Most neighborhoods west of Twin Peaks are quiet, quasi-suburban enclaves with intermittent commercial centers where residents gather often, and which outsiders frequent once in a blue moon. Many people move to the outerlands and Avenues to escape the bustle of the eastern part of The City and visit shops and eateries frequented primarily by neighbors.
So it is not surprising that an event in Golden Gate Park that attracts and blasts music to tens of thousands of outsiders a day was a jolt to the western neighborhoods. That event, the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, has been held yearly since 2008. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will decide whether to extend its contract through 2021.
A full understanding of why The City should approve the new contract requires a look back in time. The event is put on by Another Planet Entertainment. CEO Gregg Perloff founded that company after leaving Bill Graham Presents, and many of his top executives are also former Bill Graham employees. The Berkeley-based company is not an outsider looking to pillage the park. Rather, Perloff and others are carrying on the long tradition of concerts in the park, which Graham used to launch a business as well as the careers of some of the best musical acts of the 1960s.
Perloff cares deeply about Golden Gate Park, as any person who speaks at length with him would know. When he talks about giving money to the Recreation and Park Department for maintenance, he refers to the way the park has become overgrown in spots because of budget cuts. Cynics may speak of the company paying off The City to hold the festival, but Perloff himself speaks of giving back to help keep the park the way he remembers it.
The new deal going before the Board of Supervisors will continue the concert series for many years without the contract going back out to bid, a point that some have latched on to in criticism. But nearby communities would not be well-served by the arrival of a new company.
Not surprisingly, Another Planet faced a learning curve during the first few years of Outside Lands. There were sound complaints, issues with parking and traffic, and general misunderstandings about what the concert would mean for the park and the neighborhoods. But the company continued to do community outreach and make continual improvements, such as changing the direction the stages were pointed, to be the best possible neighbor.
And it paid off. Neighborhood complaints have fallen drastically. The concert has now provided more than $6 million for the cash-strapped Recreation and Park Department. Moving forward, even more funds will be provided and the company will pay for a full-time gardener for the department.
Some people will always have complaints. Depending on which way the wind blows, the sound can shift toward neighborhoods that usually are shielded from such impacts. One year, a strong offshore breeze even carried the music out to Ocean Beach, where people could clearly hear every note. Another Planet cannot control each variable to appease everyone, but its employees do their best.
People are right to voice their concerns, and hopefully Another Planet will keep listening to neighbors and mitigating the concert’s impacts to the extent possible. But Another Planet has proven to be a good neighbor and park benefactor, and there is no need to spoil that relationship.
Long may it run.