Stern Grove parking debate heats up

Just a month before the famed annual Stern Grove Festival is scheduled to begin, a debate is heating up about where festivalgoers will park their cars.

Some area residents want to banish autos from parking on the field next to the festival site, as has been the practice for the last decade. The field has recently been upgraded with a new irrigation system and reseeded with grass, as part of Pine Lake Meadow’s $22 million renovation project.

“It was the last refurbishing they’ve done for many, many years,” said Shirley Selby of the Lakeshore Acres Improvement Club, who is leading the charge to change the parking policy. “The people who go to the Grove every day certainly deserve to have a beautiful spot and not have it ruined. I think it would be outrageous to let just one car park there.”

Selby is advocating festival parking at nearby school lots and then shuttling in visitors to the festival, which consists of summer-long weekend concerts at the outdoor Sigmund Stern Grove amphitheater at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard.

She said she in no way opposes the free festival, which started in 1938. “I love it. I have lived here all my life and I’ve gone to them over the years,” she said.

Steven Haines, executive director of the Stern Grove Festival Association, said that given the improvements to the field, this year’s parking impact, which is 10 days out of the year, would be “significantly less” than in previous years. It’s estimated that 400cars park on the field per event.

Haines said that changing where people can park at this point is like “asking the festival to turn on a dime.” The association is exploring other parking options for future festivals, he said.

After learning of the concerns, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose district includes the meadow, has called for a hearing with the Recreation and Park Department, to be held today, to understand why they are parking cars at the field so soon after the new grass planting and to explore other parking options.

“On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m terribly dubious. I don’t think they’ll be able to” justify parking on the meadow, Elsbernd said.

Elsbernd remains optimistic that a solution can be reached in time for this year’s slate of concerts, which begins June 17 with a show by Huey Lewis and the News. “We’ve got a month to figure it out. I’m not worried about it,” Elsbernd said.

“I don’t want in any way to suggest these events are not going to happen,” he added. “We want them to continue. It’s a fantastic festival.”

jsabatini@examiner.com


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