New Clayton fee schedule puts downtown festivals in jeopardy

New Clayton fee schedule puts downtown festivals in jeopardy

New Clayton fee schedule puts downtown festivals in jeopardy
Events such as the Clayton Pride Parade, Summer BBQ, and Art and Wine draw big crowds to downtown.

CLAYTON, CA (Sept. 14, 2023) — The City Council voted 3-2 to update its Master Fee Schedule on Aug. 15, with the added costs directly affecting the Clayton Business & Community Association (CBCA) and the Clayton Pride Parade.

As a result, events like Art & Wine, Oktoberfest and the summer BBQ face an uncertain future.

The vote significantly increases costs for hosting an event in Clayton, including a new $10,000 fee per day “special event fee” to rent Clayton’s streets. Since only one local nonprofit, the CBCA, is known to host regular events downtown, some have called the new fees “punitive” – including two members of the council, despite a 30% non-profit discount.

The city says the new fees are straightforward “cost recovery,” while the CBCA sees the special event fee, which is imposed on top of all cost recovery fees, as the city’s way of profiting off a nonprofit. Mayor Jeff Wan and his supporters on the council say they see real issues with the city’s financial solvency and contend that the updated fees are a legitimate means of keeping the city’s budget balanced.

Opponents say the special events fee is pure profit and goes well beyond cost recovery. The CBCA has stated they are ready and willing to pay 100% cost recovery but that the special event fee is excessive.

Even though the city included a 30% discount on the special event fee for the CBCA, club leaders worry the fee is too burdensome. They also say it was tacked on without proper consideration and is out of line with what surrounding cities are charging for events.
While the special event fee has been decided, CBCA president CW Wolfe said he is still in talks with the mayor and city to come to some conclusion on what the other fees will look like.

“I had a conversation with the mayor on the 30th and we’re going to have ongoing conversations now as to what the fees entail and, in other words, what we get from those fees, what is not included, what would be added costs and what we need to do,” said Wolfe, a former member of the City Council.

A council divided

Wan, Vice Mayor Jim Diaz and Councilmember Kim Trupiano voted yes on the Master Fee Scheule, with Holly Tillman and Peter Cloven dissenting. The Pioneer reached out to the mayor’s office twice for comment and did not hear back before press deadline. Wan did share his thoughts on the matter in his column in this issue of The Pioneer.

Diaz also did not respond to a request for comment. Trupiano said: “I’m not going to talk about the fee schedule. I’ve already said what I had to say at the last meeting.”

Cloven and Tillman, on the other hand, had a lot to say. Tillman said the updated fee schedule is “punitive.” She noted that when the council started off the conversation earlier this year, “it was only about cost recovery. And it continued to change as each month went by when our mayor continued to move the goalposts.”

Tillman says that as the process evolved, everything seemed to be less and less rooted in relevant numbers. “It was clear that the consultant that we hired could not answer basic questions for us on how he derived that fee.”

City Manager Bret Prebula sheds some light on why the fee adjustments might be difficult for the community. He points out that, aside from the special event fee which new this year, the other fees will see a substantial increase because they haven’t been looked at in about 15 years.

“That’s really based on the fact that the city just hadn’t done a cost analysis in many years. Then you tend to have, unfortunately, a larger impact instead of gradually moving it over time.”

Before the adjustment, the daily rate to rent the large picnic area in the Clayton Community Park was $577. Under the new schedule, the daily rate is $769, a 33% increase.

“With the exception of the special event fee,” Perbula continued, “the new Master Fee Schedule is now an accurate reflection of the cost of us providing the service that someone would utilize in the community,” he said.

A targeted attack?

Cloven notes that only the CBCA and Clayton Pride will be affected. “It’s a discriminatory tax that (Wan) is expertly wrapping in the guise of fiscal prudence.”

According to Cloven, the summer barbecue festival most likely will not survive the change. “Currently the barbecue can’t happen because it’ll operate at a loss,” he said.

The CBCA donates the bulk of its revenue to schools, sports teams and community organizations in Clayton, and the updated fees will impact what they can afford to give back to the community.

“CBCA does not make a profit,” Wolfe said. “CBCA takes the money and gives it back to the Clayton community.”

Cloven states that the changes came without any documentation, spreadsheets or numbers to back them up. The issue was added to a March City Council meeting at the last minute when Tillman was away on a scheduled vacation.

Tillman says those who voted yes would prefer that the controversy go away.

“They don’t want to continue discussing it anymore because they know deep down what they were doing was punitive. But if this was not targeted at the CBCA, then the fees in and of themselves would not have been based on what the CBCA could afford to pay,” she said.
Wolfe says CBCA events like Oktoberfest and Art & Wine will continue, even if they have to leave Clayton. “We’re continually looking for other opportunities.”

Still, Wolfe says that the money the CBCA raises will benefit Clayton.

“The one guarantee for the Clayton community is no matter how or where we hold our events, the money will always come back to the Clayton community.”

Vince Martellacci
Vince Martellacci

Vince Martellacci is a somewhat new resident of Clayton who loves to spend time in the town center and in Concord. He represents musicians across the Bay Area in the media when he’s not writing. Contact him at