Sunset Junction Festival and Councilman Garcetti face off over unpaid bills

Photo by bbmcshane/Flickr

The Los Feliz Ledger reports that Councilman Eric Garcetti may threaten to block next month’s Sunset Junction Street Fair if the organizers do not pay nearly $270,000 owed the city from last year’s event.  Council district spokeswoman  Julie Wong “expects Garcetti will try and block this year’s event until organizers have settled last year’s bill,” says the Ledger. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council has also requested that permits for the festival, one of the city’s largest street fairs, be denied, according to the Ledger story:

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (SLNC) approved a motion at their July meeting to indeed ask city officials to withhold issuing any permits to Sunset Junction organizers for this year’s event until the bill was paid and it had proof it had enough money to fund this year’s projected costs.

The festival organizers have been at odds in recent years with nearby business owners as well as Council District 13 over complaints about access and other problems related to the event. In 2009, Council District 13 threatened to prevent the festival from obtaining the necessary permits to block Sunset Boulevard until neighborhood concerns were addressed.

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  1. Why doesn’t city council just increase the cost of the permit… to $270,000?

  2. It pleases me to see Greed come back and nip them in the bud.
    Growing up in Echo Park, there were specific events you looked forward to.
    It started off with the Marathon running by Pioneer Market as the neighborhood handed them water and oranges to refresh. Then the marathon got rerouted; mind you, it went by the lake this year but the lake will be closed next year!

    Then you had the Lotus festival, which brought out a completely different group of neighbors; which have now been pushed out, along with the lotus by the HICKSTERS whose parents can afford to pay 3 times the previous tenant’s rent.

    After the lotus festival, you and your friends looked forward to Dj Irene or a number of musicians who would perform for FREE! The greed came, along with gentrification; and now you have MONEY being the focus and NOT THE NEIGHBORHOOD! Good riddance to the “NEW” Sunset Junction! It’s time to make it about COMMUNITY once again.

  3. Something shady is obviously going on with SJ, and I am really glad that elected officials are finally putting their foot down. It was free for 25 or so years, and then they all of a sudden ‘had’ to start charging $20 a person?? Not only that, but they OWE money?!

    I found an article in the historic LA Times database on ProQuest where the organizer, Michael McKinley, is quoted as saying that the festival wound up with a surplus of money just through donations and vendor fees. They decided to start the Silver Lake Neighborhood Alliance to create an infrastructure through which to use said funds in the community. However, somewhere along the way the SLNA also started paying McKinley’s salary for the whole year. So connect the dots with that one…

    Unfortunately, it’s time for SJ to either end permanently or go on hiatus until a different organizer can be found, and the SLNA put under the watch of city auditors.

  4. hey mojito, wtf is a hickster?

  5. I’m so sick of hipsters like mojito saying how much cooler things were before all the riff-raff got in to them.

  6. @Lauren – Well said.

    The Sunset Junction Street Fair does not represent the neighborhood of Silver Lake nor does it represent Sunset Junction Business District. It is an outdoor beer & tequila garden for Ed Hardy wearing douchebags. COngratulations to Garcetti and the SLNC for having a backbone and making very reasonable demands. The ball is in the greedy hands of Michael McKinley and the SJNA. If the fair does not happen NO ONE in Silver Lake, business or resident, will mourn its loss. 30 years and done. It was fun for 25 years and terrible for the past five. Now the focus can go back to the fun shops and eateries that make the Sunset Junction such a cool area the other 362 days of the year!

  7. Also the Sunset Junction has 2 fairs: the crooked Sunset Junction Street Fair (aka outdoor beer & tequila fest) and the new Silver Lake Jubilee which has cool local bands and better represents the hood.

  8. The Sunset Junction should not be allowed to happen if entry fees are mandatory. Why should ANYBODY be allowed to charge money for the public to use their own streets and sidewalks? We already pay for them with our taxes.

  9. I don’t care about any of these politics all I care about is seeing the Butthole Surfers. I mean if you want to say when the SJ started to suck it’s when I could not get in on just a can of food. I have not gone in years but I was planning on going this year. Why doesn’t the city get all of those fines from the people tearing down historical houses instead of a music festival?

