City says “No” to Sunset Junction festival; rejects second request for permit to hold the fair this weekend

Photo by bbmcshane/FlickrT

The organizers of the Sunset Junction Street Fair suffered a major blow when the Board of Public Works this morning for the second time denied granting the permit to hold the massive street fair this weekend.  Despite committing $150,000 to pay the fees demanded by the city, Sunset Junction officials failed to win over the commissioners, who voted unanimously to deny the permit needed to close off nine blocks of Sunset Boulevard for the annual street and music festival.

The second and final vote throws the future of the 31-year-old festival and its nonprofit organizer – the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance – into question only three days before an estimated 100,000 people and musical groups from across the nation were scheduled to descend on Silver Lake this weekend for the end-of-summer bash.

A statement on the festival Twitter feed said:

Seriously, we tried our best on raising the huge amount of money- thanks for all the support.. unfortunately we didn’t meet the expectations.

After rejecting the permit on Monday, the commissioners left the door open to reconsider the permit application if the Sunset Junction organizers provided a check to cover an estimated $140,000 for police protection and other services. A last-minute, 36-hour fundraiser, including a loan from concert promoter Live Nation,  left Sunset Junction with about $152,000 to give to the city. However, a certified check could not be provided until Thursday and commissioners remained skeptical after reviewing bank statements submitted during this morning’s hearing.

“We have given you opportunity after opportunity, ” said commission president Andrea Alarcon. “This is far short of making anything right.”

In addition to about $140,000 needed for this year’s permit, the festival also owned the city about $267,000 in unpaid fees from last year’s event. Under city law, a special event permit cannot be issued unless city fees are paid in advance.  Philip Tate, an attorney for the festival, warned the commissioners that the city may have difficulty recovering money owed from last year if this year’s event is canceled, which he predicted would lead to lawsuits against the festival organizers.

“This organization will probably go away,” Tate said of the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, a  nonprofit group that relies on the festival to generate $300,000 a year to support programs for neighborhood youth.

Festival officials say the fees imposed on their event are much higher than other street fairs and claimed the bills presented by the city had inflated costs for police and other services.

Volunteers and supporters of the festival offered apologies to Silver Lake residents and business owners after years of complaints about the festival and Michael McKinley, who heads the alliance.  Many residents have complained that what once was a free and easy going neighborhood event has become a sprawling and disruptive commercial festival with $25 admission.

“We need to be able to give [the festival] back to the community,” said Liliana Perez, a volunteer with the alliance. “We need to be inclusive of all community members, of all business partners. Nobody should be left out. The whole purpose of this effort is to bridge communities.”

Related stories:

  • Sunset Junction releases statement after being denied permits. Pop & Hiss
  • Ukuleles & Popcorn: Silver Lake merchants to host alternative to Sunset Junction. The Eastsider
  • Bands and venues prepare to a weekend without Sunset Junction. The Eastsider
  • Sunset Junction again denied permit; festival likely to be cancelled. West Coast Sound
  • L.A. denies permit to Sunset Junction festival. L.A. Now
    Board of Public Works denied Sunset Junction fair permit. Patch


  1. Pleased that the board is standing its ground.

  2. So this means I can actually come and go as I please this weekend? Awesome.

    They did it to themselves. If McKinley hadn’t been so cavalier and greedy in the way he treated the neighbors, this might not have happened.

  3. YAY ! Now, i don’t HAVE to leave LA this weekend to get far far away from this mess !

  4. I am so relieved that my community has been spared from this “community event”.

    I love living in Silverlake & only want good things for my neighbors. The Sunset Junction festival, while once was created to help bring harmony between local residents, has evolved over the years into a serious inconvenience to them on so many different levels.

    I’m happy that we still have a truly accessible community festival, Silverlake Jubilee.

    May all those folks who have already purchased tickets to SJ get full refunds.

  5. I hope someone still makes them pay for what is still owed from last year…
    And come on–this is a non-profit? They’re supposed to provide an open accounting of their finances.
    I’d love to see where all the money went last year, and the year before.

  6. REBOOT!!

    I say we start at El Cid this weekend.

  7. The system works!

    As a resident of SL I am VERY glad to hear this news!!! Yay!!! Hopefully SJ will be back next year with better management! If not, then it’s time for Jubilee to take over.

  8. @fleaman – No way, man. El Cid is just as shady. I personally am saddened that the Junction will not be happening this year. They need to get better management for the future.

