Journey’s “Lights” is a love song for San Francisco — but the band’s guitarist believes he was shown little affection when he decided to rent the Palace of Fine Arts for his 2013 wedding.
Neal Schon, one of the most well-known musicians connected to San Francisco, filed a lawsuit last February in federal court alleging that he was “extorted” by city officials for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
City officials also held his wedding permit hostage until the exorbitant amount was paid, according to the suit.
The City has agreed to pay Schon $290,000, according to a settlement agreement pending approval by the Board of Supervisors. The amount is just shy of the $295,566 in fees and other related costs The City required for the wedding event, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 6 in U.S. District Court.
“Despite what the City’s government did to us, we love our ‘City by the Bay’ and its residents,” Schon said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner. “We couldn’t be happier that we’ve been vindicated.” His wife, TV reality star Michaele Salahi, called The City’s conduct “reprehensible.”
Schon was initially quoted a $60,000 fee to rent the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts. But as news of the event leaked out to the press, along with Schon’s plans to broadcast the event on pay-per-view at $15 per person, city officials began raising the fees, even objecting to the “Royal, Sexy, Magic” theme.
The cost ballooned to nearly $240,000, including such added fees as a $100,000 “premium reservation fee,” and a $50,000 “park regeneration fee.” The City wouldn’t release the wedding permit until the fees were paid.
Schon’s attorney James Quadra, of Quadra & Coll, said in a statement that “the city charged Neal and Michaele arbitrary and astronomical fees for the use of public property. It was unconstitutional.”
The couple “should have been excited and happy in the days leading up to their wedding,” the lawsuit said. “Instead, they were being extorted by Defendants.” The defendants named were Phil Ginsburg, head of the Recreation and Park Department, which oversees the property, and his staff Dana Ketcham, permits manager, and Diane Rea, events specialist.
The couple also rented out the space in the nearby old Exploratorium building, which was then occupied by Town School for Boys for the reception. The couple had planned to title one of the rooms “sexy” but city officials expressed “concern that the room would suggest profane or pornographic thematic elements.”
City officials told the couple in order to broadcast the event a $25,000 film permit was required “as well as a $200,000 donation to a nonprofit organization, the Maybeck Foundation, for the anniversary of the Palace.”
Schon didn’t make the donation, but did pay the other fees. The couple ended up paying $236,366 for the use of the Palace of Fine Arts and $59,199 for the old Exploratorium building.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, “We’re glad we could reach an agreement to resolve the dispute amicably, and we wish Neal and Michaele every happiness in married life.”