Anti-war group seeks partial refund for city fees 

The massive anti-war demonstration that filled Civic Center Plaza on Sunday, March 18, incurred hundreds of dollars in city fees. Event organizers, claiming a recent increase caught them by surprise, are seeking a partial refund.

The Act Now to Stop War and End Racism coalition shelled out $810 to the San Francisco Fire Department in fees for its use of propane and open flames in selling hot food through vendors. On Thursday, the group won preliminary approval by the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee to have The City refund the fees.

The coalition has organized protests in San Francisco and around the country since the inception of the war. They have been paying The City fees of around $200 to $300 to have propane-powered food service, organizer Forrest Schmidt said. Fees for a previous demonstration on Aug. 12 came to $360, but March 18’s fees climbed to $810.

Fire spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said the fee schedule was changed Aug. 21, increasing the fee paid to have at least one propane flame from $160 to $180; fees for additional flames were hiked from $40 to $90 each. She also said a bookkeeping mistake on the part of the department had made the Aug. 12 event fees artificially low.

On March 18, Talmadge said, the ANSWER demonstration included five vendors, two with two flames each, incurring the $810.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who chairs the Rules Committee and is working with the ANSWER coalition to get the money back, said the group is following a standard procedure in requesting the refund.

"Many times we have raised the fees that people were usually accustomed to, and that was the case here," Ammiano said. "The previous fees for being able to cook outdoors using propane were much, much lower, and so it caught the organization by surprise. They don’t have a lot of resources. It’s about 800 bucks."

Ammiano said the ANSWER group has historically been cooperative with the city in terms of fees, permits and crowd control. "I think they are very deserving and entitled to this, given the situation," he said.

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