  9. i am pretty surprised by the outcome. i wonder what would have happened if they had shown up with a check in hand. always had a great time at SJ back in the day, but it’s just gotten too big. it’s basically a rock concert that should be held in a rock concert venue; although I suppose if they did that they wouldn’t be able to claim that they are a non-profit.

    my favorite part? where the lawyer for SJ tries to blackmail the board:
    “Philip Tate, an attorney for the festival, warned the commissioners that the city may have difficulty recovering money owed from last year if this year’s event is cancelled, which he predicted would lead to lawsuits against the festival organizers.”

  10. any word on how they are going about refunding those who bought presale tickets yet?

  11. @Jeremy –guess I’m not up to date on El Cid politics? Only as a patron. What do you suggest?

  12. Good riddance. Greed manages to screw itself in the end. Maybe the organizers can use the donations they scraped together to pay off their sleazy lawyer…

  13. @surprised – that part my favorite too.

    the BUY TICKETS button on their website has be deactivated.

    i think it’s pretty amusing that they have been trying to raise the funds to pay what they owe the City. Like they just found out THIS WEEK that they owed the City this money…..like they didn’t know last year that they would have to actually pay for all the police etc……damn, i wish i could walk around in life that clueless…..


    F*ck Michael McKinley, his lawyer, and everyone else involved with this sham!
    Goodbye and good riddance! KARMA IS A BITCH!

  15. @ surprised – apparently they did indeed show up today ready to pay the $140K, but they said they weren’t able to provide a CERTIFIED check today…..and the board thought it unlikely that they actually did have the funds…

  16. I am sooooo looking forward to this. No street closure.
    I’m gonna lunch at stella drink at all my favorite bars, shop.
    Make this the best weekend for Local business !

  17. Really, 2 days before the event, their ‘last chance’ meeting with the city, you better have a certified check in HAND, not MORE excuses.

    It’s just not enough time to mobilize public works. It’s not like the city’s employees are ‘on-call’ for SJ. SJ knew they owed the city $$$ for a year now! And haven’t paid a dime for last years festival costs, which the taxpayer has footed so far (and will probably have to absorb).

  18. I’ve lived in Silverlake for 8 years and have seen the demise of this festival. I also play in a local band and this Festival is NOT local artist friendly. There are so many great bands in this area that are denied year after year to perform in their OWN backyard! Besides muzzling great talent, they have discouraged local art vendors from participating in the Festival as well. The promoters have ruined this festival for far too long it’s time for a change of guard!

  19. Anyone that wants to know anything about a public nonprofit charity can review their financial records at http://www.Guidestar.org

    All public charities must provide, upon request, their IRS financial report to the public. You can also request this information from the Office of Charity Registration, State of California.

    If you reviewed the financial reports submitted by the Alliance for the past few years, you would learn that the Alliance reports having about $4,000 i the bank at the end of March 2010. There financial report for the period ending March 2011, is not yet available. The Alliance reported no liabilities in its March 2011 financial report.

    I think one of the serious issues has been the lack of forthright accountability by this nonprofit with the community, government officials and others.

    We all want good charities in our communities, benefiting the community. It is important however to know where funds are being spent. We should all consider giving to charity, but give wisely!

  20. lesson to all – what goes around DOES come around. totes awesome.

  21. AGenuineEastHollywoodNative

    Michael McKinley =Frank McCourt. Hope both are out of the community soon enough.

    If the festival is revived in the future perhaps it could be held at a different location like a school or park.

  22. At the>> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/sunset-junction-festival-_n_933653.html They post the city and SJ documents submitted regarding this issue. I found this statement from McKinley especially interesting (I capitalized words for focus)>>

    “An entrance fee will be REQUESTED at the entrances to pay Street Fair expenses, community beautification, and the SJ Youth risk program. NO ONE WILL BE TURNED AWAY FOR LACK OF FUNDS.”

    This is, as we all know, is an outright LIE. It’s not a donation ‘requested’ event, and hasn’t been for years, period. This line is obviously intended to deceive the city into providing (again) subsidized public works services for a event on public streets.

    When you hold a mandatory entrance fee for a event on public streets, or deny access to the public (like the Academy Awards), it becomes a PRIVATE event, and as such, the city has to right to charge at minimum, the full actual costs incurred to secure such event. And that doesn’t factor in other personal and financial costs to the community at hand.

    When a film shoot is done in an area the public might be displaced/disrupted in (parking, traffic, noises, etc.), besides paying the city for permits/costs, they PAY the surrounding residences/businesses a inconvenience fee.

  23. I would be interested to find out if the concert promoters who cut the big check get it back. I doubt it,same to those who prepaid for tickets. This organist has been more than mildly misrepresenting who they are for years. They have finally gotten what they deserve.

  24. Very cool! My prediction was wrong! Congrats to the council for staying strong.

    Excited for the local businesses this weekend! Should still be plenty of fun times around here!

