L.A. to Sunset Junction festival: No payment, no permit
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
Los Angeles city officials voted Monday to deny operating permits for this weekend’s Sunset Junction festival, a decision that could mean the cancellation of one of the city’s best-known music events for the first time in three decades.
Members of the Board of Public Works voted 3 to 1 to deny the application from the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, citing nearly $400,000 in unpaid fees for the 2011 and 2010 festivals. But they left open the possibility that they might reconsider the decision at their meeting Wednesday if organizers can raise nearly $142,000 owed for this year.
Festival organizers dispute some of the fees, alleging that comparable festivals are charged significantly less for policing, street closures and other city services. Attorney Phillip Tate, who represents the festival, had asked the board to accept $50,000 now and submit the rest of the bill to mediation. He told the board he did not believe organizers had more than that available but had asked for time to try to raise the rest.
“We’re obviously disappointed with what happened,” Tate said after the meeting. “We’re evaluating all of our options.”
Board President Andrea Alarcon said the city can’t afford not to collect its dues.
“The city is in a fiscal crisis,” she said. "It’s quite disrespectful … that you would pay your legal counsel, that you would pay your entertainment acts, that you would pay various other entities and be receiving funds from sponsors, yet you do not and will not and have not paid the city for its services.”
The decision capped a morning of emotional testimony from organizers, musicians and community members who spoke about the festival’s role in forging a sense of unity between old and new residents in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Former gang members and other at-risk youths described the transformative effects of a soccer team, a jobs programs and other charitable efforts funded with proceeds from the festival.
But the two-day festival has also drawn criticism from many residents and business owners as it has expanded throughout the years from a neighborhood event to one that attracts about 30,000 people a day. Some complained Monday that the festival’s fenced-off boundaries and $25 admission fee have hurt local businesses and turned the festival into a commercial affair.
For the record, 7:20 p.m. Aug. 22: A previous version of this post referred to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Alliance. It's the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance.
-- Alexandra Zavis
Photo: People attend Sunset Junction in Silver Lake, Aug. 22, 2009. Credit: Ann Johansson / For the Los Angeles Times