Residents frustrated with festival trash near Golden Gate Park

A blanket of plastic cups, bottles, glow sticks and other various forms of waste quickly replaced swaying bodies and ecstatic cheers on the main stage field as Arcade Fire finished the last set of the three-day Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.

Gregory Moreno photographer

City workers shovel trash near Golden Gate Park from the 100th Bay to Breakers race on May 15. Photo by Gregory Moreno.

It has been more than two weeks since the annual Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park has come and gone, but residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts have continued to express concerns about the effects such events have on the surrounding community.  And now with the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival to take place in the park at the end of September, neighbors are concerned that concerts in the park are going to be a recurring problem.

“I could hear the music all the way at my house, and my block was filled with so much trash by Sunday night,” said Sunset district resident Margaret Lee. “And I live fifteen blocks from Golden Gate Park.”

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department collaborated with Outside Lands staff to set up a hot line to field all complaints including traffic and parking problems, trash spilling into the streets, and noise issues.

Parking and transportation were major concert-based challenges. Muni buses were packed to capacity, unable to pick up passengers within at least a mile radius.

“I had to walk home from work. I waited for the bus for at least an hour, but they just passed by full of people,” said Lee.

Some Outside Lands attendees resorted to using the $25 lot several blocks away from the entrance because parking was so scarce.

In order to accommodate cyclists, festival sponsors teamed up with the SF Bicycle Coalition to provide a bike valet near the main entrance. A three-day parking pass was also available for $140, and a three-day shuttle pass for $29.50, offering round-trip transportation from Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to the festival entrance.

Compared to other music festivals such as Coachella, which takes place annually in a secluded desert patch of Indio, Outside Lands follows strict sustainability guidelines.

Waste receptacles were scattered throughout the park with labels separating trash, recyclable items and compost. Designated “Trash Talkers,” members of Clean Vibes, a waste management company for outdoor festivals and events, stood around the bins to advise people where to appropriately dispose of waste.

The festival ended each night around 10 p.m., whereas Coachella tends to go until around midnight.

“It only goes until 9 or 10, so I can’t see the noise being too problematic,” said SF State senior Alex Shaw.

Each night of the festival there was one main path that led people out of the park, dumping thousands into residential streets in search of a way home.

The festival isn’t only perceived negatively, as it provides jobs, business and a good time for concert attendees, event employees, vendors, musicians and residents.

Many residents from surrounding neighborhoods also attended the festival. About 14,000 tickets were sold to people who live in the four zip codes that border the Golden Gate Park, according to Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department Connie Chan.

Another Planet Entertainment founder Greg Perloff has overseen Outside Lands since its beginning four years ago and is committed to keeping it an ongoing event. Perloff worked closely with the Recreation and Park Department to hire additional cleaning crew in response to complaints of excessive trash in the streets.

Event staff also adjusted the sound system in real time based on noise complaints, according to Chan. Several speakers were turned off both Saturday and Sunday, she said.

Despite concerns from residents, Outside Lands continues to be a vehicle for jobs and revenue for the city, and a way for San Franciscans and visitors to enjoy music, food, art and wine. This year, the festival provided 4500 jobs and $50 million in revenue.

“SF Rec and Parks is proud to help bring diverse arts and music to our city where people can enjoy the freedom to express themselves in our parks,” said Chan.

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