The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the newspaper industry, as many publications continue losing revenue due to a lack of advertising.
But in addition to a lack of ad revenue, newspapers in Pasadena must incur another cost: annual fees paid to the city’s Public Works Department for placement of news racks on city sidewalks and other locations.
On July 1, 2019 the Pasadena City Council approved the city’s General Fee Schedule for fiscal year 2020. The 44-page document outlines the cost of different services in each city department — from the cost of parking tickets and planning permits to what it takes to mail City Council agendas, rent meeting rooms in a branch library, and place of news racks.
While services such as rental of the meeting rooms did not see a hike in fees from fiscal year 2019 to 2020, most services typically did see a jump from year to year. For example, the agenda fee increased from $63.60 to $65.19, a modest 2.5 percent. Another example, however, would be the news rack permit fee, which increased from $12.54 to $90 per rack — a more than 617 percent price hike.
“The increase in fee was approved by the City Council, and adopted in the current General Fee Schedule since July 1, 2019,” Pasadena Principal Engineer Yannie Wu-Bowman wrote in an email to Pasadena Weekly’s parent company. “The increase is to defray actual staff costs for permit processing, coordination monitoring enforcements, and annual parade route clearing.”
Along with the increase of annual permit fees, the city increased the fees for every category in the news rack permit section. Non-refundable administrative processing fee, which is applied to each permit, increased from $45.78 to $69, a 50.7 percent increase. The initial application per news rack increased from $49.92 to $51.17, a 2.5 percent increase. And finally, the news rack collection and storage fee per news rack increased from $124.93 to $128.06, another 2.5 percent increase.
According to the Wu-Bowman, these increases were also issued to three other publications, La Opinion, Pasadena Star-News and El Classificado.
“If there is financial hardship in obtaining permits for all news racks, please strategically reduce their number and focus in the more popular locations,” Wu-Bowman wrote. “Another cost effective alternative to maintain comparable readers exposure is to enhance online resources through your website. Both options conform with the City’s environmental friendly policy to reduce printing materials and carbon footprint [sic].”
The City Council will discuss the new General Fee Schedule in June.
For a longer take on this story, please read our newspaper, which will be available Thursday morning at a news rack near you.