“I hope this doesn’t turn into the festival that ate San Francisco,” the Chron’s C.W. Nevius fretted over last weekend’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, his second annual expression of worry that the free concert in Golden Gate Park was getting too big. While he worried about “a stampede, or a melee in the crowd,” the fest was free of anything that dire — but some area residents and attendees still complain of missteps indicative of poor planning and carelessness on the part of the city and the organizers.

Bike Parking Problems
We Built This City describes the fest’s “completely inadequate bike parking for the 2nd year in a row” as a “major fail.” The above video by Appeal pal Eddie Codel captioned as “insane amount of bikes fill up a shit ton of racks at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park” is as it is described — that is a hell of a lot of bikes. Would more racks have helped the situation? Cyclists and fest attendees, what do you think?

Parking “Bait And Switch”
But that wasn’t the only parking trauma to be had at the fest — according to Nevius, “scores of people” were victims of “a parking bait and switch,” in which the SFMTA placed tow-zone signs along Fulton Sunday, causing many people who thought they were legally parked to be towed and to face “$492 for the tow and $55 for parking in a temporary restricted area.” According to an MTA spokesperson, a “prankster” removed the pre-existing no-parking signs, and the transit agency replaced them some hours later.

Nowhere To Pee But The Bushes
WBTC also says the fest had “an inexcusable dearth of port-a-potties, causing huge lines and TRAUMA-inducing conditions (“reservoirs” were full by midday Saturday, no TP, one I went in had an empty catheter bag in it). Seriously, peeing in the bushes in full view of strangers ended up being the less horrible option.” Is that why, as KRON4’s Stanley Roberts notes above, “bags of urine and feces” ended up in recycling bins?

Dry Ice Dumped In Lake
In a very opinionated post, Backyard Lawlessness says that she believes a vendor from the event dumbed a bunch of dry ice into Golden Gate Park’s Lloyd Lake, as you can see in the video above.

Richmond SF blog also notes “dry ice can cause severe frostbite within seconds of direct contact, and if ingested, can cause severe internal injury.” That said, there’s a lively discussion in the comments of that article debating the dangers (or lack thereof) of dry ice.

“I believe that the amount of people these Events draw, should not be in the Park,” says Backyard Lawlessness. “There is just too much damage to be done and obviously not the man-power to control it.” Answering Nevius’ concerns on the growth of the fest, even HSB booker Dawn Holliday says “I have suggested to Mr. Hellman that we take a year off…But he says no. And he is the boss of me.”

When a personal blogger, one of the Chron’s most favored columnists, and the event’s booker seem to share similar worries, is it time to reexamine this beloved fest — or are the issues raised here mere blips for one of San Francisco’s great events?

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • GGxGG

    That’s me (We Built This City) quoted above, but I just wanted to emphasize that it was still a great event despite the problems, which seems like they could be solved pretty easily by providing more acreage for the festival (GG Park is huge!), more port-a-potties, and more bike parking. The bike “racks” they provided were just the regular street barriers set up in rows, so it shouldn’t seem to difficult to just add more of them.

  • GGxGG

    That’s me (We Built This City) quoted above, but I just wanted to emphasize that it was still a great event despite the problems, which seems like they could be solved pretty easily by providing more acreage for the festival (GG Park is huge!), more port-a-potties, and more bike parking. The bike “racks” they provided were just the regular street barriers set up in rows, so it shouldn’t seem to difficult to just add more of them.

  • sunnysunset

    I was at both Hardly Strictly and this year’s Outside Lands festivals and, from personal experience, the porta potties were just as bad if not worse during Outside Lands yet I didn’t see very much uproar about that… Minimal issues mentioned here and C.W. Nevius just couldn’t find anything else to whine about.

    Hopefully if Mr. Hellman isn’t interested in stopping the annual event, he’ll be willing to front a few more bucks to add more facilities for next year’s event.

  • sunnysunset

    I was at both Hardly Strictly and this year’s Outside Lands festivals and, from personal experience, the porta potties were just as bad if not worse during Outside Lands yet I didn’t see very much uproar about that… Minimal issues mentioned here and C.W. Nevius just couldn’t find anything else to whine about.

    Hopefully if Mr. Hellman isn’t interested in stopping the annual event, he’ll be willing to front a few more bucks to add more facilities for next year’s event.

  • Al

    I counted the racks on JFK on Sunday, and there were 112 rows, and all but 8 or so were three barricades wide. They were also more tightly packed than in the video. So it looks like they got the message (but they were still full, so I expect that even more are in order).

  • Al

    I counted the racks on JFK on Sunday, and there were 112 rows, and all but 8 or so were three barricades wide. They were also more tightly packed than in the video. So it looks like they got the message (but they were still full, so I expect that even more are in order).

  • indoorcamping

    Ever wonder what it’s like to live on Fulton, at the entrance to these concerts? What it’s like to have hundreds of thousands of people screaming drunk, trampling and defecating in your driveway, in front of your 84 year-old dad? I could fill this page with horror stories from just the people in my apartment building about how difficult it is to manage living around such an inappropriate place for an event of this kind.

    I hope these promoters and every greedy jerk who benefits from our suffering goes down in flames. This kind of huge event has no place on the quiet, residential side of the park.

    It’d be so much better if these events were held at the Haight St side, where there are businesses eager to take concertgoers money, the access is more amenable, and the noise and human excrement would be buffered from residents.

    Please vote out the politicians and supervisors who allow this kind of abuse to our residents and our park. All we’ve been asking for is a change of venue – to Sharon Meadow, even – so we can have a buffer, and we aren’t forced to deal with this much humanity. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

  • indoorcamping

    Ever wonder what it’s like to live on Fulton, at the entrance to these concerts? What it’s like to have hundreds of thousands of people screaming drunk, trampling and defecating in your driveway, in front of your 84 year-old dad? I could fill this page with horror stories from just the people in my apartment building about how difficult it is to manage living around such an inappropriate place for an event of this kind.

    I hope these promoters and every greedy jerk who benefits from our suffering goes down in flames. This kind of huge event has no place on the quiet, residential side of the park.

    It’d be so much better if these events were held at the Haight St side, where there are businesses eager to take concertgoers money, the access is more amenable, and the noise and human excrement would be buffered from residents.

    Please vote out the politicians and supervisors who allow this kind of abuse to our residents and our park. All we’ve been asking for is a change of venue – to Sharon Meadow, even – so we can have a buffer, and we aren’t forced to deal with this much humanity. That’s not too much to ask, is it?