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Sunset Junction Again Denied Permit; Festival Likely To Be Canceled

Sunset Junction lawyer Phillip Tate delivers his closing statement

Andrea DomanickSunset Junction lawyer Phillip Tate delivers his closing statement

By Andrea Domanick and Liz Ohanesian

1:09 p.m. update: The festival has been apparently been canceled.

This morning the Los Angeles Board of Public Works once again denied the permit for this year's Sunset Junction. The festival, therefore, is unlikely to happen, but perhaps for intervention by the full city council.

Commissioners Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza, John Choi and Valerie L. Shawa, along with Board President Andrea Alarcon, all moved for the denial. The ruling followed a chaotic morning, in which West Coast Sound revealed that Live Nation stepped in to alleviate the fest's massive debt. Later in the morning, however, festival organizers presenting before the board admitted that they didn't have the required $141,000 in hand, prompting the board's decision.

On Monday the board had denied the organization's permit for the first time, and in the interim Sunset Junction launched an online fundraiser to come up with the remainder of $141,000 owed for this year's fees. (The city maintains that the organization actually owes it around $400,000 -- for this year's and last year's festival -- but said it would accept the smaller figure for the time being.) Meanwhile, bands who had already been booked to perform were secretly re-scheduling performances in alternate venues, a practice that will presumably accelerate, out in the open, with this news.

Shortly before Wednesday's hearing, however, there was hope: Sunset Junction director Michael McKinley told West Coast Sound that the organization had obtained the necessary funds, thanks in part to a donation from concert promoter Live Nation.

"We now have $152,000 cash on hand," said Sunset Junction's lawyer Phillip Tate near the climax of today's hearing. "I realize that this shouldn't have gotten to the 11th hour. I respectfully request that you reconsider Monday's action."

Board member Andrea Alarcon was displeased.

"The best path is to pay the full $400,000," she replied.

Tate indicated that McKinley was in the process of having a cashier's check cut, and that he would arrive at the hearing shortly. Their "hope" was to have the $152,000 ready by the end of the day, Tate said, though that was later changed to tomorrow.

"You hope?" said Alarcon.

Why wasn't McKinley there? He was said to be at the bank depositing the money, but his associates seemed to have little clue as to what was actually going on. They periodically interrupted public comments to say things like "Michael just called to say he's at the bank cutting the cashier's check as we speak" or "Michael just called to say he's on his way" or "Michael just called to say he deposited the money but we won't have a check until tomorrow, but the bank is faxing you a statement as proof of the deposit."

Meanwhile, others affiliated with the festival stepped up for comment, pleading for the board to reconsider its decision and grant the permit for the weekend. There were also opponents, including Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Janet Cunningham. "They use our neighbohood so Coachella in our community can happen," she said. "McKinley has thumbed his nose at the community, at the businesses and at you."

After commenting ended, the Board received a faxed statement from Chase Bank. The statement did not reflect the checks from today, but showed a $100,000 deposit from another date. Between their two accounts, the organization had $156,000. It was noted that there was a $100,000 deposit made on August 13. Meanwhile, a $22,000 donation was received from a patron in Beverly Hills on August 22 and 23.

"This is a remarkable disappointment," said Alarcon. "We asked you to come prepared with something substantive. And all you came with was hope."

Sunset Junction has been a lightning rod of controversy in Silver Lake for years. The festival, which began in 1980 as an attempt to bring together the neighborhood's gay and Latino communities, has long since outgrown the street on which it takes place. Business owners and residents alike have complained about the growing size of the festival, its decreasing lack of relevance to the community and the fact that it began charging a mandatory cover fee.

Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, the organization behind the festival, argues that it charges for tickets to help cover city fees, which it was required to start paying in the past decade. The city, meanwhile, said it charges fees because the festival charges a cover.

It was the city fees, in any case, that appear to have done in the festival. Despite a last ditch effort to raise necessary funds, and a donation from Live Nation, the Board has not changed its mind.

"I've rarely seen a community so unanimously standing opposition to something like this," said Commissioner John Choi. "We can't take at face value that the organization is going to do whatever it can [to pay in full] in the next three days."

West Coast Sound is constantly updating this story here.