SAN FRANCISCANS GATHERED for a community town hall to discuss a proposal for concerts in Golden Gate Park on the weekend after the city’s annual Outside Lands festival starting in 2024.

The city’s Recreation and Park Department, in partnership with Bay Area concert production company Another Planet Entertainment, aims to increase revenue through the series of concerts that would be held at the Polo Fields in the park for three years.

Opponents of the proposal argue that an additional concert will only prolong the issues they face during the annual August weekend of Outside Lands, including difficulty parking, road closures, disruptive noise and reckless behavior from concertgoers.

The town hall, hosted this past Wednesday by the Planning Association for the Richmond, was an opportunity for city officials to hear community concerns ahead of a Board of Supervisors budget committee hearing on Sept. 6 and, if passed, a final approval for the proposal on Sept. 12.

Fans get into the music during Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park on Aug. 6, 2022. The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department might also be cheering the revenue a new concert series similar to Outside Lands could mean to the department’s budget. (Alive Coverage/Outside Lands via Bay City News)

Dana Ketcham, head of property management and permits for the city Recreation and Park Department, was invited to give a presentation, and Allen Scott, president of festivals and concerts for Another Planet Entertainment, responded to community questions and concerns.

Ketcham began by explaining how, with a reduction in general funds and an increase in labor and health costs, the concert would boost the department’s budget, avoiding cuts to funding for Rec and Park staff.

“We know this has an impact on you guys so we want to do everything we can to mitigate it and be helpful,” Ketcham said before outlining the details of the proposal.

The weekend after the festival, Ketcham explained, the Polo Fields would host concerts with a single headliner, one stage, and multiple supporting acts. Depending on the artist, the event would run from 2-10 p.m. each day, and attendance would be limited to 65,000 people per day, Ketcham said.

The sounds of money

Like Outside Lands, Ketcham predicts that the event will create jobs and generate revenue for hotels and local food vendors, as well as tax revenue from food, beverages and ticket sales.

The additional concerts would capitalize off existing Outside Lands infrastructure, she said.

Typically, the setup for Outside Lands begins two weeks prior to the festival and the loadout lasts until the Friday after the event. While the loadout of other areas of the park could be completed as usual during the proposed Polo Fields concerts, the loadout at the Polo Fields would be completed five days after the concerts. More of the park would remain open and available to the public than during Outside Lands, she said.

According to Ketcham, included in the proposal are several commitments Rec and Park and Another Planet will make to local residents. An additional $10,000 per year will be funneled into supervisorial Districts 1 and 4, which include the Richmond and Parkside neighborhoods, and the department will design an improved process to identify how the community would like the funds to be used.

In hopes of reducing traffic on the road, Another Planet has agreed to pay for free Muni transportation the day of the concerts, for anyone with a wristband.

The company has also agreed to fund three free concerts in downtown San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, Union Square and Embarcadero Plaza.

Supervisor Connie Chan, who represents the Richmond District, delivered her opinions and criticisms of the proposal.

While Chan acknowledged that Another Planet and Rec and Park have been responsive to her feedback, she expressed her concerns about the city’s transparency around how concert revenue, particularly $25,000 generated annually by Outside Lands for Districts 1 and 4, is reinvested in the community.

“I personally have not engaged in that conversation about those monies, how it actually can be spent,” Chan noted.

“How do you want that money to be spent? Is that enough for you?” Chan asked the room, speaking of the revenue from Outside Lands and the proposed concerts.

Trapped amid traffic, trash and noise

The latter portion of the meeting Wednesday evening was devoted to comments from community members, the overwhelming majority of whom expressed their frustrations with the proposal.

Top of mind for most speakers were road closures, many arguing that they felt trapped inside their neighborhood during the Outside Lands festival. They called for the opening of the Great Highway during the festival and other proposed concerts.

Richmond District residents highlighted the difficulty of finding parking during Outside Lands, worrying that they might have a similar experience during the proposed concert.

They also expressed their concerns about how loud the proposed concerts might be, noting that the noise levels of the festival sometimes drive residents out of their homes.

One woman worried that an additional weekend of concerts would prolong some of the nuisances of the festival, like vendors selling alcohol in her driveway and finding greasy hot dogs on her stairs.

Trash is strewn on a San Francisco sidewalk following the Bay to Breakers race on May 16, 2010. Neighbors of a proposed concert series at Golden Gate Park fear a similar fate will occur in their neighborhoods if the concerts are approved. (daniel/Flickr, CC BY-NC)

Speakers like resident Devorah Joseph expressed anxiety around how concertgoers might treat their neighborhood.

“The people walking around the neighborhood is an issue because they’re not very respectful. They leave trash. They do all sorts of nasty things. We would like to keep the concertgoers out of the neighborhood as much as possible,” Joseph said.

While in the minority, supporters of the proposal cited the cultural and financial benefits of extending the concerts by one weekend.

“The people walking around the neighborhood is an issue because they’re not very respectful. They leave trash. They do all sorts of nasty things. We would like to keep the concertgoers out of the neighborhood as much as possible.”

Devorah Joseph, San Francisco resident

Joshua Boyne, a resident of the Outer Sunset neighborhood and a stagehand for San Francisco’s chapter of the International Alliance of Technical Stage Employees union, has helped build Outside Lands for as long as the festival has been around and supports the new proposal.

“You’re adding one more weekend using that existing infrastructure. That means you’re not bringing in extra trucks, you’re not damaging the ground as much, you’re not inconveniencing people as much and then you get this huge windfall as far as revenue stream for Parks and Rec and for the city of San Francisco,” Boyne said.

From the Summer of Love to Free Tibet, he argued that concerts have always been a part of San Francisco’s cultural identity.

“That’s what makes San Francisco San Francisco,” he noted.

Helena Getahun-Hawkins is an intern at Bay City News through Stanford’s Rebele Fellowship. She’s a rising junior at Stanford majoring in International Relations and minoring in Spanish. She writes for The Stanford Daily under the campus life desk and was most recently managing editor of the Daily’s podcast section. She enjoys covering stories that center around education policy, immigration policy, and identity. Outside of journalism she enjoys drawing, yoga, listening to music, and watching TV.