Sunset Junction may have been fun but it was not much of a fundraiser

Photo by Clinton Steeds/Flickr

The city cancelled this month’s Sunset Junction festival despite pleas from organizers that the Silver Lake music and street fair  generated essential funds to support the group’s year-around youth and community programs.  That may have been the case in the past but  tax records show the event, which attracted an estimated 100,000 visitors,  was far from a money-maker in recent years, according to the L.A. Weekly.  The festival’s high expenses consumed nearly all of the revenues, leaving little left for the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, which ran the event. Said the Weekly:

Though the festival generated nearly $400,000 in 2009, the most recent year for which tax records have been filed, by the time organizers paid the musical acts, permits and other expenses, less than $500 was left for youth outreach. The year before, the festival just broke even, generating nothing for its youth-employment project at the now-closed Tsunami coffeehouse on Sunset Boulevard — or for its sports or school programs.

It looks like the festival’s last profitable year was in 2007, when it generated $345,000 after expenses were paid.  While the event may have had trouble covering its expenses, the alliance, headed by former hairdresser Michael McKinley, spent $12,000 in one quarter on lawyers and lobbyists and lawyers to defend the festival during city council and neighborhood meetings.

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  1. It’s original intent was not to be a fundraiser, but simply a fun free event for the neighborhood, and it should have stayed as such. If he wanted to raise funds for his charity he should do what every other non-profit does and have a dinner or other private event that will attract people who have extra money instead of gouging the neighbors and ending up only just breaking even. Pity.

  2. i’m curious how much of that money in the recent years was funneled into personal bank accounts of the dis”organizers” of the sunset junction. how do you go from $345,000 in surplus in 2007 to less than $500 in 2009. that shit is FISHHY. someone needs to research this.

  3. 100,000 people at $25 a pop. A thousand vendors being charged anywhere from $600-$1500 per booth. Alcohol sponsorships. Beer and tequila gardens at 5 bucks a drink. And all the city wants is 140k in permits?? Breaking even??

  4. I have been involved with legitimate non profits for over 20 years and as a rule the are transparent and more than happy to share their records with potential donors. I might add that any NP that exceeds more than 25% in operating costs is very suspect. By the I mean if they take in 100,000.00$ and only have 10,000.00$ to actually use twords their goal they are most likely not a legitimate NP. I think Sunset junction falls into this category.

  5. Yeah, as buttplugger said, it seems $$$ were being skimmed. With over a thousand booths and $20 (last year) a pop for entrance fees, that’s a conservative $1m to $2m not including all the corporate sponsorships and % of alcohol sales, etc.

    I had read there were 1500 booths at SJ, though I don’t know if that was last year or the qty avail. for this year?

    There needs to be a REAL audit, pronto. Even though McKinley probably stashed most of the gate cash he p/u’d, they can still estimate what the gates ‘shoulda’ brought in.

    SJ was run like a commercial music festival, entrance fees, venders (LOTS more at SJ than a typical commercial music fest), alcohol sales, etc., and over 2 days those equivalent size music festivals bring in many millions.

  6. Lavish vacations and foreign bank accounts. That thief would go right after the fest ended. I am proud to say that I never once ‘donated’ a nickel to SJSF or Michael McKuntly in the 20+ years of attending. Always found ways to get a wristband or sneak in or say i worked there. It was getting harder but we never paid. Punk rock you fat fuck in the yellow security jacket. Like its gonna rain or something. Piss off. lololol. You cant even run to catch us. hahahaha.
    Honestly it used to be the place you would see someone you hadn’t seen all year and be like dammmmmmmmn wassssup!!!! Also The place where you would see a gay couple in chaps walking holding hands next to a familia of 7 or 8 snickering latinos. Local bands happy to be playing one of the best parties anywhere. The integration was immediate. white boys/gals gays n lesbians locals latinos philippinos all just Rodney Kinging it. Why? Cause everyone likes cotton candy.
    This story should serve as a good lesson of how to much of a good thing always weighs it down to its own demise. It came it rocked it got obese and now its gone.
    so solley cholley

  7. Wow! I just pulled the past 3 years IRS 990 on the organizaton. As a Silverlake resident, kept hearing that funds were supporting a local youth sports team.

    Everyone in the community knows that the team only got uniforms and a ball.

    How, then does the orgnization justify spending over $100,000 on the a ball? Wow?

    Some one is not telling the whole truth.

  8. According to LAist.com, McKinley’s people have issued a complaint about how they want to see a breakdown of the city’s fees!


    Everyone who has been following this topic knows full well that the reason the city charged Sunset Junction increasingly more is because McKinley made the fees mandatory. In years past, when entrance was by donation only and when the area was not fenced off and guarded, the city willingly picked up the tab for their services. The city even told McKinley that if they continued to make entrance fees mandatory, that they would have to start paying the full fees. In response, not only did Sunset Junction keep the fees mandatory, they raised them!

    In addition to alienating the residents, businesses, and the city in general by holding a supposed “fundraiser” on a major thoroughfare, McKinley has been evasive about what his organization does with the money. Hey, I’m all for a guy making a living, nut at least have the balls to tell people you’re gouging from them! At least own up to the fact that instead of putting the earnings from the Junction to the “at risk” youth, that you are using that money for personal vacations.

    How hypocritical to blame the city for not fully disclosing the breakdown of fees when Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance won’t disclose their spending! Good riddance to the No Function Junction!

  9. I see this as a real simple issue.

    Mckinley can always argue that he’s being unfairly charged for city services rendered. The thing is, since this has become a mandatory paid admission event, he’s brought the festival into the realm of every other paid admission event, fundraiser or not. It’s not like other festivals don’t have some sort of charity that they contribute to.

    McKinley can exercise his free market right to move the festival to any other private grounds, say, Colosseum? Rent it out for 2 days and see how much that costs.

    McKinley has no right to demand he pay what ‘HE’ thinks is fair. It’s not his call as much as it wouldn’t be my call to demand I only pay a certain amount to close down my block for a block party in which I enforce mandatory paid admission.

  10. interesting to me that although this blog s always filled with strife, disagreement and venom: we all agree on the shadiness of this whole sordid mess. I work for a non-profit and I find stuff like this to be embarrassing, makes us all look bad.

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