Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:


With Michael O'Connor

Can We Create a Permit For The Permitting Of Park Permits?


December 17, 2005

I can't say that I had a big interest in the the recent Rolling Stones shows at PacBell / SBC / WTF Park. The little feedback which I heard made it sound like Mick Jagger, regardless of his age, still has "it." However, what I did hear a lot about was concert related noise complaints.

The sound complaint debate is also alive and well in Golden Gate Park. If you've ever been to a-la-Carte in the Park then you have participated and enjoyed an event which has drawn a variety of sound complaints, not to mention other Golden Gate Park "concerts" such as Reggae in the Park, Michael Franti's Power To the Peaceful, and of course last year's Dave Matthew's Concert.

In a recent conversation with Bob Davis, director of the Entertainment Commission, he informed me that the famed New York City Summer Stage (www.summerstage.org) handles the sound issue partly by running it's own sound system. Here in San Francisco, we have 5 different promoters, bringing in 5 different sound companies, for 5 different events, with very little accountability (maybe we could look around at some, yep, you guessed it..."best practices").

I'm obviously not going to solve the Golden Gate sound complaint problem but one "common sense" suggestion I would offer is let's try reversing the direction of the stages so that the sound is directed towards the Pacific Ocean instead of towards the Haight, NoPNA, and the Inner Richmond.


After one Golden Gate Park event this past summer, The Alice Now and Zen Festival, some Park neighbors chose another avenue through which to address their complaints. This time, the complaints were tied to challenging the revenue which had been made by the event organizers.

When one wants to put on a special event in California (legally) then one of the legal ways to sell alcohol is to request a one day liquor license from the ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control run by the Sate of Cali). The catch is that in order to get the license the event organizer has to "partner" with the 501C3 nonprofit. The nonprofit is supposed to be the financial beneficiary of whatever income is produced by the alcohol sales of the event.

One of the many problems with this system is that often the sale of alcohol is what creates the revenue stream which covers some of the costs of the event, especially when it's a free event. Furthermore, the Concert Industry is structurally set up to take alcohol sales into consideration when an agent works out the financial compensation for the headline act (There are lots of other factors which I won't go into in the interest of keeping this piece under 25 pages).

This year, we are facing yet another round of budget cuts. It seems that more gardeners are being cut every year from the Rec and Park Budget. Franco Mancini, the President of Friends of McLaren park, informed me that McLaren Park is down to 1 gardener...FOR 318 ACRES!

The issue of potential city revenue is a big interest for all of us who follow the San Francisco Budget process. Could we be creating more Rec and Park revenue from concert tickets surcharges, alcohol sale taxes, as well as enforcing Park Permit fees? How thoroughly are we exploring this?


When is a noise complaint really a noise complaint?

Considering the conservative neighborhood, I never seem to hear about any sound complaints tied to the Stern Grove Festival? Is it because there is no "bleeding" of the sound (I doubt it)? Or does it have something to do with the fact that Festival organizers seem to keep their musical booking very safe which means that they usually draw a very "safe" audience? Would there be more sound complaints if the Stern Grove organizers booked an event which drew a younger "urban" audience but at the exact same noise levels?

In the early nineties, I was the permit holder for a 3 time annual event called "Informal Nation in the Park" (IN-FORM-ALL-NATIONS). This event was held in the Mission at Potrero del Sol Park, commonly referred to as La Raza Park. The events were Park and Rec permitted, included insurance, porto-potties, and every year we left the park cleaner than the way we found it.

The format of the event was a day-long array of local born and raised hip hop and reggae dj's. The turnout of the events usually topped 1500 people. 90% of the 1500 people were probably under 25 and the event was organized by a group of racially diverse group all of whom were under 25. The audience was mostly native born and crossed all San Francisco racial lines: latinos, african americans, samoans, whites, asians, philipinos etc.

Don't we need more safe events like this for city kids? Sounds pretty cool right? Wrong!

If you've never seen this park and I'm betting that most readers have not seen it, then what you would find is a gorgeously sculpted and sloping park, including a built-in stage. I am told that this park was designed by Latin activists in the 70's who wanted to create a park for the world famous sounds of the Mission which at the time included Malo and Santana. The park sits about 150 feet from Hospital Curve and HWY 101, which seems like it would be a great place for an outdoor summer concert (most of the amplification blends into the noise from the nearby freeway).

In 1994, after having put the event on for three years, I went to pull the permits again from Sandy Lee, the R&P permit handler, she informed me that the Rec and Park Commission had passed a resolution BANNING all future sound permits for "La Raza Park." The Commission's decison to ban amplified music was due to sound complaints. We were never informed that the ban was even being considered by the Commission.

To me, it only further underlined that we weren't welcome in our own hometown. It made me wonder if this would have happened to other "communities" in San Franmcisco? The Commission decison truly made me want to leave San Francisco.


I would make an unscientific argument that as City property value continues to rise, so will concert sound complaints. I guess you could say that this problem isn't going to go away anytime soon. To a certain degree most of these complaints seem to get "swept under the rug," however if you consider outdoor concerts one of the great things about city living then I suggest that we should start taking these sound complaints a lot more seriously, or else before you know it, we'll have a ballot intitiative banning outdoor amplified concerts.

