the increase in the cost of staging this year’s event to higher permit fees--up from $200 to $800--required because admission was charged for the first time.