letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Against Outside Lands Concert in GG Park


Regarding “Outside Lands Generates Millions for City, GG Park.” by Erin Bank. Bank states that the 2019 Outside Lands festival generated $29.6 million in ticket sales, $66 million in tourism dollars and permit fees of $3.6 million.  And Golden Gate Park, out of all these millions of dollars, is going to reap the benefit of one extra full time gardener.  Oh, and the money also “funds maintenance of the Polo Field, which bears the brunt of the festival’s presence.”  They’re actually going to help repair the damage they did?  Really, it’s too good of them.  

From the time when Golden Gate Park was created in 1870 to the time Outside Lands held its first festival, there was never any need for a private corporation to take over a large part of the Park so they could make a lot of money and then kick back a pittance to the City.  San Franciscans have always been proud to support, maintain and pay for Golden Gate Park and we have consistently passed bond measures in support of our parks.  

In a city with a $1 billion budget, how is that we need to rent out the “Crown Jewel” of our park system for 3 weeks at the height of summer?  We never needed to before. We were stuck with Outside Lands and Another Planet Entertainment  (APE) because two City officials, Phil Ginsberg, Director of the Recreation and Parks Dept.(SFRPD) and Mark Buell, President of the Recreation and Parks Commission, (both appointed by Gavin Newsom when he was Mayor), decided that was the way it was going to be.  

A private consulting firm from Marin, hired by the festival promoters, comes up with a figure of $66 million in tourism dollars generated by the festival.  Where do they get that figure from?  Do they have a basis for comparison with tourism dollars spent without the festival being here?  What about all the people who don’t come to San Francisco because of the festival.  People who are told by their friends and family not to come to San Francisco as they won’t be able to visit Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach because of the traffic congestion, blocked entrances to the Park and impossible parking?  Have they been surveyed?  I think the promoters got the numbers they wanted from the consulting firm.

Regarding the “impact on neighbors,” Bank quotes APE Executive Vice-President Allen Scott, “… we know it’s a disruption. We hope that people see it for the greater good and not just about their personal routines.”  Are the personal routines of people in the Marina, Pacific Heights, Seacliff, Forrest Hill, St. Francis Wood or Presidio Heights, being disrupted?  Why should the Sunset and Richmond be faced with traffic congestion, noise and restricted access to the Park every year. That it’s for the “greater good” is doubtful; that it’s putting money in the pockets of APE and the bureaucrats at SFRPD is certain. Why not have Outside Lands on the Marina Green or Crissy Fields and give that part of the city a chance to contribute to the greater good?

Golden Gate Park belongs to the residents of San Francisco and should always be accessible, open and free. It was designed to be, and always has been, a public park. Golden Gate Park does not belong to Phil Ginsburg and the SFRPD. It is not their private kingdom to do with as they please.  Of course one can make money off of public parks but that is, at best, unclear on the concept of what a park should be.

“The purpose of Golden Gate Park is to serve as an open space preserve in the midst of San Francisco. This historic park is a cultivated pastoral and sylvan landscape, defined by an abundant evergreen woodland.  It is designed and managed to afford opportunities for all to experience beauty, tranquility, recreation, and relief from urban pressures.” (Mission Statement, 1998 Golden Gate Park Master Plan).

It is just plain wrong to fence off an area of Golden Gate Park for three weeks for the benefit of a for-profit corporation even if some benefits accrue to the city. Free festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, open to everyone, are the only festivals that should be held in the Park.

David Romano


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