Every August, Bay Area residents and music lovers from across the country flock to Golden Gate Park for the Outside Lands Music Festival. The festival, which began in 2008, features a diverse selection of music, art, and food, and has contributed over a billion dollars to San Francisco’s economy.
For the past fifteen years, Outside Lands has spanned across a three-day weekend in August. However, a recent proposal by the City of San Francisco aims to extend the festival to two weekends, mimicking the format of other large music festivals like Coachella and Jazz Fest.
The second weekend, which would also take place in Golden Gate Park, would be smaller than the first. According to Dan Serot, a lawyer at Another Planet Entertainment (APE), the company promoting Outside Lands, the second weekend would feature fewer artists and venues and would sell fewer tickets. It would also bring a small concert feature series to the San Francisco downtown area.
Serot explained that APE was first contacted by the mayor’s office regarding the extension last spring and that it was intended to boost San Francisco’s dwindling economy. The city currently faces a two-year budget deficit of $780 million.
Permit fees currently cost $1.4 million for a two-day event in Golden Gate Park and $2.3 million for three days. If the festival is spread across two weekends, the city will not only profit off of more permit fees, but tourists will also be more likely to spend time and money within San Francisco during the week between concerts. The second weekend would also attract more food and art vendors who currently pay Outside Lands $3,000 per booth space for one weekend.
Despite the many economic benefits, the proposal has met some pushback from local community members who are concerned about worsened traffic.
San Francisco resident Sasha Diedrich recently attended and spoke at a Richmond neighborhood town hall meeting regarding the extension proposal. Diedrich spoke in support of the extension, explaining that Outside Lands allows local schools to sell parking spots to festival goers, raising tens of thousands of dollars for students. “For us to have an extra day to be able to raise even just $8,000-$10,000, is a pretty penny for a public school, especially when we too are facing budget cuts,” she explained.
But like other San Francisco residents, Diedrich understands the potential consequences of extending to a second weekend. “There are always some bad apples in every group,” she said. “Some festival goers might be using the street as a toilet or throwing their trash around.”
M-A sophomore Gabby Rothstein, who attended Outside Lands for the first time this year, witnessed these “bad apples” at the festival when her encounter with a man became violent and resulted in him punching her. “This guy was shoving everyone and then I asked him to stop and he didn’t so I poured water on his arm and then he punched me in the face,” she said. After the festival, Rothstein filed a complaint on the Outside Lands website and was given free tickets to next year’s festival as an apology for the incident.
Juniors Bobby Redmond and Milad Agah, who also attended Outside Lands this August, witnessed similar behavior. The two explained that while at Outside Lands, they saw other festival-goers snorting lines of cocaine, a felony in the state of California, and the two were also often met with hostility when trying to move through the crowds. However, Redmond and Agah weren’t surprised by this and were never seriously concerned for their safety. “This [behavior] is what we expected,” Agah said.
Despite their experiences, Rothstein, Redmond, and Agah all agreed that adding a second weekend wouldn’t pose a threat to attendee or resident safety. “If there are two weekends, that’s not going to make it worse. Stuff is going to happen, and there’s nothing anyone can really do,” Rothstein said.
Diedrich echoed Rothstein’s opinion and said she believes that in addition to the obvious economic benefits, Outside Lands is a vital part of San Francisco’s cultural identity. “It reminds [people] that we are a world-class city and we still have a lot to offer,” Diedrich said. “When people come together for a festival like this, they see how San Francisco is a vibrant place.”