Downtown L.A.'s Made in America festival over Labor Day weekend set city taxpayers back nearly $170,000 in unrecouped costs for policing, street closures, trash pickup and other expenses, according to our analysis of figures from the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who aggressively wooed the event.
The numbers were apparently first released to another outlet just before the Veterans Day holiday, after L.A. Weekly, long critical of the event, last month formally requested them under the California Public Records Act. PRA expert Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition says the law dictates that, in general, City Hall shouldn't discriminate between whom gets public information and when.
In any case, the cash is relatively inconsequential for a city that has an $8 billion budget. Even fiscal hawk and City Hall critic Jack Humphreville calls the $169,971.84 we ended up spending on the two-day, Jay Z-curated concert "a drop in the bucket."
But it does demonstrate two things:
First, if the city streets used for the party constituted a for-profit venue, this would probably have been considered a bad deal. Concert venues generally negotiate for rent and a piece of concessions and merchandise. That didn't appear to happen here.
The nation's largest concert promoter, Live Nation, organizer of the festival that featured Kanye West, Iggy Azalea and Steve Aoki, agreed to pay the city $500,000 (plus landscaping repairs, if necessary).
The total city costs were $669,971.84, including $479,189.71 for police.
Garcetti, however, predicted there would be millions of dollars in economic benefits for the downtown area because about 35,000 or so people showed up for the event each day and, ostensibly, spent at least some cash in the neighborhood.
The mayor's economic-impact guesstimate is debatable. But even if it's true, it means we're subsidizing downtown business.
What about other parts of town?
Second, spending nearly $170,000 on a party speaks about City Hall's priorities.
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Los Angeles has the least affordable housing in the nation. It's a city in crisis. Our roads are the worst in America. In fact they're so bad that one organization says they cost the average Angeleno motorist nearly $2,500 in repairs and other expenses.
"L.A. streets are $4 billion problem," says Humphreville. "[Mayor] Eric's in a situation where we have a $165 million budget deficit coming up. I'd like them to spend that $170,000 planning how they're going to fix our sidewalks and streets."