Commentary – Andrew Solow

Last Chance to get the City to Adopt Noise Limits for the Outside Lands Festival

By Andrew Solow

After spending six months trying to convince the SF Recreation and Parks Dept. to adopt objective standards for noise levels from the Outside Lands Festival, on Jan. 17, the SF Recreation and Park Commission (SFRPC) ignored complaints from more than 200 SF residents and approved a 10-year extension of the Festival Use Permit with no noise limits.

In response, I retained an attorney and an acoustical engineer; and with assistance from physicist Steve Somerstein, we filed an Appeal on Feb 14, 2019. (

If adopted by the SF Board of Supervisors (BOS), this permit would make it impossible to make a meaningful objection to noise from Outside Lands, no matter how loud it is.

All three of the acoustical engineers I consulted with told me that if the sound system for the Outside Lands Festival was designed and operated correctly, most of the noise with which the Festival has been blasting 12 square miles of the western portion of San Francisco can be eliminated without a reduction in sound quality.

Approval of an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act for the Outside Lands Festival, which so clearly has very obvious and very significant impacts on Golden Gate Park and the surrounding community, will weaken CEQA and make it harder for anyone else to use CEQA to get mitigation for any future complaints on other environmental issues including noise, traffic, drunken debauchery in your front yard, etc.

This is your last chance to make a meaningful request for reduced noise levels for the Outside Lands Festival. Tell the Supervisors that before they approve the permit, they should require the adoption of objective noise standards for the Festival, and hire an acoustical engineer to design the sound system and consult on its installation and operation at every festival.

Please email your complaints to:  

Supervisors Sandra Fewer (Sandra.Fewer@sfgov.organd Gordon Mar ( or the entire SF Board of Supervisors (, SF BOS File #: 190117.

Note:  The CEQA Cat. Ex. was approved concurrently with the Outside Lands Use Permit Extension at the SFRPC hearing on Jan. 17. But, the existence of the CEQA Cat. Ex. was not mentioned at the SFRPC hearing nor was the Cat. Ex. made available publically, except in a stealth posting on an obscure planning department website. We did not find out about the CEQA Cat. Ex. until it was posted on the SF BOS website on about Jan. 29. So, we only had two weeks to complete and file our appeal.

Even though we contacted both Supervisors Fewer and Mar before their Budget and Finance Committee hearing on Feb. 13, they didn’t tell us that the Outside Lands item had been calendared. So, I guess they weren’t interested in hearing from us.

Andrew Solow has been a San Francisco resident since 1983. He can be contacted at


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