Event Permit Process Affects Long Beach Performers

Fri, 05/11/2012 - 12:05pm
Advocacy Team (if applicable): 

Alive TheatreEvent Permit Process Affects Long Beach Performers

The City of Long Beach and cultural providers have been grappling with the potentially outdated Occasional Event Permit ordinance, which requires theatre groups, performance artists, dancers, musicians, DJs, and other artists who amplify or produce sound when performing to receive approval from the city prior to their event. The only permit exception is extended to permanent theater facilities who have received a Live Entertainment permit through the city.  In Long Beach, many cultural providers and organizations do not possess permanent facilities, however.  Though the permit has a positive purpose, the stipulations and process of obtaining this permit have made community members question if this ordinance should be amended.

The Occasional Event Permit has several stipulations that impact how cultural providers can present in Long Beach.  A burdening stipulation of this permit is that an approved permit expires after a 24 hour period and can only be awarded every ten days, with a maximum of 24 times a year.  This affects the ability of theatre groups, performance artists and dance groups to program effectively as typical programming includes weekly events for an extended period of time.   Another stipulation is that one can apply for the Occasional Event Permit only 10 to 30 days prior to the event, but applicants may not receive confirmation of approval until the day of the 24 hour period.  This leads to a level of uncertainty for performers as several events and productions have been canceled with little notice in the past.    

Alive Theatre, a company committed to presenting in non-tradition and found spaces, has encountered trouble as a result of the permit requirement.  In 2010, Alive Theatre produced Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and received positive reviews in the local newspapers, including the Greater Long Beach.  But the headlines detracted from this acclaim as Alive Theatre was obligated to cancel several shows due to complications with securing the necessary Occasional Event Permits for their performances.  The cancelations from this production troubled Alive Theatre co-founder Danielle Dauphinee because “it not only affected the actors, crew and company, but our patrons as well who were—plainly put—confused.” 

The creation of these local laws originated in “Initiative Ordinance #8,” which was adopted in 1932 to regulate “public dance halls.”  Over time, this ordinance was expanded within Ordinance 5.72.10  and Ordinance No. 10-0016 to reflect the needs of a growing community and its diverse cultural landscape.  It also tasked the Bureau Relations Bureau with management of Occasional Event Permit applications. 

Many cultural providers of Long Beach understand the importance of the combined ordinance stipulations for the Occasional Event Permit and believe the ordinance could be amended to better serve the arts community.  Logan Crow of Long Beach Cinematheque stated in an interview that he has much respect for the Business Relations Bureau and appreciates the staff’s dedication to assisting applicants.  Crow pointed out the absence of a blanketed Occasional Event Permit for a multi-venue festival.  Danielle Dauphinee believes a beneficial stipulation amendment “would be to remove the 10 day rule and increase the 24 permits a year to 34” as this would allow traditional theatre programs, which are commonly held every weekend for a three to six week period per production. 

There are several ways to join this discussion, both with cultural organizations and the city’s staff.  Two local organizations are the Long Beach Theatre Art Collaborative and the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach.  As a member of both organizations, Marlon Deleon believes “the Occasional Event Permit is one of the issues rising to the top of the artist community’s conscience, and it couldn’t come at a better time with groups like Long Beach Theatre Art Collaborative and Cultural Alliance of Long Beach banding together to fully educate ourselves on issues like this that affect our growth as artists, and to strategically pursue a change.”  Marlon Deleon would like to encourage dialogues with the Long Beach community as he believes in uniting the community and city government “in hopes of reaching a compromise where the arts are not sacrificed and the policies of Long Beach are being honored.”  To connect with the Facebook pages for Long Beach Theatre Art Collaborative and the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach, click on the blue underlined links.   

The manager of the Business Relations Bureau, Erik Sund, also encourages the Long Beach community to communicate issues they experience within the city.  As the City Council votes on City Policy, Sund encourages residents to speak with their respective Council member, who can request for the discussion topic to be added to the City Council’s agenda.  Once a topic is on the agenda, the Council members would vote if to pursue the request.  If the agenda item is approved, City staff would honor the request, such as to initiate an amendment process.  If you live in Long Beach and would like to start a dialogue about the Occasional Event Permit process with your City Council member, please use this link to obtain appropriate contact information. 

The Occasional Event Permit in Long Beach reflects the complexity of ordinance policies amid an ever-changing cultural landscape.  Contemplative dialogues and community unity can assist the needs of cultural providers and the growing city.  Arts for LA encourages respectful dialogues with City Council members and participation with arts organizations. As declared in the mission statement, Arts for LA believes that together, we can “foster a healthy environment in which arts and culture in the region may thrive and be accessible to all.”

Photo of Alive Theatre's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" performance.  Copyrights belong to AliveTheatre.