  25. fleaman, thank you! that’s ridiculous. i’ll quote one more time for emphasis:

    “An entrance fee will be REQUESTED at the entrances to pay Street Fair expenses, community beautification, and the SJ Youth risk program. NO ONE WILL BE TURNED AWAY FOR LACK OF FUNDS.”

    This is, as we all know, is an outright LIE. It’s not a donation ‘requested’ event, and hasn’t been for years, period. This line is obviously intended to deceive the city into providing (again) subsidized public works services for a event on public streets.

  26. I actually like the way the LA Times article described the lawyer’s blackmail statement better:

    Tate implored city officials to keep the festival alive while allowing his client to provide a check on Thursday morning by a specific deadline. And he warned the board that THE CITY WOULD LIKELY NEVER SEE THE $260,000 IN PERMIT FEES THAT HIS CLIENT OWES FROM LAST YEAR IF THE FESTIVAL IS KILLED: “You’ll be one of many creditors standing in line waiting to get paid,” he said. “Because if this falls, the vendors, the bands, they’re not just going to quietly slink off into the night and this organization is probably going to go away.”


  27. For reference, that quote was on page 25 of Phillip Tate’s (Mckinley’s lawer) submitted docs on the huffington post link.

    It’s an interesting read. What seems to be consistently and repeatedly brought up as an argument contesting the amount of the city costs are references time and time again to other street fests that have much lower city fees/costs, like the Eagle Rock Fest, Abbot Kinney Fest, etc. —ALL of which are FREE events on public streets!!! The city has made it plain and clear in the past to SJ/McKinley that if he continues to enforce a mandatory entrance fee for a event on public streets, he will be charged MORE for city services. Yet according to the complaint, it appears Tate/McKinley expects to be billed at the same to similar rates they have incurred during the years SJ was truly ‘donation only’ (not by name only), and/or the rates ratio free events are billed at.


  28. Hi folks! Been a Silver Lake resident and community grass-roots member for 8+ years and I’ve participated in the politics and have seen the vitriol (and entrance fee) increase with every year. Putting aside what you believe the Junction “should” be (I will also leave aside my comments on this year’s line-up. In one word: meh), Michael McKinley and company have a very special opportunity to right the ship and consider what a real, community-driven event the Junction could take in its next iteration. First step is to do right by their actions and properly -and in a timely fashion- refund pre-paid tickets, vendor payments and take care of the now despondent bands who were so eager to play to our great city. If the blowback from all this are angry music-lovers, vendors and lawsuits, it will sadly just confirm the rumors of malfeasance, greed and incendiary actions that have long circulated for years around McKinley and company.

  29. @Max Bling,

    I suspect there will be a lot of lawsuits from promoters, venders, sponsors, etc. against SJ/McKinley. No doubt he had also made exaggerated promises that he could not keep (one being he probably wasn’t fully disclosing he hadn’t yet retained the permit to put on the event), and that this will be the end of McKinley’s involvement.

    I doubt McKinley has the funds to fully refund everyone. No doubt his PR, Lawyer, Promoter, costs and deposits he’s made are not refundable back to him. Lawsuits, lawsuits, Lawsuits!! And I’m sure he’ll probably (try to) sue the city also.

    There is no doubt this is a complete disaster for McKinley, though it’s 100% his fault for not taking it seriously and assuming he could continue to bully the community and the city to get his way on the grounds of (far) past good deeds.

    I think this is the time for the Peeps @ Silverlake Jubilee to start the permit application process to expand/replace SJ for the August dates (next year). Though I would still like to see the Silverlake Jubilee to have it’s mini-Myra event earlier in the year (when it’s cooler temps!!).

  30. I want to quote myself for a minute here to make an additional point>>

    “”It’s an interesting read. What seems to be consistently and repeatedly brought up as an argument contesting the amount of the city costs are references time and time again to other street fests that have much lower city fees/costs, like the Eagle Rock Fest, Abbot Kinney Fest, etc. —ALL of which are FREE events on public streets!!!””

    The Abbot Kinney fest is 1 day only, AND it’s only from 10am-6pm (at least this year it will be), that is about 1/4 the amount of time of the SJ fest.

    The comparison examples Tate/McKinley provided are weak, to say the least.

  31. The focus now shifts to how the ticket buyers, vendors, promoters etc. will get their money refunded from a weasel who is known best for welching on agreements.

    Ominously, the sunsetjunction.org website is DOWN!

  32. Folks who are trying to get your money back, if you can not reach the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance (SJNA) by phone or their website (which is down), ask for Edwin at the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market on Saturday at the the Sunset Junction’s Triangle Park. The SJNA also runs this farmer’s market and Edwin is Michael McKinley’s right hand man.

