Ventura City Council on Monday, April 10, voted 6-0 to create a stakeholders group to offer opinions on the best practices for hosting events within the city and asked city staff to rethink proposed insurance increases, comparing premiums and fees to neighboring cities, after promoters and event organizers expressed concern that they may need to leave, should costs continue to increase.

The proposed insurance requirements included a three-tiered system that varied in the amount of coverage, averaging $2 million per occurrence (i.e., incident) and $4 million in aggregate (in total). Had the insurance requirements been adopted, premiums would have increased by three to four times.

Michael Dawson, vice president of the Diversity Collective, which hosts three events in the city yearly, told the council that last year for the Ventura PRIDE Festival, the Collective paid $538 for insurance coverage for the daylong event.

“With these proposed changes, that one day goes from $538 to $3,250 to $7,000 depending on how that tier III is aggregated,” said Dawson. “For a local LGBTQ nonprofit that serves over 1,500 Ventura residents a year we have an operating budget of $12,000, a $3,700 to $7,000 increase would be a drastic change for us, one where we may have to consider taking our event to other places.”

“We spoke to the city of Oxnard about our event and they are very interested in us bringing our event to their city,” said Rotary Club of Ventura President-Elect Ellyn Dembowski of the club’s annual fireworks show, which she says ran up against permitting and insurance issues prior to the last event.

“I’m not asking for the city of Ventura to pay me, I’m just asking for the city of Ventura to be fair,” said Vincenzo Giammanco. “My California Beer Festival fees have gone up 100 percent from the year before. … I could produce three events in three different cities for the same price of doing one event in Ventura.”

City Councilwoman Christy Weir moved for city staff to return with recommendations to the Council after meeting with stakeholders, many of whom expressed a desire to remain in the city and for the council to work directly with them in shaping requirements.

“We don’t want to increase insurance limits just because someone went to a conference; let’s look at real-world implications,” said Councilman Matt LaVere, adding, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” before voting in favor of the motion.

Also on the agenda was a proposed ordinance that would rezone a small part of the city for an overnight shelter with social services for homeless people, a maximum of 55 beds, and a one-time transfer of $35,000 to the Community Development Department for the permit-entitlement process of emergency shelter, which was approved. Two salary increases were approved as well: City Manager Mark Watkins’ salary increased by 2 percent to just over $243,000 with a one-time bonus of $7,150, and City Attorney Gregory Diaz’s salary by 4.2 percent, to $214,000.