Sunset Junction permits denied for 2011
By a 3-1 vote, the Los Angeles Board of Public Works has denied the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance operating permits for its 2011 street fair, putting the three-decade-old event in serious jeopardy just days before its scheduled start Saturday.
Citing nearly $400,000 in unpaid fees for both the 2010 and 2011 festivals, some of which the festival's organizers disputed, this afternoon the board approved a motion to deny the permits. The board did leave open the possibility that if festival founder Michael McKinley could raise the estimated $141,978.57 in fees owed for the 2011 fair, the board could reconvene Wednesday to reassess the permits.
The ruling ended a morning of impassioned testimony by local residents, artists and musicians, at-risk youth helped by the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance's outreach programs and business owners claiming a negative impact from the ever growing festival. Much of the public comment centered on the festival's role in establishing Silver Lake as a place for artists and diverse cultural life as well as its charitable work, but also its growing pains as it more recently began fencing off the fair and charging admission, riling many longtime local residents.
Much of the board's comments recapped the fees the festival owed for policing, street closures and other services, including $256,484.14 from last year's fair.
"You're asking us for good faith here, and last year we gave it to you," said board member Andrea Alarcon. "You didn't pay. It's quite disrespectful that you paid legal counsel, entertainment and found sponsors, but you haven't paid the city.... You've been doing this for 30 years. You knew the process."
McKinley and his counsel questioned those figures, alleging much smaller bills for street music festivals in Venice and Eagle Rock and a vague system of applying for fee subsidies for noncommercial events. But he did not dispute that all assessed bills for 2010 and 2011 had yet to be paid.
The board seemed sympathetic to the nonprofit Neighborhood Alliance's mission, and for the festival's impact in Silver Lake. "I say if they can come up with the $140,000 by Wednesday, we should give them a chance," said board member Valerie Lynne Shaw. The board did leave open the possibility that if the alliance could come up with the full advance fees owed for 2011, it would reconsider granting permits.
Left with the prospect of finding that money -- McKinley claimed to have $50,000 in liquid funds at the moment -- the organizers left City Hall scrambling for new options. "All we need is a loan for a week," said Junction booker Jennifer Tefft. "We'll have every penny of this after the festival."
-- August Brown
Photo by Los Angeles Times