I value and respect the fact that people have decided to file sound complaints. I also value the fact that public events draw thousands of people who want to enjoy the summer weather and listen to a diverse array of fantastic music.

However, what I would value even more would be a public process through which a variety of neighbors (both pro and con), event organizers, Rec and Park officials, Youth Commission members, ABC representatives, as well as sound specialists could sit down and develop a format for public events which included all perspectives.

Michael O'Connor is the co-owner of The Independent, a small business
in San Francisco. He also serves on the San Francisco Small Business
Commission...and he likes to eat burritos. Email Michael O'Connor at divisadero628@earthlink.net.


Ammiano plans taxation without representation


December 5, 2005

With the holiday season upon us I think that the greater majority of us live in San Francisco because we value the history and legacy of social consciousness and social justice. It is not always an easy city to live in and sometimes it seems to get more and more difficult, but nevertheless, we persevere and we stay committed to the City.

Over the last five years we have seen the price of property in this city skyrocket to often unbelievable proportions. Is everyone a millionaire with money to burn? I think a small percentage may be, but I am pretty sure that the majority of people that are running small businesses like bars, laundromats, clothing stores, moving companies, contractors, restaurants, startups, clubs, and cafes... are not.

The day before Thanksgiving, District 9 Supervisor Tom Ammiano announced a plan to development legislation which would make it mandatory for small businesses (with more than 20 employees) to provide health insurance for their employees, even those employees working part-time.

In theory I think this is a fantastic idea. In fact, why didn't someone think of this about 100 years ago?

The issue of Universal Healthcare is probably one the key issues of our times. I sincerely commend those that have dedicated themselves to this issue and are using their creativity to navigate through the uncharted territories of a potential Universal Healthcare system. I have even heard former President Bill Clinton admit that failing to create universal healthcare coverage was his biggest regret during his eight years as president.

To be honest, I had heard faint rumors that Supervisor Ammiano was thinking about something like this but it never occurred to me that it would be presented to the general public in this fashion. With all respect due to the historical significance of Supervisor Ammiano's legacy as a legislator in San Francisco, this is frankly modern day version of "taxation without representation." I know for a fact that the legislative idea never came before the Small Business Commission.

Would we enact new citywide zoning measure without going to the Planning Commission?

Would we create a new city police policy to deal with extreme crowd control without presenting it to the Police Commission?

San Francisco electeds have come a long way towards creating legislation that is Democratic in its intent and in its development. There is an ever-growing degree of "community involvement" which permeates the legislative process. There is also something that Supervisor Ammiano helped to spearhead called the Sunshine Ordinance. The Sunshine Rules and the "Community Process" may be frustrating and they may sometimes slow down legislation but quite frankly, I think in the end we benefit from a process that emphasizes inclusion, as opposed to exclusion.

In addition to my problems with the lack of community involvement, I think to a certain degree this proposal would fall under the category of being a "regressive-tax." Forgive my possible misuse of the term "regressive," but what I really mean is that this form of legislation proposed will undoubtedly lead to significant job layoffs. If I was running a business which employed 26 people and I was struggling to cover costs as it was, then I would have no choice but to pare down my staff down to 19. This is not some far fetched threat...this is real. This weekend, I met with one relatively modest neighborhood business owner who said that if this passes he will close his restaurant which has served the Clement Street area for almost 10 years.

Right about now, we need ideas for job creation, not job loss.

Over the last couple of months, I have been attending a variety of community meetings related to crime and violence in the Western Addition. The ultimate message of EVERY community meeting is, "Where are the Jobs?" Another question which ALWAYS comes up is, "What possibilities are there for teenagers during the summer months?"

I don't think we are doing enough as a city and as a collection of small businesses, to create and provide jobs for our own-native born youth. This upcoming summer, I will be contributing, as the chair, for the Department of Children, Youth, and Family's Summer Youth Employment program. It is pivotal that small business volunteer to play a larger role in the creation of summer youth employment. I am of the opinion that summer internships are a significant component of a comprehensive strategy for combating the structural challenges which face so many of our own "Frisco Youth."

I don't think you can discuss one social epidemic without looking how It's solution relates directly or indirectly to another. It's not my intent to use "street violence" as a shield to deflect attention away from Small Business paying more "taxes" (which theoretically could or could not go to youth programming). It is my intention to use the C Word... Comprehensive.

If we are serious about trying to solve the Health care problem then we need to be more comprehensive....and if we are trying to reduce the chances that city kids are going to use a gun instead of a computer, then we also need to be more comprehensive...and sincere.

I think it's safe to say that most San Francisco Small Business owners care greatly about their employees, many of whom are also our "co-workers." Many of us do live in the City. Many of us have an interest in Civic responsibility. I believe that while it is important to raise questions about the Health Care legislation as it has been presented, it is also important to ask ourselves, "What is the possibility of crafting a realistic Worker's Health Plan?"

I am disturbed by the fact that Supervisor Ammiano failed to reach out to the Small Business Community, but I am intrigued by the questions which this legislation idea raises. Is there a way to craft a potential Workers Health plan for small business workers in San Francisco? If there is, it will have to be created by a "community process."

Michael O'Connor is the co-owner of The Independent, a small business
in San Francisco. He also serves on the San Francisco Small Business
Commission...and he likes to eat burritos. Email Michael O'Connor at divisadero628@earthlink.net.


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa