Thursday night, the auditorium of Micheltorena Elementary School was packed with supporters and detractors of the annual Sunset Junction Street Fair for a special meeting held by Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. The three hour meeting was intended more as an information session with representatives from LAPD, LAFD, Council District 13 and Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, the organization behind the street fair, fielding comments and questions. This was the latest in a string of meetings meant to facilitate some sort of cooperation between SJNA and locals whose discontent with the festival have increased in recent years.
Opinions in the audience were varied and the exchange of ideas frequently heated. As with previous Neighborhood Council meetings, a large group of local residents and business owners arrived to voice their contention with Sunset Junction on various counts. Residents are primarily concerned with parking and cover charges, the combination of the two making it difficult to leave their homes for one weekend in late August.
Business owners on Sunset Blvd. between Sanborn and Edgecliff saw their shops and restaurants close for an entire weekend thanks to a last minute change in the location of the party. Their position — that something about the festival has to change — has become increasingly popular in recent months. Last March, the Neighborhood Council voted unanimously that it would not support Sunset Junction Music Festival “in its current format.”
Similarly, Council District 13, the office of Eric Garcetti, recently initiated a three-part criteria based on this community's hot-button issues: the festival must move its footprint to include Sunset Boulevard establishments between Sanborn and Edgemont; organizers must provide tickets for businesses located within the footprint and there must be a change in management. The last stipulation has the best potential to raise eyebrows and, as a brief conversation with CD13 representative Ryan Carpio indicated, it's the most open-ended of the requirements. While it might be interpreted that another group could take over the festival, it could also simply mean that another member of the SJNA will act as a community liaison.
Unique to this meeting was a hefty coalition of Sunset Junction supporters in attendance, including, but not limited to, group volunteers and a handful of teens who benefit from the group's youth-oriented programs. Allies of SJNA argued that the charity's involvement in the community — including operating the local farmer's market, after school programs and beautification projects — surpasses the inconveniences of one weekend. At the same time, supporters praised organization head Michael McKinley (who was not present at the meeting) for incorporating “entrepreneurial” element in the non-profit model.
“To close down such a model of success at this time is insanity,” said one local resident who did not give her name.
John Brown, a longtime volunteer and current board member of the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, represented the non-profit organization at the meeting and noted several changes for this year's festival. In an attempt to alleviate the nuisance of street closures, residents within one block of the street closures will be allowed free entry. Businesses within the Sunset Junction footprint will be allotted tickets for employees scheduled to work that weekend. Event organizers are currently working to secure additional lot parking to clear some of the congestion on side streets. Brown also agreed to provide copies of the group's financial statements to the Neighborhood Council.
West Coast Sound will keep you posted on the future of Sunset Junction.