L.A. Coliseum Commission rescinds rave moratorium in a move called 'underhanded' by one member
In a surprise move, L.A. Coliseum Commission members Wednesday overturned a moratorium on raves put in place after the drug overdose death of a 15-year-old girl who attended an event held at the public facility earlier this year.
Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch said commissioners acted after receiving an update Wednesday about raves held Aug. 21 and Oct. 23 at the Sports Arena, which is also overseen by the commission. Both were scheduled before the moratorium was enacted June 30, within 24 hours of the teenager’s death.
Lynch said commissioners were satisfied with measures that included hiring doctors and nurses to work at the rave site, enforcing an age limit of 18 and ending events at 2 a.m. He said the medical staff on site had reduced the number of transports to nearby hospitals.
“Our commissioners said we’ve established some fantastic parameters, so if these preventative measures work and other events have gone off well, then we can lift the moratorium,” Lynch said.
But some public officials and a commissioner expressed surprise and dismay at the vote, particularly because they said they were not notified that any action on the moratorium would take place at the Wednesday commission meeting.
Rick Caruso, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on the joint city, county and state commission, called the decision to lift the moratorium “very disturbing.”
Caruso, long opposed to raves at the Coliseum and Sports Arena, said he was “shocked that action was taken.” He was absent from the meeting to be at a family event and said it was his understanding that no action on the moratorium would be taken Wednesday.
“I strongly disagree with the action of the commission,” Caruso said. “I think it’s underhanded. It’s not a legal issue; it’s morally wrong.”
“We’re committed to working with the Los Angeles Coliseum and the promoters to make these events — be they football games, concerts or electronic music festivals — as fun and safe as we can possibly make them,” Gannon said. “However, I’m still concerned when it comes to the electronic music festivals, about the level of narcotics usage. The Coliseum, promoters, the Police Department, Fire Department, county health and others need to continue to work very hard to reduce the use of drugs such as Ecstasy that has such devastating effects on our young people.”
The Times was not able to immediately obtain an agenda of Wednesday's meeting, which is not posted on the commission’s website.
The commission enacted a moratorium on future raves at the two venues this summer in response to the death of Sasha Rodriguez June 29. She died of a drug overdose after attending the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Coliseum. Although rave organizers required attendees to be at least 16 or accompanied by a parent or guardian, Sasha's parents later said they had no idea she was going to a rave with friends.
Los Angeles County coroner's officials determined she died of an overdose of MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy.
The moratorium was approved amid intense public scrutiny in July, with a standing-room only crowd in the commission room. The commission decided that the moratorium would apply only to events after New Year’s Eve, because the Coliseum did not want to be subject to a lawsuit by canceling existing contracts.
The use of Ecstasy, a stimulant and hallucinogen, was widespread among attendees at the Electric Daisy Carnival, which attracted 185,000 people over two days, officials have said. Some who attend raves consider Ecstasy integral to the experience.
Before Sasha's death, several emergency room physicians had called for an end to raves at the Coliseum and Sports Arena, saying they were inundated with overdose patients during the massive events.
A rave in August at the Sports Arena, the Love Festival, resulted in 80 arrests, 16 medical calls and three hospitalizations, while another in October, called Monster Massive, led to 16 hospitalizations and 40 arrests.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles police were investigating how a college freshman who had been partying two nights at a nearby electronic music festival suffered critical injuries after falling six stories from his USC dorm room. He had attended the festival at the Shrine Auditorium during Halloween weekend. The Shrine is not managed by the Coliseum Commission.
-- Rong Gong-Lin II and Andrew Blankstein
Top photo: Rave fans dance at the L.A. Coliseum during the Electric Daisy Carnival in June. Credit: Barbara Davidson/ Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Sasha Rodriguez, 15, died of a drug overdose after attending the rave, which had a minimum age requirement of 16.