Since its debut in Golden Gate Park four years ago, some residents are still skeptical about the benefits of the annual Out Lands Music Festival concert which converges on the park and then spills out into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Residents gathered at Richmond Station to voice more concerns about the Outside Lands Music Festival that was held this past August in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Over 30 people showed up on Sept. 20 in the community room of Richmond Station to speak with the festival promoter – Allen Scott, Rec. & Parks representatives and, San Francisco Police Dept. officers and Richmond Station’s Capt. Keith Sanford.
Sanford said that this was his first experience with the Outside Lands Music Festival and that he was very impressed with the three day concert event. Allen Scott, vice president of Another Planet Entertainment at that Tuesday evening meeting said, that preparation crews for event were very respectful of the neighborhood.
A lot of preparation and precautionary procedures went into the Outside Lands Music Festival. “Much of the protocol and procedures we followed were based upon requests of the residents, through the series of community meetings we have had in the past,” said Scott. Shlomit Heller who owns Beauty Network on Geary Blvd, which is near Golden Gate Park, said that all the crews she saw on her routine walks through the park were respectful, courteous, etc. "I walk through the park on my way to or from work almost everyday, especially in summertime. The crews I saw were very respectful and did not seemed bothered that I was walking through the park as they prepared for the concert," she said. Some residents have expressed worries that the park is becoming "privatized" and that large scale events limit people's access to the park.
In its fourth year, the concert has now become a major anticipated event by music fans from everywhere. Back in the summer of 2008, Scott and Rec. & Parks met with residents to explain the purpose of the event (a celebration of music) which now draws crowds in the thousands. This year the SF Examiner reported that headliner performers took the stage and attracted a crowd of probably 40,000 to the Polo Grounds. Residents fear it will eventually outgrow the park.
Richmond District resident Sue Fry said that while she admitted she liked the concert, she also said that the loud noise from the concert needed to end earlier, especially on Sunday. “The following day is school and to have concerts until after 9 PM crowds still excited as they disperse makes it difficult for school kids to get their sleep,” she said. Fry also asked if it was possible for Another Planet to shorten the event from three to two days? And, perhaps have only day-time performances with concerts ending at sundown?
Scott said no because some of the best headliners only perform at night. “To have this festival be a success we need to have headliners, otherwise it will not work,” he said. He also noted that based upon ticket sales many of the attendees are from the City and surrounding Bay Area. “This (concert) is what they want,” he said.
Fry and other residents like Christine Hall questioned the data and wondered if it might be possible to have the Outside Lands Music Festival elsewhere. The SF Chronicle noted “despite its mammoth scale, this was still a distinctly local event.”
Scott said that Golden Gate Park was a perfect venue and reiterated that every precaution had been taken and will continue to be taken for concerts in the future. “There were no major incidents, no accidents, or violence and other than some complaints about noise, all went well,” said Capt. Sanford.
Denny Kern, director of operations for Rec. & Parks assured that “we monitor and do site inspections,” he said.
Kenneth Woo who lives on Fulton said that when revelers defecated near his car police “were indifferent.” Capt. Sanford assured that SFPD doesn’t take policing lightly, but that with such crowds responses to complaints or incidents must be evaluated in order of priority. While defecation, vomiting in public is offensive, it is not life-threatening or done with intent to destroy property.
Representing Rec. & Parks, Nicholas Kinsey said that “if we did not have events like this, then we would have to consider employee lay-offs.” Events like Outside Lands are a major revenue earner for Rec. & Parks. “We use the funds raised for maintenance,” said Kern.
Fry and others were curious as to how much the event earned after paying all overhead costs, including clean up, etc. Scott would not say and Kinsey said that to post that info at the Rec. & Parks website would make the streamlined format more complicated.
President of Greater Geary Blvd Merchants Association David Heller said that for the public to have such access to info was “none of people’s business.” Heller favors the event because it brings revenue potential to merchants. The crowds of enthusiastic concert attendees are eager to find places to eat and shop and can easily discover a new area to visit besides being confined to the concert vicinity. Hall questioned the impact large scale events, especially a rock concert has upon the wildlife of Golden Gate Park. In addition to music the Out lands Music Festival had vendors and booths. Scott and Kerns reiterated that all litter and debris is picked up and cleared immediately there after and that the promoter pays for clean up costs. Then the question of exactly what is the profit margin of such an event? If clean up costs and other expenses are included, how is that managed to ensure a lucrative profit margin?
This question and more talk about the impact upon the natural setting of the park spurred some added debate, yet after two hours Capt. Sanford recommended further discussions be continued for another time. Meanwhile, preparations for another festival are underway.