by Thomas K. Pendergast
The City’s contract with the Outside Lands Art and Music Festival expires in 2021, but an extension of that contract is going before the SF Recreation and Park Commission on Jan. 17. If approved, it then goes to the SF Board of Supervisors (BOS).
The director of permits and property management for the department, Dana Murphy Ketcham, outlined the basics of the proposed contract at a SF Recreation and Park Department (RPD) meeting of the department’s operations committee on Dec. 6, 2018, which approved it and then forwarded it to the full commission.
The RPD first entered into an agreement with Another Planet Entertainment (APE), the company that runs the Outside Lands Festival, in 2009. That contract went through 2013.
“It was a test to see how it would work,” Ketcham said.
In 2012, APE came back to the department and the BOS, asking them to approve a new contract extending to 2021, while making a number of changes in response to concerns from neighbors and increasing the amount of money going to the department.
According to Ketcham, Another Planet is asking for an additional extension for another 10 years, through 2031, because festival organizers need to plan three years in advance in order to line up artists, equipment and the like.
She noted that revenues for the RPD started at $815,000 per year in 2009, then increased over time. In the most recent fiscal year, the department added $3.3 million to its coffers from the three-day concert at Golden Gate Park’s polo field and surrounding areas.
Concert promoters also sponsor an annual fundraiser for RPD, which garners about $15,000 to $20,000 per year. That money goes to scholarships or the Parks Alliance.
Also, since 2012, Another Planet has partially funded a gardener for Golden Gate Park at a cost of more than $85,000 per year. It also contributes materials and supplies to keep the polo field in good shape and it reimburses RPD for all of the overtime for its staff, which comes to about $100,000, Ketcham said.
The concert has drawn roughly 2 million visitors to the City since it started, although the department estimates that about 25 percent of those attending the concert are from San Francisco Ketcham detailed the outlines of the proposed new contract.
“The current minimum rent was set at $1.4 million and capped but we have been earning significantly more than that and we want to make sure we’re guaranteed to get it because we’re budgeting for it,” she said. “So, it’s increasing to $2.5 million and then increases by $75,000 per year.
“The percentage for rent is unchanged, 11 percent of ticket revenue, which is a very good amount compared to other festivals,” Ketcham said. “We get an additional rent of $1.25 per ticket. We’re doing a cost-of-living adjustment to that, so it increases to $1.50 in 2020, $1.75 in 2024 and $2 in 2028.”
Amendments also proposed for the new contract address concerns raised by neighbors at recent community meetings, including hiring local people through job fairs in the Richmond and Sunset districts; expanding the “hotline hours” for noise complaints to cover the sound checks on the Thursday before the weekend-long event; the inclusion of at least three sound monitors responding to noise complaints and generating reports on the outcome of such responses; and more specific requirements for traffic enforcement, particularly related to Uber and Lyft drivers.
As well, “community benefit funds” will be increased from $10,000 per year to $50,000 per year, split equally between Districts 1 and 4. This total increases to $60,000 in 2026.
But all is not wine and roses for the festival. Over the years there have been many complaints from locals living on either side of the park. A part of the new agreement seeks to address these issues.
At a community meeting in the Richmond District last September, Allen Scott of APE said the last concert also saw increased complaints from the neighborhood about noise and parking and traffic congestion, particularly on the Friday night opening, when there were many noise complaints.
“We actually had an inordinate number of calls from the Sunset, including the Taraval Police 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 was blowing into that area. So, we made a number of adjustments.”
There were 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.
There were also complaints from neighbors about public urination and vomiting on the street. A woman who said she lives near 35th Avenue and Fulton Street claimed a man parked his motor home in front of her house, then took beers out and sold them to teenage girls walking by on their way to the festival.
There have also been complaints about Uber and Lyft drivers sleeping overnight in their cars to be on the scene the next day when the concert starts, and relieving themselves around the neighborhood. One woman said they did this in the bushes, and then the next day she saw people “tromping” through those same bushes on their way to the concert.
Ketcham told the department’s operations committee that the department received 24 letters with concerns about or in opposition to the concert; 15 from the Richmond, five from the Sunset and the rest from other areas. Of these, 75 percent expressed concerns over sound.
Other concerns were expressed about parking, park access, littering and park damage. The RPD also received 34 letters of support from residents, non-profits, labor organizations and small businesses.
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