The concrete was poured and set before anyone even knew it was happening. Another Planet Entertainment (APE) has put a massive slab of concrete in the Polo Field so they can save money on repairs after Outside Lands. And the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department approved it by adding an addendum to the original use permit. APE saves money and the Polo Field, Golden Gate Park and the people of San Francisco lose out. The Permit for Outside Lands states it is not subject to CEQA review because it’s only a temporary installation. Outside Lands is for three days out of the year but concrete is forever. This is not a temporary installation.
“14. Repair of Damage. … Permittee shall promptly, at its sole cost and expense, repair any and all damage to the Premises and any personal property located thereon caused by Permittee or Permittee’s Agents or Invitees. Permittee shall obtain Recreation and Park Department’s prior written approval of any party to be used by Permittee to conduct such repair work. Alternatively, Recreation and Park Department may make such repairs on behalf of Permittee at Permittee’s sole cost and expense. …” - Use Permit, dated April 1. 2009
An Addendum to the Original Permit, dated May 20, 2022; states, in part:
“… there has been significant damage to the far western areas of the Polo Fields, which has delayed the Department from reopening the entire field to athletic activities and other recreational uses due to broken irrigation valves and other impacts. Permittee is solely responsible for repairing this damage under Section 14 of the Permit, and has done so each year, at its considerable expense. To conserve resources over the remaining term of the Permit and to prevent future damage and delays, Permittee has offered to complete a project valued at approximately $400,000 to replace the far western turf areas of the Polo fields with decomposed granite and in certain particularly impacted areas reinforced concrete.”
I asked Rec and Park about the concrete slab and received this response from Beverly Ng, Deputy Director of Policy and Public Affairs: “This is an improvement project intended to prevent damage to the far western areas of our Polo Fields following the annual Outside Lands festival and avoid delaying the field’s reopening for athletics while we repair things like broken irrigation valves. Per its agreement with the City, Another Planet replaced these far western turf areas with decomposed granite (and reinforced concrete in select areas particularly prone to damage). The areas are outside the area of active field use and will not impact play.”
It is a terrible idea to pour concrete on the Polo Field. What could be more damaging to a grass field than pouring concrete on it? If the irrigation valves are the problem, don’t repair them and let that area be dirt. That would be better than the concrete slab, which is ugly and only exists to serve the purposes of APE. The City’s explanation doesn’t explain anything at all. What is clear is that Outside Lands damages Golden Gate Park and APE has not honored its agreement to repair any damage to the Park.
What stands out, immediately, in the Addendum is the language, “To conserve resources over the remaining term of the Permit …” meaning to conserve the resources of Another Planet Entertainment a private company making millions from Outside Lands, at the expense of Golden Gate Park and the people of San Francisco. APE has clearly reneged on its Agreement and violated both the spirit and the letter of its contract with the City.
That Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) and the City Attorney’s office approved the Addendum does not change the fact that pouring concrete on a field can in no way be considered a repair of the field. It is the destruction of that field. Why is Phil Ginsburg, who is charged with preserving and maintaining our parks, selling out the people of San Francisco? APE gave 500 free tickets to the SFRPD for the 2022 Outside Lands. Could that have anything to do with it?
From the time Golden Gate Park was created in 1870, to the time Outside Lands held its first festival, there was never any need for a private company to take over a large part of the Park so they could make a lot of money and then kick back some to the City. San Franciscans have always been proud to support, maintain and pay for Golden Gate Park and we have consistently passed bond measures in support of our parks.
In a city with a $14 billion budget, how is it that we need to rent out Golden Gate Park for 3 weeks at the height of summer? We never needed to before. We’re stuck with Outside Lands and Another Planet Entertainment because two City officials, Phil Ginsberg, and Mark Buell, President of the Recreation and Park Commission, (both appointed by Gavin Newsom when he was Mayor), decided that was the way it was going to be.
A private consulting firm from Marin, hired by the festival promoters, came up with a figure of $66 million in tourism dollars generated by the festival in 2019. Where do they get that figure from? Do they have a basis for comparison with tourism dollars spent without the festival being here? What about all the people who don’t come to San Francisco because of the festival. People who are told by their friends and family not to come to San Francisco as they won’t be able to visit Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach because of the traffic congestion, blocked entrances to the Park and impossible parking? Have those people been surveyed? I think the promoters got the numbers they wanted from the consulting firm. APE is an LLC, a private company, so we don’t know how much money they make or who they pay.
What about putting a price on denying access to a large part of the western end of the Park to residents for three weeks while the festival is being set up, staged and torn down? Of course, since that just deprives the ordinary citizens of the use of their park we won’t put any value on that. And now APE won’t even repair the damage they have caused.
APE Executive Vice-President Allen Scott, said, “… we know it’s a disruption. We hope that people see it for the greater good and not just about their personal routines.” Are the personal routines of people in the Marina, Pacific Heights, Seacliff, Forrest Hill, St. Francis Wood or Presidio Heights, being disrupted? Why should the Sunset and Richmond be faced with traffic congestion, noise and restricted access to the Park every year. That it’s for the “greater good” is doubtful; that it’s putting money in the pockets of APE and the bureaucrats at SFRPD is certain. Why not have Outside Lands on the Marina Green or Crissy Field and give that part of the city a chance to contribute to the greater good?
Golden Gate Park belongs to the residents of San Francisco and should always be accessible, open and free. It was designed to be, and always has been, a public park. Phil Ginsburg acts as if Golden Gate Park is his private kingdom to do with as he pleases. Of course one can make money off public parks but that is, at best, unclear on the concept of what a park should be. Now people can tell their children and grandchildren, the Polo Field was passed down for generations as a beautiful meadow and playing field and we bequeath you this massive slab of concrete as part of it.
“The purpose of Golden Gate Park is to serve as an open space preserve in the midst of San Francisco. This historic park is a cultivated pastoral and sylvan landscape, defined by an abundant evergreen woodland. It is designed and managed to afford opportunities for all to experience beauty, tranquility, recreation, and relief from urban pressures.” (Mission Statement, 1998 Golden Gate Park Master Plan).
It is just plain wrong to unnecessarily pour concrete in the Park. It is also wrong to fence off an area of Golden Gate Park for three weeks for the benefit of a private company even if some benefits accrue to the City. Free festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or Opera in the Park, open to everyone, are the only festivals that should be held in Golden Gate Park.