This past weekend’s Hard Day of The Dead concert at L.A. State Historic Park attracted 70,000 electro music fans. It also, once again, attracted complaints from neighbors living in nearby Solano Canyon. “The pyrotechnics and fireworks were on a scale comparable to [a] train wreck,” said Sara Harris, Secretary and Solano Canyon representative on the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, in a letter to state park officials. “This is yet one more in a steady stream of State-permitted, large-scale, for profit events during which our residential communities have had to suffer noise pollution that exceeds Los Angeles Municipal Code restrictions.” While state officials say noise complaints have declined, they are working on a new set of guidelines to further reduce complaints from the popular outdoor concerts that generate crucial revenue for the 32-acre park north of Chinatown.
The two-day concert is one of about three dozen events – including 5k races – that are held at the state park each year, said Sean Woods, who oversees state parks in the central Los Angeles area. But it’s the four large concerts that generate the most revenue – about $250,000 to $300,000 per concert – as well as complaints for the seven-year-old park. Those concerts play a crucial rule in generating the revenue necessary to finish building the park and maintain its operations, Woods said. Still, Woods concedes his agency is still learning how to better manage the events to minimize impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. “We are not event promoters – we are park people,” Harris said.
In response to complaints from previous years, the stages set up for the Hard concert no longer face west in the direction of Solano Canyon. They are now positioned to face south and east in the direction of downtown. In addition, the concerts must now end by midnight instead of 2 am. The concert promoters also deploy teams of workers to record noise levels when residents call a hotline to complain. As a result of these and other efforts, Woods says that most of the noise now generated by the concerts is contained within the park, with complaints received by the hotline dropping from 150 during previous events to only seven during last weekend’s concert.
But Harris and other residents from Solano Canyon and other neighborhoods near the park said that more needs to be done. Harris and others have taken their concerns about the concerts to Mayor Eric Garcetti as well as State Senator Kevin DeLeon. “This is not Coachella,” said Harris referring to the large desert music festival.
The park and its concerts do have the support of groups like the Chinatown Service Center Youth Center, which generates money from fundraisers at the park during the concerts, said George Yu, Executive Director Los Angeles Chinatown Business Council.
“Even if there was a magical pool of funds to maintain and reconstruct [the state park] without special events, the positive economic impact of these events totals in the tens of millions for every event, every hotel room in Chinatown, Downtown, every Air BnB is sold out,” Yu said via email. “Parking lots are full, merchants who chose to participate are accessing the tens of thousands of happy event attendees … We should focus on the greater good versus individual needs.”
As the park prepares to be closed off in February for the long-awaited, $18 million renovation, Woods says he will be exploring how other venues, such as the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Amphitheater, handle events and noise and thudding basslines that can be felt in nearby homes. The state park might look at requiring concerts to end earlier or prohibiting fireworks and pyrotechnic displays. Also, the park may look at holding more weddings and other events that do not generate as much noise and traffic.
But Woods concedes concerts will always be an issue. “When you do concerts in an urban setting, you are going to get complaints.”