  10. There was a petition a while back that demanded NO FARE or NO FAIR. That was a good idea. The neighborhood council should have pushed that forward. I liked the fair when it was a suggested donation. The only reason they charge $20 bucks is greed to line their pockets – even though they make enough money just from the beer sales because the beer companies give them the kegs for free in exchange for advertising banners around the fair. That chain link fence sucks – its ugly and divides the neighborhood – thats gotta go too.

  11. I first went to the Sunset Junction Street Fair in 1983, and I attended nearly every year in the 1990’s, but when they started charging money I stopped going. Nobody should be allowed to close public streets and charge admission for entry. It’s undemocratic, exclusionary, elitist, and a whole bunch of other negative adjectives as well.

  12. @Mojito – And who lived here before it became a “Mexican” territory?

  13. I agree i used to go every year to the fair it was a fun place to take the kids. Then we go one year and it was $20 suggested mandatory fee. It was a big disappointment, we just turned around and walked home. I could not imagine the surrounding business making much money the fair it self was very desolate, there were very few people walking the street, it was not full of life like the previous years. We have not been back since

  14. Mojito must be muy viejo! California with its current borders became a state in 1850. There was never an “Echo Park, MEXICO.”

  15. It’s crazy that the City doesn’t collect it’s bills. They need to pay what they owe.

  16. @Gene in L.A. – Ha!

    @virtute – The dinosaurs that roamed the area are going to go all Jurassic Park on Mojito’s ass because you’re never the first for anything unless you’re a dust particle in the post-accretionary period. As you pointed out, first is a relative term.

    @Lauren – Couldn’t agree more.

  17. @ C.M. – I have been trying to sum up my feeling on this forever, and you nailed it!

    I live three houses down from INCREDIBLY TINY FREE TICKET radius. I love SJ, and have mostly gotten over the $50 entry fee for the weekend, but there is always a bad taste in my mouth when I fort over the cash to walk down my own street.

    and, yes. The Silver Lake Jubilee rocked again this year!

  18. How the hell can SJ be advertising the festival, selling tickets online (and obviously have had to already put deposits down for the bigger bands on the bill) without already having the permits in place?? That sounds crazy to me!

    And to hear they still owe $270,000 from last year! WTF? How was that even allowed?

    I agree with the others that this festival has gone downhill for years and has nothing to do with the community anymore. It is such a shame.

    Oh… and did you see that they are selling “V.I.P. passes” this year? $60 bucks per day?!! And the bargain price of $100 for 2 days!!

    And they are charging $25 at the door per day for regular admission – per their website. Ugh.

    Would love to see this ridiculous money grab get cancelled this year.

  19. Oh Mojito.

    The term “hipster” doesn’t refer to anything. It just refers to a group that someone is trying to describe as culturally different.

    I know you probably have a racal stereotype in your mind of a hipster — as so many people do when they imagine difference — and your stereotype seems to be white. But the term has been used to describe black jazz musicians, latino zoot suiters, white beatniks and hippies…

    You probably also have some class assumptions too. Maybe you imagine someone with a good job? Or someone without a job who’s parents have a job? Some people imagine a person with a bad job that’s somehow “cool.” Or someone who’s poor from a poor family, but dresses in a certain way.

    But all these are just personal biases. You may think you “know one when you see one,” but hipster is a completely empty term. It’s just a projection of something that Your People dislike or distrust.

    And you, dear Mojito, are someone’s other. You too are someone’s hipster. Not your own, of course. That’s why it’s so easy to piss *anyone* off by calling them a hipster. They immediately conjure up an imagine of their own stereotype to be offended by.

    So if you want to talk about class and race, please, just be honest and do it. Because when you call anyone a hipster, you may as well be doing it to a mirror.

    As for your weirdly misplace claims of native legitimacy, did you know the mojito was originally a British drink from the 17th century? It only ened up as a Cuban beverage through colonialism and slavery.

    As for Echo Park, it was originally founded as a suburban housing development in the 1880s by one Thomas Kelley, carriage maker.

