Conversation on Golden Gate Park concerts continues

Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park (formerly Speedway Meadow)

“I call for this hearing each year,” said District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar. The focus of the hearing was large events in Golden Gate Park, and each year, hundreds of San Franciscans have something to say about it.

At the Land Use Committee meeting Feb. 13, the room was packed with concert industry representatives, local artists, police officers, a couple dozen members of the Carpenters In Action from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 22, and neighbors. Lots and lots of neighbors.

Many of the Richmond and Sunset residents who spoke are furious with the many large concerts that take place in Golden Gate Park throughout the year, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Alice’s Summerthing, Outside Lands, and Power to the Peaceful.

They spoke of unbearable noise, impossible parking, and crime spilling over from the event crowds. One man said that during Outside Lands, his house shakes so much that he feels “trapped inside an acoustic guitar for three days straight.”

The Recreation and Parks Department has implemented several measures addressing these ongoing concerns since the first annual hearing on this topic in 2009. Dana Ketchum and Nick Kinsey represented the department at the hearing, speaking in detail of tightened permitting measures, increased outreach to the community about upcoming events, and a hotline set up so neighbors can call in noise complaints more efficiently during large concerts and performances.

Ketchum said that noise complaints have resulted more than once in Rec and Parks representatives threatening to pull the plug on amplified sound in the park if partiers don’t turn it down. One neighbor called the hotline, “more useless than yesterday’s spit.”

Proponents of the events, too, were passionate.

Local hip hop artist Tom Shimura, aka Lyrics Born spoke on the importance of the events to the San Francisco music scene. Shimura praised how the Outside Lands lineup is 20 percent local artists.

“These festivals launch careers and create Bay Area success stories,” said Shimura.

“I just wanted to say that I’m a big fan,” said Supervisor Mar.

Many supporters cited a recently released San Francisco State University Study, which finds that Outside Lands generates “more than $60 million for the San Francisco economy,” and even claims the festival creates “683 full-time equivalent jobs” in the city.

Some Richmond residents demanded that all the festivals be cancelled, and, barring that, that they be issued the personal cell phone numbers of the Rec and Parks staff.

“It’s clear everyone supports these events,” said Supervisor Mar at the hearing’s conclusion.

“It’s a matter of collaboration.”

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