31-May-2012 (Thu)
Wherein love for the city goes unrequited.

There was this big DJ festival last weekend called "I Love This City" that you've probably seen ads for on the side of every bus in town for months. We had an event that night called "I Love Dubstep" that was intended to be an after-party for it. The festival was a LiveNation thing with a bunch of big-name underground DJs (this is not actually an oxymoron) and it was advertised as happening in the parking lot of the baseball stadium... until, two weeks before the event, suddenly it was moved to Shoreline.

So what you're wondering is: had the city in question, the target of their love, been Mountain View all along?

Or did their love for San Francisco go unrequited, and Mountain View was just the sloppy-seconds rebound?

It may not surprise you to learn that it was the latter.

They'd been planning this event for ages, but of course they had to start advertising long before the permits were finalized, because -- who am I kidding, you know why. So it turns out that the stadium parking lot is actually owned by the Port Authority, who rent it to the City of SF (of which they are not already a part? I don't understand) and then SF rents it to the Giants. So there are three enormous bureaucracies who get to stick their fingers in.

Well, at the last minute, the Port Authority told them:

"You can't sell bottled water."
"What the?"
"It's bad for the environment."
"What is this I don't even."
"No."
"We're doing an under-21 dance party, we make all of our money from water sales."
"No."

I've never heard of any precedent for a bottled-water ban. Certainly there are no local laws about it. This appears to simply be the whim of someone at the Port Authority.

Then on top of that, while they knew the prices for most of the permits they were waiting on from the City, the Police Department was forcing them to do a "10-B" which is, basically, a shakedown. The "10-B" thing is when you are forced to hire off-duty police officers to work as your security staff, and both the officers and SFPD get paid for it. (You also might guess that these officers don't really work for you, so they don't have your interests at heart. You'd be right.) Well, the promoters couldn't get a straight answer about how much they were going to charge for that until the last minute (because apparently the algorithm SFPD uses for pricing 10-B is, "How much have you got?") and that number turned out to be significantly higher than anyone expected, based on what it had cost in the past.

Plus, their presales were a little low. That, combined with the ballooning costs and the elimination of one of their primary revenue streams meant they decided to move the whole thing to Shoreline at the last minute. The better terms they got from Shoreline also meant that they could make it be a 16+ event instead of an 18+ event, and that they could go all the way until 11pm instead of being forced to close at 10pm.

The goal here was to create a 40,000+ person annual festival in San Francisco, and that has now been 100% torpedoed because of SFPD's greed, and because some random bureaucrat doesn't like bottled water.

So once again: San Francisco would really, really prefer that you not do business here.

Have you heard of a sleepy little office-park suburb called Mountain View? Maybe Mountain View would like your business instead.

22 Responses:

  1. Erica says:

    We'd love to have you here in Austin, TX. And let me just say--as a business owner who lived for 10 years in the Bay Area and moved to Austin last year--it's *amazing* here. What a breath of fresh air to not be constantly frustrated by regulations and bureaucracy, and to live somewhere where you feel like the government is at least halfway decent at working with you.

    And we have plenty of awesome places for you to have music festivals (as witnessed by SXSW and ACL amongst many others!)

    • Jamie Zawinski says:

      I go to SXSW every year, and it fucking *shames* me. There's a city that gives a shit about music and culture in a way San Francisco never has in at least the last two decades. Do I really need to move to *Texas* to experience the San Francisco that's on the brochure? TEXAS? Maybe so. Maybe so.

      • DoctorMemory says:

        If there's one thing that has become crystal clear to me over the course of near a decade in this city, it's that the people who actually control the levers of power here, from top to bottom, bitterly resent the existence of the San Francisco that's on the brochure, and would strongly prefer that everyone from the hippies to the gays to the techies would just go back home and let them go back to being a sleepy navy base town.

        Everything interesting or culturally worthwhile that happens in this city happens in spite of the city government, chamber of commerce and neighborhood associations, not because of any of them. (And usually in spite of the concerted opposition of all of them at once.)

        • Matty J. says:

          It would be interesting to find out what kind of permits the ballet had to get to erect all those tents on the sidewalk that are on Van Ness and surrounding areas right now. Dollars to donuts they were pushed through with minimal hassle.

          And I bet they have bottled water. It's hot in those tents when you're wearing an evening gown.

  2. TProphet says:

    At least you don't need approval from the Cultural Ministry. Try doing events in Beijing...

  3. tjic says:

    Keep slagging on libertarians. They're TOTALLY WRONG about government.

    • Ian McKellar says:

      Government doesn't have to be shitty, we just happen to have some prime examples around here.