    And prior to that, well…
    Welcome to the native land of the Tongva, you invading European colonialist hipster douchebag.

  20. Well, actually, the Fair started as an opportunity to bring all the different elements of the neighborhood together to mingle and get to know and appreciate each other in a festival of fun. Unfortunately, McKinley got a little too good at organizing a festival, and got to making it bigger and better, and more and more expense on headliner bands and other. At first, they started asking for a donation at the door — but it was optional. Then it ceased to be optional. Then it rose more and more — to cover the ever increasing costs.

    But the city has always put a VERY heavy charge on it — looking to gouge and fleece in tremendous excess. This is not city-sponsored, like the Lotus Festival — the organizers have to pay for everything, and pay a LOT of money to the city, and they are required to hire LAPD officers at overtime rates of more than $100 an hour and far too many of them, generally just standing around and enjoying a festival and making more than $100 an hour in the process. The Fair is not allowed to use a cheaper private security firm instead. The city also requires a VERY costly insurance policy be taken out — something not imposed on the Lotus Festival. The city’s charges are crushing.

    So, the city wants the remaining $250,000? That’s just a minor part of the cost the city imposed on the festival, mind you. When you are being gouged silly, it is not surprising you are not too quick to pay.

    This payment is NOT so clear cut an issue. The city has gouged unforgivably. But McKinley also has taken the festival far from its roots, has left the neighborhood behind. And the two together have brought door charges, and hefty ones at that — leaving many of we even a block away no longer attending.

    Money, money, money. The city is disgusting and piggish for gouging so much — and so Garcetti should just shut up, what a pig — and the festival has overshot what once was a wonderful neighborhood affair.

    As for who the festival serves, now go in — you will see a very different collection of people at the festival, a definite loss of many from the community itself. The festival now seems to be populated far more by the younger groups of people from neighborhoods far away who otherwise would be dropping $10 or $20 at the door of a major nightclub. And all Garcetti has to say about it is give me,give me, give me.

  21. Notting Hill carnival in London is free and open-access yet they still manage to get big name artists to perform and pull in crowds in excess of 1 million+ every year

    Just sayin’

  22. Good for Notting Hill. But I’m sure they don’t have to hire an enormous ton of LAPD officers at overtime rates! And I’ll bet the city handles any insurance, rather than require a policy at a multimillion dollar on the fair.

    LA imposes million of dollars of costs on the street fair. Sunset Junction is not a city-sponsored fair.

  23. One difference is that folks in Europe aren’t afraid to pay taxes that go towards things like funding the arts. Just sayin’ . . . .

  24. The city is right to charge if its run like a commercial festival. NH is not and artists perform for free.

  25. @Mark-

    Actually, the Eagle Rock Music Festival is free and in the city of LA. They are what the Sunset Junction Street Fair used to be and a model for what it should return to. They shut down Colorado Blvd. and they don’t have Thai food stands and bacon wrapped hotdogs or beer/tequila stands to encourage fairgoers to wine and dine at the local restaurants. I have seen some great bands at the ER Music Festival.

  26. The street fair does not hire LAPD officers at $100/hr. That is crazy talk. Where in the world did you get that figure?

    I agree that if the fair is not held nobody in Silver Lake will miss it cuz they stopped going years ago. A lot of the businesses in the Sunset Junction say their regular weekend is actually better than a fair weekend, plus many of them like the owner of Pull My Daisy hate Michael McKinley-she stormed out of a meeting with him. I think she is on the neighborhood council too.

  27. The city had waived all the city costs for permits, street closures, and other festival related fees for years. This was based on the agreement that the festival admission price would remain a voluntary donation since McKinley would be using public city streets and services. Two years ago McKinley attempted to enforce a mandatory entrance fee which was met by community protests. After a series of meetings, the local city council advised him that if he persisted in enforcing the “mandatory” entrance fees then he could forget about the city waiving the fees and he could pay them all himself in 2010. McKinley then proceeded to enforce mandatory entrance fees last year. He understood that he would be held accountable to the city for his greedy move but he has nevertheless decided to welch on his obligation and say FU to everyone. Not only is he not paying for last years costs, he is amazingly and arrogantly proceeding with doing the same thing this year as if he’s untouchable. He uses the perceived spirit of the fair as a smokescreen but the bottom line is he’s screwing everyone to line his pockets and wants us to believe he’s doing the community a favor.

