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Schools bank on profits from Outside Lands Festival, open parking lots to festival-goers

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Outside Lands parking volunteer Joe DeLuca (right), a parent at Argonne Elementary School, greets festival-goer Anton Dotson (left), who has taken advantage of the the $30 charge for parking in the school’s during the festival for the past seven years. (Laura/S.F. Examiner)

Scarce parking and traffic closures in neighborhoods surrounding Golden Gate Park are part of the deal this weekend as more than 200,000 music lovers flock to the 11th annual Outside Lands music festival.

For schools in the area, however, the traffic conundrum caused by the three-day event presents an opportunity for a profitable enterprise.

With students out on summer break until the end of the month, a handful of local schools are opening up their parking lots to festival-goers starting Friday for one of their their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Marina Middle School, Sherman Elementary School, Washington High School, Claire Lilienthal Scott Campus, Lafayette Elementary School and Argonne Elementary School are all participating in the fundraiser this year, according to a San Francisco Unified School District spokesperson.

“Some schools are more successful than others and it’s mostly due to location. Lafayette Elementary School and Washington High School are a little closer to the main entrance so they generally do well,” said Vidim Litvak, a parent and Outside Lands parking volunteer at the Richmond District’s Argonne Elementary School, which is located about six blocks from the festival’s entrance at 680 18th Ave.

Litvak, who has been a volunteer since the fundraiser started at the school in 2010, said that it currently provides about 100 all-day parking spaces at a flat fee of $30.

“We have played with the price points for a couple years, and we found that $30 is the sweet spot,” said Litvak. “We charged $40 before and we had a lot of complaints — that was actually one of our worst years.”

The lot at Argonne is open from 10 a.m. to about 10:30 p.m. all weekend and the school’s restrooms are open to parking lot customers, which Litvak said is a “big draw.”

“We typically stay until the last car leaves, but every year we have at least one car locked in. So what we do is we take everybody’s phone number and make sure their name and number is associated with the tickets we give them,” said Litvak. “We give them a courtesy call to let them know that we are closing.”

Litvak hopes that this year will be among the “good years”— if all spaces fill up, the school could potentially raise as much as $9,000 in a single weekend. That money will go directly into the school’s budget, according to Argonne’s principal, Sheree Catingub.

“It’s a nice part of sharing our community with everybody else. I hear that the participation has gone down with Uber and Lyft, less people are driving and are more inclined to take public transit…but it’s still a big profiter for us,” said Catingub. “We’ll be doing it again for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in October. Together, the two festivals make a great amount of money for us.”

Cars trickled into the school’s parking lot slowly Friday morning — among them were repeat visitors Anton and Katie Dotson, who are so committed to parking at Argonne that several of the parent volunteers noticed the couple arrived in a different car from the previous years.

“The volunteers stay up after the show to make sure everybody gets out OK, and parking here we beat all the traffic — we just walk a few blocks, hop in the car and can be back home in Mill Valley in about 20 minutes,” said Dotson, adding that he discovered the parking opportunity “on accident” some seven years ago.

“We got back one night a few years ago and looked kind of haggard. They said, ‘have a bottle of water.’ Everything about them is kind,” said Dotson.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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