      • Jamie Zawinski says:

        tjic's mission in life seems to be to post and twit one-liners about how Ayn Rand is awesome in response to everything I ever say. Don't feed the troll.

    • Kevin Lyda says:

      Yes, there is loads of good work libertarians could do on the local level. But they don't.

      • Joshua Marker says:

        Well, why should they? What's in it for them? There is no such thing as a civic good, after all.

    • netik says:

      What the fuck? Who mentioned libertarians?

    • Joshua Marker says:

      Awww, your pet troll is back! He's so cute, with the little tuft of pink hair and the copy of Atlas Shrugged!

  4. David Roland says:

    Jamie, I don't agree with your story. Why? Because I know the NIMBY lawyer who didn't want the concert in her back yard and made a very convincing legal argument as to why the concert couldn't happen now or in the future... She also helped come up with the idea of moving it to Shoreline... Sort of a win-win... Sort of.

    • Jamie Zawinski says:

      You know someone who's backyard is... the baseball stadium? Please. Tell me more. Seriously, I want to know.

      Because *I live* three blocks from the baseball stadium. And there exists *nobody* whose back yard is the baseball stadium.

      So either you're making a joke so subtle that I don't get it, or you're just completely full of shit.

      I'd also like to hear about how your "nimby lawyer pal" has the ability to get the Port Authority to say some shit about bottled water, because one of the things that was *not* cited as the reason this event didn't happen was "David Roland's nimby pal goes to bed at 9pm".

      So give me some facts, or everyone, including me, will assume you're just trolling.

      • DoctorMemory says:

        Unfortunately, I find the following scenario:

        Lawyer: "If you try to give a permit for this concert, I will spend the next two years blanketing you with insane discovery requests and court challenges.

        Port Authority: er, um, uh... bottled water! completely out of bounds!

        ...altogether too plausible. Although whether it's more plausible than some dipshit at the P.A. doing it just because they could is debatable.

    • DoctorMemory says:

      Even assuming your story is 100% true, it doesn't affect the point of the post at all. If it's true, the city bureaucracy decided to prioritize the desires of one cranky lawyer over multiple local businesses and 40,000 of their (sales-tax-paying) customers. A functional city's bureaucracy would have told her to get fucked.

  5. Charles Stephens says:

    Whooo! Mountain View! Suck it City!

    • Jamie Zawinski says:

      High five, bro! Oh wait, it's almost 3am. You've been asleep for 5 hours. Sorry to wake you.

  6. Clearly you should just give up on SF. It's not the city you really want it to be.

  7. Phillip Remaker says:

    SF Bottled water ban seems to have been ion the works since 2010: http://sfappeal.com/news/2010/07/proposed-bottled-water-ban-leaves-some-steamed.php, guess it "went live."

    Any chance of building out a "DNA South" venue in Mountain View? Or is the cultural wasteland of the Silly Valley unable to support such a venue?

  8. nooj says:

    > Austin is a city that gives a shit about music and culture in a way San Francisco never has

    It's not just during SX. Austin is like that all year round. (For instance, the "Spring Break"-style policing extends to weekend nights: Sixth Street is closed off every Friday and Saturday night for jaywalking.) Cops do sting for underage drinking, but the only busts that reach my ears are for drug running, tax evasion, blatant smoking ban violations. Even Google looks at me funny when I try 'Austin "war on fun" '.

    And coffee shops do well here, especially if they do something else, like roast their own beans, serve fresh food or beer, are open 24/7... So a DNA Pizza/Cafe could be as successful as a DNA Lounge! There is a lot of bar turnover; I can never tell if it's better or worse than the rest of the country, or simply because we have so many bars, or if they're not actually going out of business, but just rebranding for attention.

    In mid-November, when the racetrack opens up ten miles from downtown, this place won't know what hit it. Not sure what that will mean for the bar scene except, "Uh, we're almost out of vodka, too."

  9. Lun Esex says:

    Could it be that those bureaucracies are acting the way they are because of how active people in San Francisco tend to be politically? Everyone's gotta have their say, and a few are saying "plastic bottles are bad for the environment!" and "Large events must have large police presences!" so they're being inordinately and heavy-handedly catered to.

    In SF even if you got rid of the entire government it would just spontaneously spring back into place as the citizens form committees and groups and campaigns and petitions. Actually, that's all already there, so it'd just be a matter of musical chairs. Libertarians railing about "big government" in SF might as well be pissing into the wind.

    Irony: In order to get people's opinions changed about reducing government, you have to get them politically motivated. And when you do that in SF, the result is: More and bigger government!