L.A. City Board of Public Works rejects fest's 11th-hour appeal

Despite a surprising 11th-hour loan from Live Nation Entertainment to pay the Sunset Junction Street Fair’s 2011 fees, the L.A. City Board of Public Works on Wednesday unanimously denied a permit for the embattled music festival.

A spokeswoman for Sunset Junction declined to comment when asked if the event, skedded for this weekend, had been formally canceled.

The board had initially voted 3-1 to deny the permit at a Monday hearing, but said it would reconsider the matter Wednesday if the organizer, the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, could immediately come up with nearly $142,000 in fees due for this year (Daily Variety, Aug. 23).

The org also owes $267,000 in fees for its 2010 Silver Lake event, but has disputed the levy for police and sanitation services.

Sunset Junction attorney Phillip Tate said the fest had $152,000 in two bank accounts. But board members, who had expected a check to be delivered Wednesday, were not swayed by faxes from Chase Bank stating that $100,000 in funds had been deposited.

Tate said that concert promotion and festival giant Live Nation had made a loan to the non-profit group. “My understanding is that they called up and said, ‘We support what you’re doing,’” the lawyer said.

The festival released a statement after the ruling, saying: “Live Nation deeply understands the importance, the legacy and the great impact the fair has on the majority of the community, along with the artistic community. The funds did arrive yesterday from Live Nation, however not in time for Sunset Junction organizer Michael McKinley to deposit in the bank.”

Bret Gallagher, Live Nation Southern California executive manager, said in a statement, “When it became apparent that the Sunset Junction Festival and Street Fair was in jeopardy, Live Nation offered the Neighborhood Alliance financial assistance in an effort to help keep live music thriving in the area. Unfortunately all of the parties were unable to come to a resolution.”

After Monday’s permit denial, Sunset Junction had set up a page for public donations to pay off the permit fees on the Flavorus Web site.

Sunset Junction organizer Michael McKinley, who was reportedly at the bank making the last-minute deposit, failed to appear at City Hall for the Wednesday hearing.

Tate unsuccessfully implored the board for another deadline extension until Thursday morning.

In the end, the Board of Public Works rejected statements of support from a handful of local residents and one local band member. In a tearful plea, event booker Jennifer Tefft said the Sunset Junction Alliance, which supports a youth outreach program, would be bankrupted if this year’s festival were canceled.

“This is a non-profit organization that has no assets,” Tate added. “If this festival does not move forward…you will be standing in line with a lot of other creditors to get paid.”

Silver Lake Neighborhood Council board member Paul Michael Neuman – one of several reps of the neighborhood org who criticized the festival before the board — attacked McKinley’s “annual high-stakes brinksmanship.”

In denying the permit, board members cited strong community opposition to the 31-year-old festival, and noted that McKinley had waited until days before this year’s event to address payment of even a fraction of the $400,000 owed for city services.

“This organization has failed this city time and time again,” board president Andrea Alarcon said heatedly. “We as city officials have a job to do.”

The Aug. 27-28 lineup for Sunset Junction included the Butthole Surfers, Bobby Womack, Hanson, the Melvins and Lil Jon. More than 90 local and national acts were booked on six Sunset Boulevard stages.

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