Chiu and Kim are making a quick trip to Burning Man

Burning Man Project launch: (from left) Sup. Eric Mar, Mayor Ed Lee, Board President David Chiu, and event founder Larry Harvey.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu will take a day off from his busy mayoral campaign next week to attend Burning Man, which he'll fly into on a small private airplane along with Sup. Jane Kim and spend less than 24 hours on the ground.

“For several years, I've wanted to visit the Black Rock Desert to learn about how Burning Man is building 21st Century community, creating art, and fostering sustainability,” Chiu told the Guardian after we learned about the trip from several sources.

Black Rock City LLC, the company that stages Burning Man – an arts and cultural extravaganza that began in 1986 on San Francisco's Baker Beach and now takes place in Nevada's Black Rock Desert – has long sought to woo influential city officials to the event, offering free tickets to elected officials and some board aides. With this year's move into a new Mid-Market headquarters space and creation of the new Burning Man Project nonprofit, both the LLC and City Hall have more reason than ever to seek stronger ties.

Sup. Eric Mar, who attended his first Burning Man last year, will be returning this year on his own to spent most of the week on the playa. By contrast, Chiu and Kim will fly into an airport set up at the event on the morning of Sept. 1 – accompanied by activists Sunny Angulo and Dan Nguyen-Tan, who will essentially staff them during their visit – stay in accommodations set up by supporters and the LLC, and fly out the next morning.

“It'll be a super quick trip,” Chiu said, but he says that he's excited to experience the event because, “Burning Man is an extension of our San Francisco community.”

Neither Kim nor Angulo returned calls for comment. Sources who helped set up the trip say they are trying to keep the value of the contributions to each supervisor under California's $420 limit on gifts to public officials, and that if the value of the tickets, flight, and accommodations exceed that, Kim and Chiu will pay for the difference.

Organizers of the trip were also trying to woo another mayoral candidate, Sup. John Avalos, who considered it but ultimately decided against it. “Can't pull away, what with being from a working family and with the kids and campaign and all,” he told us.

Tickets to Burning Man, which runs from Aug. 29-Sept. 5, sold out for the first time in its history this year, setting off a mad scramble for tickets that belied the event's focus on a decommodified gift economy. To deal with that escalating demand, the event is expected to grow from a population of around 52,000 this year up to 70,000 within five years.

To learn more about the event and the culture is has spawned, check out our recent guide; read my book, The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture; or listen to the podcast of KQED's Forum that I was on last week with event founder Larry Harvey and celebrated artist Karen Cusolito.


Burning Man is something everyone should experience - especially elected officials from San Francisco. I wish Scott Weiner were coming along too.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

Nice to know that David Chiu and Jane Kim will flying in to Burning Man on a private airplane, bearing complimentary tickets, and served by attentive staff to meet their every needs.

Yes, folks, this is "how Burning Man is building 21st Century."

It's good we all have a sense of humor, huh?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

David Chiu & Jane Kim should be forced to carry out buckets of MOOP & grey water to off set their lame poser footprint.

Posted by supertamsf on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

Can they take an extra passenger? I would easily fit into a suitcase. I'd love to go in the hopes of seeing Supervisor Kim naked. (Oh, what the hey, Supervisor Chiu naked as well, in the intersts of ...) Burning Man creating a sustainable community, environment? Yeah, that's what all those naked, loopy people are doing: creating a sustainable environment. Right. And I have shares of the Golden Gate Bridge I'm willing to sell...

Posted by StevenTorrey on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

People who actually contribute to the event were told by Burning Man that they were out of luck. But for Chiu and Kim somehow tickets magically appear, and free ones too!

You know, I'm not going to sit here and trash Burning Man. It's still amazing, life-changing, mind-blowing, and more. And with tickets unexpectedly sold out, leaving many would-be last minute "tourists" without tickets, I'm actually expecting this burn to be better than ever. And yet, it does seem that for a cutting edge festival, Burning Man seems to be cuddling up a bit too close to corporations and the "city family."

