The Coast News Group
Del Mar Fairgrounds
County officials have agreed to waive a number of event permitting fees to offset lost revenue from more than a year of COVID restrictions at venues like the Del Mar Fairgrounds. File photo

Supervisors waive county event fees for COVID recovery

REGION – The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved waiving fees for the events industry – planners, venues and vendors – as event restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic loosen, officials announced today.

During their Tuesday meeting, supervisors voted to waive permit fees for the 2021-22 fiscal year from the Department of Environmental Health and Quality, Department of Parks and Recreation, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego County Fire Authority.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief administration officer, will return with a resolution within 30 days that includes the fee waiver as part of the board’s regularly scheduled COVID-19 update.

“Today hardworking San Diegans in the events industry can breathe a sigh of relief,” board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said. “We are happy to support these businesses and excited for the return of family-friendly events in San Diego County.”

Fletcher said recently that the event industry “was dealt a tremendous economic blow by the pandemic. Unlike other sectors who were able to operate at limited capacity and bring in some revenue, they could not because of the protections around large gatherings.”

According to the San Diego Association of Governments, the meeting and special events industry brought 2.7 million visitors and $3.5 billion in spending to San Diego in 2019.

“As the restrictions on events are relaxed, the event industry deserves some financial help,” Fletcher continued.

Laurel McFarlane, president of the San Diego Event Coalition, said Fletcher has been working with the SDEC since last year on this issue.

“Events are about people – the human connections they create, the non-profit programs they support, the community awareness and traffic they generate, and most urgently, the individual people behind the scenes that rely on events to make a living,” McFarlane said. “It has often felt as if the industry, and its people, have been forgotten.”

SDEC membership produces some of San Diego’s largest annual events, including Chula Vista Harborfest, San Diego Pride, So Cal Taco Fest, Art Walk, San Diego County Fair, San Diego Diner En Blanc, Gator By the Bay, La Mesa Oktoberfest and others.

If the policy passes, Fletcher’s office estimates the expected revenue impact to San Diego County to be more than $1.13 million for the DEHQ, $400,000 for the DPR, $118,280 for the Sheriff’s Department and $6,000 for the San Diego County Fire Authority.

Pending guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department, the funding source will be American Rescue Plan Act funds.