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SF gears up for 4/20 celebrations

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People smoke at 4:20 p.m. Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during the annual 4/20 celebration. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

City agencies are partnering with a private sponsor and local businesses for the second year in a row to prepare for the first 4/20 celebration since recreational cannabis use and sales became fully legal this Friday.

Last year’s sponsor, Alex Aquino, Haight Street business owner and local events producer, is back to help provide increased security inside and outside of Golden Gate Park, a mile-long chainlink fence to keep the area controlled, portable toilets, 16 food vendors and an eating area that Aquino dubbed “Munchie Land.”

“Clean-up, traffic control, and increased security came at a huge cost to taxpayers,” said Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who represents the district that includes the Haight-Ashbury, referring to unsanctioned events in past years. “That’s why this year we are once again partnering with a private sponsor.”

Adults 18 years and older will be allowed to enter the fenced-in area in the park beginning as early as 9 a.m.

The symbolic “Bud Drop,” a stoner’s equivalent to the New Year’s Eve ball dropping, will commence at 4:20 p.m. and visitors can expect a cloud of smoke surrounding the grassy field until the event officially ends at 5 p.m.

Aquino and other local merchants have raised $200,000 for the event, he said.

“I’ve been a merchant and resident of this district for over 12 years and I’ve seen the impact of this event in the surrounding neighborhoods and the park,” Aquino said. “Being an event producer for the last 20 years, I saw a solution to raise money, build the infrastructure for this event and make it more safe and clean,”

However, the sponsorship only supplements The City, which spent an estimated $110,000 to mitigate the counterculture holiday the first year it was sponsored in 2017, according to officials.

In addition to providing city services to prepare for and clean up after the event and placing extra trash bins in and around the park, The City will also deploy twice as many parking control officers in an effort to keep cars from blocking residents into their driveways and enforce street parking.

JFK Drive between Kezar Drive and Eighth Avenue, Nancy Pelosi Drive and Bowling Green Drive all the way to MLK Jr. Drive will be closed to the public and vehicles.

Additional portable bathrooms will also be put in place at Waller and Stanyan Streets in an effort to reduce public urination around the neighborhood.

“With this new partnership, and a well-oiled plan among City agencies, we hope this year will be cleaner and safer for all,” Breed said.

On the political side of this laid back holiday, State Treasurer John Chiang, who is running for governor, will be visiting the Apothecarium Dispensary in the Mission neighborhood at 8:35 a.m. to discuss cannabis banking, which would allow marijuana dispensary taxes to be paid electronically through a banking system instead of in cash.

sgribbon@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this article.

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