outside lands concert

Outside Lands Fest scrutinized for local impacts

by Thomas K. Pendergast

The permit agreement to put on the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival is set to expire in 2020, and already city officials and community members are taking an assessment of its impact on the west side neighborhoods.

OLfewer copy

 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer takes stock of statements
about the Outside Lands Fest. Courtesy photo.

Richmond District Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer hosted a meeting on Sept. 6 in a local senior center, where noise and traffic complaints dominated the discourse and ideas were aired to address those problems.

Allen Scott of Another Planet Entertainment (APE), the festival’s organizer and promoter, provided a report on the local economic impact of the festival, which their staff put together.

He said they concluded that since the festival started “over half a billion dollars has been brought into San Francisco, in terms of economic impact, and we’re really proud of that.”

The promoters also conducted a survey, which showed that 65 percent of the people who attended the festival and responded to the survey live outside of San Francisco. Plus, more than 41,000 hotel nights were booked.

Another Planet also has a job fair that APE runs every year prior to the festival, looking to hire security and concession workers, production runners, etc. Scott said since 2013 they have hired 144 Richmond residents and 238 Sunset residents to work the festival, along with other people throughout the City, some of whom then worked for them at other events.

“We try to give preferential treatment to the people who live in the neighborhoods around the party,” he said.

Another Planet also determined that the “sales impact” of the festival on the City last year was nearly $67 million. In 2009, APE was selected by the SF Recreation and Park Department to organize and promote concerts in Golden Gate Park, and the first permit deal expired in 2013.

Rec. and Park’s Permits and Reservations Division Manager Dana Murphy Ketcham said at the time the department charged a minimum rent of $950,000 plus 10 percent of ticket sales, and $1 per ticket sold. In 2012 the permit was extended for another eight years, increasing the rent to 11 percent of ticket sales plus $1.25 per ticket, with the base rent going up to $1.4 million.

Ketcham said funds benefit the department and do not go into the city’s General Fund. That agreement also funded a gardener to work in Golden Gate Park specifically, along with a contribution of $15,000 per year to help maintain the polo fields and full cost recovery for department staff and SF Police Department services, plus $10,000 per year to contribute to neighborhood projects.

Since that time, the annual contribution to the department has increased to $3.2 million during the past two years, Ketcham said.

But the last concert also saw increased complaints from the neighborhood about noise, parking and traffic congestion, particularly on the opening Friday night, when there were lots of noise complaints.

“We actually had an inordinate number of calls from the Sunset, including Taraval Station. So, we were scrambling that day, scratching our heads trying to figure it out,” Scott said. “There was some low end (bass) at one of the stages that we were able to adjust, and we learned that the wind, the way it was blowing, was blowing into that area. So we made a number of adjustments.”

They got 118 “unique calls,” (meaning one call counted per individual, as opposed to an individual making multiple complaints) on Friday, 63 noise complaints on Saturday and 31 on Sunday.

As for complaints about traffic, there were seven on Friday, eight on Saturday and one on Sunday, from both sides of the park.

But there were plenty more complaints to be heard, as some people in the audience made clear. There were complaints about public urination and vomiting on the street. One woman said she lived near 35th Avenue and Fulton Street, and a man parked his motor home in front her house, then took beers out and sold them to teenage girls walking by on their way to the festival.

Another woman complained about the Uber and Lyft ride services picking up people in front of her house, as well as drivers sleeping overnight in their cars to be on the scene the next day when the next concert started, which meant that overnight they would relieve themselves around the neighborhood. She said they did this in the bushes, and then the next day she saw folks going to the festival “tromping” through those same bushes on their way to the concert.

Darryl Yip, a transportation planner with the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), said Muni provided 30 additional buses on Fulton during the festival; most of them express buses that go from the park to the Civic Center. They also provided five additional N-Judah light-rail trains going back and forth to the concert.

Yip also mentioned the problem of parking and congestion.

“Ten years ago, Uber and Lyft did not exist and there were more parking issues back then, but now with those companies coming into play the issue has shifted from parking to congestion,” he said. “This was the first year that both companies came to the table and sat down for three meetings with the SFMTA, Another Planet and other stakeholders.”

The SFMTA created “blackout zones” where those companies were not supposed to go on key transit corridors, including Fulton Street, and they put up signage to help direct both people and drivers to the right passenger loading spots.

Sgt. David Louie of the SFMTA’s Traffic Enforcement Department said they got “hundreds” of complaints, about 80 percent of which were related to blocked driveways. Another 5-10 percent were for double parking or obstructing traffic and the rest were for things like blocking fire hydrants or handicapped ramps and red zones. The SFMTA assigned four additional officers to the Richmond District and issued more than 100 citations each day.

Capt. Michelle Jean of the SF Police Department’s Richmond Station said they had 85 police officers inside the event each day, plus more officers outside the event working traffic, crosswalks and looking for ticket scalpers. She said there were no major issues inside of the event, and the “typical complaints” reported included stolen cell phones.

There were motorcycle and bicycle officers outside the park as well. The SFPD issued 122 moving violation tickets and 171 parking citations, 90 percent of which were for Uber and Lyft vehicles.

Mike Hawkins of the traffic consulting company Fehr & Peers said a long-range shuttle service was implemented to bring festival goers from places like San Jose or Mill Valley, Oakland and Sacramento.

Sunset District Supervisor Katy Tang will host a similar meeting on Oct. 24, at the Sunset Recreation Center, at 6 p.m.

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