Outside of North Beach, the party is still on. That's good news for San Francisco festivalgoers, but it leaves one outstanding question: What exactly is current city policy on promoting partying in public spaces?
Once again, the forum was the Recreation and Park Commission's monthly meeting, this one July 19. It wasn't exactly a reprise of the perplexing mess surrounding the North Beach festivals (see "The Death of Fun," 5/23/06), but it did involve the same question of whether to allow drinking in city parks.
The commission approved a request from Seven Star to produce a two-day World Beat Music Concert in Sharon Meadow on May 19 and 20 next year. The application included codas for a modified sound policy and permission to sell beer and wine, which was granted without so much as a clarifying question, a scrutiny of beer garden site plans, testimony from event planners, or a peep of public comment.
This permit is practically identical to the permits submitted by the North Beach Festival and North Beach Jazz Festival for use of Washington Square Park, which incited no end of grief among event planners, neighborhood activists, local businesses, musicians, fans, and fun lovers throughout the city. The one apparent difference is that it's not in Washington Square Park, whose use as a festival site has raised concerns among North Beach residents.
"That's why it sailed right through," said Dennis Kern, director of operations for the Recreation and Park Department. There are 56 greenways listed in Section 4.10 of the Park Code that prohibit consumption of alcohol. Introduced back in 1981, the code has been amended four times over the years to include additional parks. Washington Square joined the list in 2000, but in the case of the festivals, the code has historically been waived without fanfare.
This year, however, Kern broke with tradition by recommending that beer and wine not be sold in the park during the North Beach Festival and North Beach Jazz Fest. The festivals ultimately appealed, and a compromise was reached allowing alcohol sales outside the park.
When questioned by the Guardian as to whether future recommendations would follow suit, Kern said, "Yeah, probably. Each one is a separate case, but we'll continue to follow the Park Code. The commission can always grant their exceptions.” SFBG