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SF shoots down Summer of Love anniversary festival plans — again

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Fantasy Fair, Mill Valley, 1967. (Courtesy Elaine Mayes)
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San Francisco bureaucrats showed no love Thursday for plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with a music festival in Golden Gate Park.

In a letter last week, the Recreation and Park Department claimed that Bay Area promoter Boots Hughston “made numerous ‘misrepresentations of material fact’” in his application to hold a festival June 4 on the Polo Fields.

Senior citizens wearing tie-dye flowed into City Hall to protest the decision on Thursday, but the Recreation and Park Commission sided with the department.

“It is our duty to celebrate the Summer of Love,” said Sunshine Powers, a Haight Street shop owner. “What happened here 50 years ago changed who we are as a society and made the country better and full of love.”

“If we didn’t have this festival, this is like having the Super Bowl without the game,” said Cicely Hansen, who also owns a store on Haight Street.

The commissioners were sympathetic to their pleas — several commissioners, including Gloria Bonilla and President Mark Buell even recalled running with the hippie scene in the late 1960’s — but voted unanimously to support the decision to deny the permit.

“I’m surprised, but [I’m also] not,” Hughston said after the vote.

The long-time promoter, who claims to have been in talks with Eric Clapton about playing the festival, said he will submit another permit request for the event. He has already announced the free event publically.

“Hell yeah, I’m ready to do it,” he said of trying again.

Dana Ketchum, the department’s director of permit and property management, drew scorn from the hippies when she heavily criticized the event for apparently lacking security, police and medical plans.

“We lower the standards for this one, we have to lower the standards for everybody,” she said.

Ketchum said there was no way to know how many officers were needed for the event because audience predictions jumped from as low as 30,000 in the permit request, to as high as 175,000 in advertisements.

“We did not build a plan for an event that size,” Ketchum said.

Ken Wine, an attorney for Hughston, disputed her claims and assured the commissioners that plans were in order.

“It’s an elderly crowd for the most part,” Wine said, trying to calm safety concerns. “It’s not a bunch of young people.”

But Richmond Station Capt. Paul Yep did not endorse the event. He told the commission that safety plans for the festival were “mostly inconsistent and vague.”

“I have serious concerns for public safety, including the well being of the attendees,” Yep said.

In the end, the commissioners agreed there were not enough reasons to overturn staff’s decision.

“The Summer of Love means a lot to this city,” Bonilla said. “I would really love to see this happen in some way, it may not be in the form that is proposed but if it could happen, I would be really happy.”

There is still hope for the festival this summer since Hughston plans to file another permit request.

Rusty Goldman, a historian of the 60’s in San Francisco, said the Summer of Love is being celebrated in places from Japan to New Zealand.

“It would be a travesty if San Francisco would not allow the celebration that started here, with us,” Goldman said.

San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary in smaller ways than a music festival.

The California Historical Society and SFTravel are working together to promote the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. To learn more, visit http://SummerOf.Love.

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