The City Council finally agreed to a fee structure for local community groups and nonprofits using the newly renovated San Marino Community Center, settling on pricing that considers operating costs rather than a market-oriented model.
City staff has been working on updating its fee schedule following the $8.4 million renovation of the San Marino Community Center and presented an updated pricing model to the Council on Oct. 27, which included exclusive prices for groups such as the Chinese Club, Garden Club, Rotary Club, City Club and the San Marino Unified School District’s PTA. The groups get a considerable discount when compared to the rates for San Marino residents and businesses as well as those who are not from the city. For example, to reserve all three multipurpose rooms in the new Community Center between Friday and Sunday costs $2,150 for the required five-hour minimum, and $430 for each additional hour. Community groups and nonprofits only pay $770 and $154 for each additional hour, a rate that Mayor Steve Talt and most Council members felt was a fair compromise.
Pricing was determined by assessing direct and indirect operating expenses for the Community Center, including personnel, utilities, custodial services, insurance and maintenance. The total cost to operate the building is just over $1 million per year, and staff divided that figure by rentable hours per year to determine the rentable costs and then divided that by the square footage of the structure to determine the cost per square foot, which is 3 cents. The methodology was reviewed and confirmed by consultant Revenue & Cost Specialists, LLC.
The pricing for residents and nonresidents did not change from what city staff initially proposed on July 28. The City Council approved the market-based pricing model for those groups but asked staff to revise the rental fees for community groups and nonprofits.
Community Services Director Cathi Johnson assured Council members that the new pricing model is “significantly lower” than what was presented during the summer, and her department now expects revenue for the fiscal year to decrease by $25,000 as a result of the changes.
Four of the five Council members voted in favor of the staff’s modified rental fees. Gretchen Shepherd Romey was the lone voice of dissent and felt that because residents paid to renovate the Community Center, community groups should not be charged.
“I think that San Marino community groups should use the San Marino Community Center for free, at least initially,” she said during the meeting. “And if you want, do something over time … [where] they would be charged for only an incremental cost, meaning if we have to employ additional people, if there have to be additional janitorial services.
Shepherd Romey also expressed concern that the current pricing model would discourage community groups from using the Community Center.
“Otherwise, we’re going to have an empty shell of a building if we [charge] community groups,” Shepherd Romey added. “It doesn’t make any sense that we’re going in the total cost of overhead and administrative fees because we will be paying for the air [and] the staff otherwise that are there during these operating hours.”
Talt replied that if city staff feel that they are not getting the usage they want out of the Community Center, then it will be addressed by the Council.
First published in the Nov. 2 issue of the San Marino Tribune