It was the culmination of a year of elaborate planning at city hall and a major source of income to Katherine Stuart, wife of mayor Kevin Faulconer.
BIO party in the Gaslamp
And word was out to private security forces and San Diego cops that taking photos of the big event was definitely not appreciated.
Wednesday night's exclusive party in the Gaslamp Quarter, thrown for the 2014 BIO International Convention and run by the Biotechnology Industry Association, was a blowout featuring multiple block closings, blues bands, and an opaque green fence to keep out prying public eyes.
Stuart, who navigated the wingding through the city's often daunting bureaucracy, runs the couple's lucrative Restaurant Events business.
The firm arranges with city officials for hard-to-get block closings, police protection, and other city services to accommodate downtown parties whose corporate sponsors are well heeled enough to be able to afford Stuart’s sizable fees.
Kevin Faulconer and Katherine Stuart (foreground)
In a personal financial disclosure filed last year, Faulconer, then a member of the city council, pegged the worth of Restaurant Events at between $100,000 and $1,000,000 and said it had a gross annual income of over $100,000.
As previously reported here, the current status of using city streets for corporate events has grown a bit murky, with city spokeswoman Katie Keach saying earlier this year that the city is no longer collecting the so-called "negotiated fees" it used to get for such parties.
"During the Filner administration, the decision was made to suspend the discretionary negotiation process for commercial events pending a citywide comprehensive review of all rate and fee structures," wrote Keach in an email.
"The city plans to conduct a comprehensive review of all rates and fees for review and approval by the City Council within the next year," she continued.
"As part of this effort, the Special Events Department intends to evaluate and propose a fee and rate structure that addresses events hosted by commercial and non-profit entities."
Prior to the discontinuation of the fees, records show a variety of party sponsors forked over five-figure payments to the city, including "Qualcomm Q on the Fifth," in June 2012, $21,000; "Cisco Block Party," April 2012, $6000; "Solid works World 2012 Special Event," February 2012, $15,000; and "Qualcomm Q Fest Street Scene in the Gaslamp," June 2011, $12,000.
Stuart said in an interview that this year's BIO party would not be paying negotiated fees. We have a call in to Faulconer media aide Matt Awbrey for an update.
During an appearance before the Gaslamp Quarter Association this past February, the mayor’s wife handed out a memo describing the BIO party as "a private event for 3100 convention attendees."
The Gaslamp group is heavily dependent on the city's goodwill for a variety of services, including a hefty complement of police protection, which was out in full force on the inside of BIO's party.
When a reporter began interviewing security employees and shooting video at the gala's perimeter, two San Diego cops briefly ventured from the fenced party area in an apparent effort to run interference.
After the encounter, one of the SDP officers told an event security official that there was nothing he could do to limit photography in public spaces.
"He can waste his time," said the cop of the reporter. "Obviously he has nothing better to do than film. He can’t come through here, he knows that, I’m sure.”
In the past, BIO officials have expressed satisfaction with Stuart's performance, according to a testimonial by Janice Krieger, identified as an event producer for the biotech association, posted on the Restaurant Events website.
"Well, BIO '08 is over and wrapped up, and I want to thank you for your tremendous assistance in making our Gaslamp Street Party a resounding success! Without a doubt, you know how to make this happen!"