Halloween Interrupted: City to Blame

Halloween%20at%20Castro%2C%20San%20Francisco%2018.jpg
Good morning, SF. Snitch Joe Eskenazi just dug up some interesting news about Halloween 2007 NOT in the Castro. Last year was kind of a mess with 10 injured from a shooting. So what's new? Suffice to say, it involves city sloth, shadow deals, the singer Pink and now, no plan whatsoever. You gotta read this scoop. (Thanks to all the Snitch linkers, by the way. We're out there hustling for you, and we appreciate the love. [Thug Hug].) -d2


Boo! A San Francisco Magic Trick
City to Make Halloween Fest Disappear
By JOE ESKENAZI
For all the folks who hoped to dance with the devil in the Castro this Halloween, the City has two things to say to you:

Stay the hell out of the Castro.
They’re not sure of No. 2 yet. So stay the hell out of the Castro.

After several months of stunning inactivity followed by secretive and possibly illegal negotiations to shoehorn the massive Oct. 31 party night into other San Francisco locales, the City’s big plan is simply to keep you from having any big plans.

“We are identifying parties and events around the entire Bay Area and will be initiating a publicity campaign to divert people from the Castro,” said Nathan Ballard, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s communications manager.

“Supervisor Bevan Dufty will be working with businesses and restaurants [in the Castro] and telling them to close down early.”

So what’s the alternative plan for All Hallows Eve?

“Currently there is no alternative plan.”

And that’s a shame. In fact, it’s such a shame that there should be a special task force established to look into what to do for Halloween 2007. Oh, that’s right. There already is.

Virtually before the blood had even been mopped from the pavement following the shooting that left 10 revelers wounded at last year’s Castro Halloween fest, Newsom and Dufty announced the formation of a Halloween Task Force. Castro residents had long complained about the yearly importation of more than 100,000 loud, oft-inebriated and (at least last year) violent party-goers into their neck of the woods, and the Halloween Task Force was supposed to solve this issue.

Unfortunately, that task force has met exactly the same number of times that Linus was visited by the Great Pumpkin – never.

Some media pressure several months ago regarding what to do about the Castro problem shook the somnambulistic City out of its inactivity; casual mentions were made about hosting a Halloween event around Pier 30 or 32 in South Beach, but frenzied neighborhood response killed that notion.

The City then turned its eye to the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch/Mission Bay enclaves. In mid-July an agreement was signed with a party planner, a location was named (an AT&T Park parking lot) and there was even talk of bringing in the singer Pink for a concert. One hitch though: No one told the people who lived in the neighborhood.

The Cheney-like secrecy was not only jarring to neighborhood residents, it was also possibly illegal. The S.F. Weekly obtained a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission and Big Billy, Inc. (aka Slim’s). Signed July 17, the four-page document extensively lays out the groundwork for a Halloween festival at the stadium’s Parking Lot A.

These are the sorts of details the Entertainment Commission should ostensibly have been negotiating in a public forum, according to the City Charter. Yet a perusal of the commission’s minutes turns up nary a reference to Halloween. In fact, the agreement with Big Billy and pitch to Pink all appear to be an individual effort made by Entertainment Commissioner Audrey Joseph – who did not return multiple calls from S.F. Weekly.

“Audrey has been freelancing this thing,” said a fellow entertainment commissioner who spoke under condition of anonymity.

But isn’t that illegal?

“One would think so,” replied the commissioner, with a frustrated tone. “Especially since the mayor promised last Halloween about the task force and they never met. There are lots of questions. I don’t know why this process hasn’t been opened up to the daylight.”

When the process was opened up enough that the Potrero Boosters association and other neighborhood groups found out about it – and complained – the City’s plans fell apart. Dawn Holliday, the principal of Big Billy, told us that the agreement she signed with the City is no longer valid -- leaving San Francisco with no planner, no location and fewer than 80 days to Oct. 31. That goes a long way toward explaining the City’s current Halloween plans (or lack thereof).

So when, in the coming weeks and months, people grumble about a “War on Fun” and NIMBY grinches stealing Halloween, Potrero Hills Boosters President Tony Kelly says don’t blame him.

“It sounds to me like what’s killing Halloween is a lack of planning,” he said.

The City’s “only solution was to move it further away from the Castro – meaning closer to us. So what are we supposed to think?”

Good question. It’s far easier to guess what City officials are thinking: Stay the hell out of the Castro.

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