If Jane Kim and David Chiu want to go to Burning Man, they should. But do it the right way -pay your own way and try to contribute something to the festival, not just fly in and fly out like a tourist on an excursion. Going there for one day, I doubt they can get more than a superficial experience anyway. But what should I expect from a couple of self-promoting social climbers like these? Contrast that to the way Eric Mar is going -for much of the week, and with his own ticket -that says a lot about the difference between him, and these two.

This whole thing does seem very antithetical to the spirit of Burning Man.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

I understand that they, along with a few of the other 'usual suspects', are following Hair-boy's example and contemplating a trip to Davos next year on official business, to hob-nob with the Greaser and explore ways to pump up their portfolios - on our dimes.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

What a joke. I just barfed in my mouth from laughter. Did I miss the 'hip to be square' theme this year. David Chiu is so pathetically desperate. This is pandering In it's worst sense. Chiu is antithetical to the values of burning man.

Posted by Dude seriously on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

David Chiu is still not well known among the voters outside his district, but among those who do know him, he has high negatives. There are many among both progressives and moderates who view him as a scheming rodent.

My guess is that Chiu will end up like Aaron Peskin. That is, he'll strut around in the limelight for a while as board prez, maybe find a temporary perch for his ego after leaving the board, and then fade into irrelevance.

Presidents of the board rarely amount to much after they leave the board. An exception is Tom Ammiano. Most are not so lucky.

No surprise there. The board is not known as a magnet for the city's brightest and best. Au contraire. One of its functions is to provide the city with comic relief. However, their acts tend to go stale quickly.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:11 am

As long as we get naked pictures of Jane Kim, I'm ok with this

Posted by Jesse Pinkman on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 9:56 am

Kim still refuses to return calls from the Guardian, but she did comment for an article in today's Examiner on her trip to the playa, telling the paper, "I definitely want to be a participant, not just a spectator." While she may be good at parroting lingo -- whether progressive or burner -- she definitely seems a little unclear on the concept of participation.

Posted by steven on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

I for one don't want her spending a week getting sunburned and high surrounded by bad art, when she should he here working hard for her constituents.

I feel sure that a day is easily enough to capture the "vibe" of such a self-absorbed event, and I suspect a lot of people would go if they could just drop in and drop out in this way.

So maybe the model is flawed? I'm sure she'll let us know. But hey, at least she's going, right?

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

"I feel sure that a day is easily enough to capture the "vibe" of such a self-absorbed event"

And you'd be totally wrong. I'm guessing you've never been.

"and I suspect a lot of people would go if they could just drop in and drop out in this way."

Oh, I'm sure they would! And then it would be just like every other festival. But it's not. And the fact that it's so difficult to get to, and the conditions are so harsh, is a major reason why there's nothing else like Burning Man. The event self-selects for people who are really into it, and that makes all the difference.

It's difficult to go as a tourist. Not impossible, as Kim and Chiu are now proving (complete with "accommodations," natch). But difficult.

"So maybe the model is flawed?"

No, Paul, the model works spectacularly well. I can't tell you how many people have been wary of going because of the dust, the heat, the cold, the remoteness, and all the rest... and then when they go, they understand why it can be no other way.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

Wouldn't it make better sense to give free tickets to people who have greater social value, such as drug dealers?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 12:53 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

We can agree that Dianne Feinstein went far after being board prez.

Quentin Kopp and Angela Alioto - okay, some accomplishments.

Harry Britt and Matt Gonzalez? You gotta be kidding!

This is not such a sterling record, considering how many board presidents there have been in the last forty years.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

"Presidents of the board rarely amount to much after they leave the board. An exception is Tom Ammiano."
Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:11 am

How is Tom Ammiano "an exception" ?

Face it, Arthur.
You got caught shoveling bullshit, and no amount of "forty years" and "not such a sterling record" is going to change that.

The disappointing fact is that this is exactly what you do, every day, in the Guardian comments sections.
Just because rational people don't have the time or inclination to point out your constant lies and misrepresentations, does not lessen the numbers of them.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

=v= Is the plane powered by algae biodiesel pixie Playa dust? Ehhh, who cares? That sustainability stuff was so 2007 (the "Green Man" year).

Posted by Jym on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:30 am
Posted by ByronFreye86 on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 12:49 pm