Taste of Bird Rock faces obstacles

If the community wants the show to go on for Taste of Bird Rock, the annual summer fundraiser — it won’t be the way it has in the past, a police spokesman said last week.

And should the restaurant-oriented promotional event continue — the cost of staging it will certainly rise.

“I’ve got a list of eight items, problems we had in 2007-08 with Taste of Bird Rock, so it’s not a one-time thing — it’s ongoing problems,” said San Diego Police Lt. Mark Hanten with the city Traffic Division’s special event operations team.

If event organizers want to hold the event again in 2010, the city won’t say no necessarily, he added. It’s just that it’s going to be a lot tougher for them to say yes.

“We’re not going to be nearly as flexible or accommodating,” he said. “We’re going to say they have to provide a lot more volunteers or private security. Our goal is to make sure the event is staffed properly, is safe, and that traffic is controlled and supervised throughout its duration and that there is proper signage.”

Joe Parker, president of Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC), which has hosted the “Taste,” which raised about $75,000 to support Bird Rock Elementary School between 2005 and 2009, said the event’s future would be discussed at the next BRCC board meeting, on Feb. 24.

But Parker added that the outlook for the event’s future isn’t bright.

“Whether we bring a similar version back this year, or just supplant the event with a different event at a different time of the year ... It’s a foregone conclusion that the event, as we know it, will be suspended for a year,” he said. “It can’t be duplicated. The city’s told us it can’t be funded under the same circumstances. And, we don’t have the chairs that can organize an event of that magnitude.”

Hanten said event complaints have included: People parking on the streets, not having enough detour signs to accommodate buses, making sure event organizers are available during the event to address issues, and ensuring volunteers or security personnel are in alleyways to prevent parking there.

But the biggest problem of all with the summer block party, said Hanten, has involved alcohol consumption.

“It’s a no-alcohol event except for inside restaurants and businesses,” he said. “That needed to be monitored to make sure everybody stayed in the public (consumption) areas and were not on the streets.”

The cost of staging the “Taste” will also increase markedly, but Hanten said that has nothing to do with past performance or event organizers being singled out.

“They were being subsidized by the city because they’re a nonprofit organization,” he said. “In the past, the city had given $1,000 worth of services to nonprofits free because special events are good things for communities and we wanted to support them. But the City Council has determined we’re unable to afford that.”

Taste of Bird Rock was grandfathered in on the $1,000 subsidy because organizers got their permits in on time, but that ended after last year’s event.

“In a word, it’s going to cost them more money,” said Hanten. “We’re going to require more security, more staffing all the way around.”