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    Keep Special Events Special By Taking Them Out of OPD Permitting Control

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large–

    On October 12, 2021, the City of Oakland’s Public Safety Committee received an informational report from the City Administrator regarding the status of implementing the July 2020 Council directive, introduced by me, to transfer Special Events Permitting out of the Oakland Police Department (OPD) to be handled by civilians. Although the proposal passed Council over a year ago, it has not yet been implemented by the administration.

    One of the interesting issues to come of the discussion of staff’s response to Council’s questions is that the law should allow that security personnel, not exclusively OPD, can staff special events. This difference, allowing organizers to choose to hire their own security guards, can save tens of thousands of dollars per event, compared to the cost of using the police.

    Several community members and organizers have shared their strong support to remove the Special Events Permitting out of OPD to be handled by civilians, due to the expensive fees, waste of police time, undermining of arts and culture events, and lack of transparency in how the fees are calculated.

    As reported by KQED: “Critics of the current policy are frustrated: In the years prior to the pandemic, Oakland used as much as 84% of its festivals and fairs fund to pay the police department for security instead of directly supporting artists and cultural institutions. This police-led permitting system is cost-prohibitive and inequitable, critics say. They argue it hurts opportunities for artists and small businesses, hampers Oakland’s arts and culture and related industry, and slows recovery from pandemic restrictions.”

    My position on this issue has been clear and consistent. The redirection of the Event Permitting out of OPD to civilians will allow OPD to focus on responding and investigating serious crime, missing persons, and removing illegal guns, and will remove important and expensive barriers to Oakland’s arts and cultural events and economy.

    The art and cultural scene of Oakland needs to have a chance at a true recovery from the pandemic, just like every other vibrant aspect of Oakland that was dealt a devastating blow by COVID. By removing Special Event Permitting from OPD control, we can create more consistent and lower fees for the cultural events and festivals that enrich Oakland so much. OPD can, instead of staffing parades, festivals, running races, and other low crime events, focus on serious crime and stopping illegal guns. 

    Councilmember At-Large and Council President Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016 and 2020. She also serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). Follow Councilmember Kaplan on Twitter @Kaplan4Oakland ( and Facebook  ( ).

    Published on October 21, 2021