It might be considered another COVID casualty, or is the council closing a door on community input into a major community event? The City Council voting to dissolve the Fiesta La Ballona Committee at the Nov. 13, 2023 meeting was the last chapter in a long story.
Fiesta La Ballona has had many different iterations; it was once a week-long set of interlocking community events that culminated in a day at the park. There were neighborhood gatherings, a parade, and contests. The current shape of the Fiesta, a long weekend of professional entertainment, community activities and carnival rides at Vets Park has been in place just over a decade. Many of these changes and updates were driven by the Fiesta La Ballona Committee.
While the council addressed the need to fill the empty seats on the Finance Advisory Committee and the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission, only the Fiesta La Ballona Committee has been dissolved.
Fiesta, like everyone and everything else, struggled during COVID closures, with an online ‘Fiesta’ in 2020 and a date change from August to October creating a ‘Halloween’ Fiesta in 2021. While 2022 and 2023 were back to the previous standard of a three day weekend at the end of August, the wheels never quite turned smoothly.
The PRCS has been the department that puts on the Fiesta; the committee was simply an advisory body. (Full disclosure – I was a member of the Fiesta Committee in 2021, and resigned before my term was over.)
The official reason for dissolving the committee was “a lack of quorum and cancelled meetings” but a number of Fiesta Committee members have privately expressed frustration that they were simply being locked out. The cancellation of every committee meeting for the last year was a decision made by PRCS.
The recent change in leadership – new PRCS Director Ted Stevens only stepped into the position on Nov. 6, 2023 – could mean other changes in how the department functions, but the end of the Fiesta Committee has likely been planned for some time.
Mayor Albert Vera and Council member Goran Eriksson and Council member Dan O’Brien all voted in favor of dissolving; Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin and Council member Freddy Puza voted against.
PRCS will plan the 2024 Fiesta La Ballona without any official platform for community input.
The City Council also appointed Margaret Peters to the PRCS Commission.