  33. i hope it never comes back

    especially since there is a real community street fair called SILVER LAKE JUBILEE

  34. Let’s all take to the sidewalks this weekend to drink, eat, shop in, enjoy, and support our amazing Silverlake neighborhood merchants! I think the idea of our local merchants having a sidewalk sale is just wonderful.

  35. It was so exciting to be there. We expected Michael to come in at the last minute with the check, his lawyer had said tht he was on his way. At every turn, I expected it to turn around. The Festival is legend and should have been managed better. I feel sad for everyone involved but the Comunity has been ignored for YEARS!

  36. Hey, the Eagle Rock Music Festival is Oct. 1. It’s fun, free, local, and supports local businesses. The bands are really good too and Colorado blvd. is a whole lot more spacious than that sunset cluster f**k with all of those crappy booths. Come on out!


  37. I agree with Kris10. Let’s all show some love and support for our Silver Lake merchants this weekend and show everyone what REAL community looks like.

  38. Just pushing this story forward a bit … I really hope the Silver Lake farmers market doesn’t get shut down as a result of McKinley’s incompetent handling of the festival.

    Is there another group that could step up to run the Saturday market when Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance disappears into a bottomless pit of litigation and bankruptcy?

  39. KCAL9 reported that SJ was told by the city on monday that if they came today with a ‘A certified Check in Hand’ for the $140k amount, they would reconsider.

    Then SJ provided bank faxes showing the deposits equaling about $141k as evidence of funds (but no Certified check). But when the City looked at the documents carefully they noticed that only about $53k (or so) was actually available in the account currently, the rest were funds that have not yet cleared.

    Of course the City would have been at financial risk if they granted the permit and the funds either didn’t clear, or SJ just didn’t pay (as they’ve agreed to pay, then not pay in the past). Seems like an open/shut situation to the city, hence the unanimous vote by the board. The City is 100% correct that many, many exceptions and chances have been provided to SJ/McKinley, and he’s blown/disrespected just about all of them.

    If what SJ said is true about their $100k loan/donation (or whatever) from ‘Live Nation’, why didn’t they have Live Nation make a certified check out directly to the city instead? Which would have avoided the risk of delayed bank deposit/funds?

    Bad management indeed.

    Now some official office (feds/state/city?) needs to audit McKinley’s books for the past few years to see where all the millions in revenue (of this private non-profit?!?!) have been going/allocated.

  40. Interesting. The money came primarily from a corporate sponsor based in Beverly Hills… http://blogs.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2011/08/sunset_junction_secured_its_mo.php

  41. So it appears the $100k from ‘Live Nation’ was a ‘loan’. That means it’s a debt/liability that SJ would have to pay back (in theory).

    I bet SJ uses that $100k to fund their legal team now.

  42. Finally something that has gotten too big and bland and unkind is stopped by the people that started it.

    Great job Silver Lake!!!

  43. A last minute 100k donation effort from LiveNation. Really? I just threw up in my mouth. R.I.P. Junction

  44. Was Live Nation handling ticket sales? If so, that is probably why they made the loan. They didn’t want to have to refund the tickets they sold.

  45. I have lived in SL for over 20 yrs and I can tell you that the outcome of SJ is one many have taken for granted. We can now walk down this strip of Sunset Bl, no matter how late at night without fear. The community event was started to breakup the very tense gang confrontations at the time and the gay community found a way to bring the peace… stop wiiiinnnninnng and be thankful for that, especially all you shop owners that reap the rewards the other 363 days of the year…

  46. There should be an investigation to find out who took all that money last year. I will miss the crowds and that awful loud rock music.

  47. I for one let SJ go a few years ago. I booked the bands and rented the equipment for about 20 years of the festival. For me and the musicians that participated it was a wonderful experience. We felt we were doing a benevolent action for kids in jeopardy in the early years. After a few years we were able to get a minimum guarantee for the bands many vendors donated equipment. The fair grew with full staging and lights it was great. Donations began and that helped the fair a lot I was able to book bigger (not always better) local bands. It was always my intention to keep it local, it was still good to participate and I felt had a good feeling of community. Then Mike wanted to change the booking and I thought that was fine because it needed some fresh new bands and that was good. But after the closed gated ticketing stated that was my last year as a stage director. I am sorry to say after so many years of participation and loyalty my check bounced over an arrogant performers delay in performance. Ruining my reputation with my vendors. The whole ethics of the organization had changed the art of communication got lost. The unity that was once SJ disappeared. There was no longer a feeling, or even a mention of the original purpose, the kids, and that good feeling of doing a benevolent act was gone. I do understand that events like this grow and evolve over time. I do not wish any bad comes to Mickail and I do think he is a good person with good intent. So get it together hope your back next year with a new functional concept.

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