  28. it’s interesting (and disturbing) to me when 2 out of the 3 stories I just clicked on in the eastsider devolved into racist nonsense. WTF? this story has nothing to do with race at all. i would suggest that you people don’t feed the trolls and keep the thread on point.

  29. The festival has long ago outlived its original purpose, which was to form a tolerant relationship between Latino gang members and gays. It brought out families with baby strollers, cholos, gays, and everyone in between in a harmonious, friendly, fun atmosphere. I remember walking in all the quirky, unique little shops. There were no fences. The donations, if one chose to donate, were said to fund activities for under privileged youth. How did it veer so far astray? How did it become a way a filling the pockets of one very greedy person?

  30. Angeleno Heights

    @Hoochie on Mojito

    Well fucking said!

  31. @Hoochie – that was beautiful! The best dissection of ‘hipster’ I’ve heard yet. Now can we all retire that fucking word?

    @Mark – What Voodoo said. I have been following this for years (I live at Hyperion + Sunset), and the hefty permit costs were a direct response by Garcetti’s office to merchant and resident outrage over McKinley charging at the gate despite receiving a fee-waiver. I think the hope was that he would choose to go back to donation-based entry rather than pay that much. Unfortunately, this tactic seems not to have deterred him.

    At his point, if SLNC is a 501K (???) they need to be audited, period, and McKinley needs to not be in charge of the fest anymore. He did a great job for years and its sucks that it would have to come to that, but it does.

  32. I would like to add, that if you’re a resident you’re treated with little more than open disdain by both the organizers and staff. Three years ago, when they first started charging and giving the wrist bands out to residents, by building didn’t receive any notice of the new procedure for wrist band pick up. I read about it at the last minute on a blog or something (I had assumed you could just show a bill at the door), but I wasn’t in the area and as it was the last day to pick up wrist bands, I called the office to ask what I should do.

    Long story short, I was yelled at rudely and told that the information was given to everyone and I should have known (my apartment has a security door so there would be no way to distribute those flyers). It all worked out somehow, but the bottom line is that this fest makes residents feel like simply walking around in the own neighborhood is a privilege that must be fought for, and its not acceptable.

  33. Well said @Lauren. They were super rude to me when I talked to them at the dark coffee shop about possibly getting wristbands, sine I am three houses out of the radius (also on Hyperion and Sunset).

    It’s probably time they actually shut this guy down instead of trying to work with him. Seems like he is not listening to the empty threats.

    How much does this festival make/cost?! Has that been made public record?

  34. Theodore Jackson

    The funds received form the SJ have been an issue for decades, not just recent years. Try and find an accounting of where all the revenue goes. Do you think all those vendors are getting free booth space? It used to be the best event of the year (at least since Street Scene was canceled), but even then the $$ issue was in question. It was ironic that I finally stopped going ten years back or so, even though I lived right behind El Cid. The “voluntary” donation was just too high. It does not happen often, but I support Garcetti 100% on this one.

    And yes..The ER Music Festival is what its all about these days….even if the BH Surfers wont be there!

  35. I live in the nieghborhood, work in the neighborhood and have also had a booth at the SJ. It’s a great event to get new faces in the area to check out what SL has to offer. If it was not for SJ 6 years ago. I would not be here, live here or work here. That being said. $20 a day is too F*&king much.

  36. From the Sunset Junction vendor application:
    “To reserve a booth, an open space, or Non-profit space complete and return the following… Check for all fees: payment may be made in form of money order, cashier’s check or credit card. We will not consider your application without all of the necessary information and fees.”

    Hypocrisy much?

    They also charge vendors a non-refundable $100 “processing fee” just to apply, and they claim 200 organizations. Which means they’ve already milked enough out of local businesses to cover their city fees in application fees alone. Pure greed.

    Good riddance.

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