A fatal drug overdose at an electronic music dance festival at the Cow Palace in Daly City over the weekend has state and local officials discussing a ban on raves at the venue.
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier are among those who are looking into blocking or limiting similar events at the state-owned venue.
Several people were hospitalized and 23-year-old Santa Clara resident Anthony Mata died after apparently overdosing on a drug believed to be Ecstasy at the “etd.POP 2010” festival Saturday night, police said.
Officers arrested 68 adults and five juveniles on suspicion of possessing or selling drugs at the festival. The event lasted from 6 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday and had an estimated attendance of 16,500.
Police also seized 800 ecstasy tablets with a street value of $16,000, and other drugs including LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. About $5,000 in cash was confiscated, officials said.
“In light of this latest incident–and I stress latest, because there’s been several previous occasions where these raves have caused problems within the community–Daly City officials and county officials have talked to the senator about ways to cut down on this behavior and stop raves,” Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said today.
In one of the most serious cases, two people died of drug overdoses linked to a New Year’s Eve 2002 rave at the Cow Palace.
Keigwin said the senator would “look at limiting raves taking place there, because it’s only going to harm the community, and cause injuries and in some severe cases, even death.”
He said the Legislature could consider a bill similar to the one proposed by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that sought to ban gun shows at the Cow Palace. That bill, SB 585, was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October.
Tissier, whose district includes the Cow Palace, is also in favor of stopping raves at the facility.
She said she will be introducing a resolution to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that will ask the state Legislature to ban the shows.
The raves are “a public safety nightmare, a huge imposition on the neighborhood,” Tissier said.
Regardless of the revenue it creates, she said, the benefits don’t equal “what it costs in lives, hospital costs, and all the law enforcement there. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Tissier said that after Saturday’s event, she received a call from a local emergency room doctor “who pleaded with me to do whatever we can, because they’re the ones treating these children.”
San Mateo County sheriff’s Cmdr. Marc Alcantara is the head of the county’s narcotics task force, which consists of 23 law enforcement agencies from around the county. He said the task force would support legislation to outlaw rave parties.
He said of the 73 arrests, only three were of San Mateo County residents. The rest were from as far north as Seattle and as far south as Los Angeles.
Alcantara said events like Saturday’s attract drug dealers who “come to these venues and follow raves from city to city to sell drugs…and San Mateo County law enforcement just can’t turn a blind eye to this.”
Not everyone, however, likes the idea of a ban.
San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty said prohibiting raves at the Cow Palace or similar venues in San Francisco would just push the events underground, making them more dangerous and harder to regulate.
“There’s got to be a concern that when you drive something underground, there’s a potential for harm and fire, and safety issues are increased,” Dufty said. “We’ve seen on the East Coast some massive fires at underground clubs.
“You never want to see young people lose their lives in a situation that could be prevented, but from a public policy standpoint, before we rush to take action, we need to thoroughly investigate what happened,” he said.
Alcantara said a ban would not necessarily lead to an increase in illegal, unsanctioned raves.
“Currently there are underground raves all the time and this, in my opinion, wouldn’t have an effect on that,” he said. “Anytime we can stop drug dealing of this magnitude, we need to do it.”
Jason Sperling, the owner of Skills DJ Workshop, Inc., which put on Saturday’s event, said in a statement that “our thoughts are with the family and friends of the young man who lost his life – and we hope for a swift and full recovery for all the other individuals negatively affected at the event.”
Sperling said his company “works diligently to provide a safe and secure atmosphere for all our patrons at all of our shows,” including events the past three years at the Cow Palace.
“Our company will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and the San Mateo County Health Services Agency as they investigate what transpired on Saturday night,” he said.