Political Notebook: Folsom fairs seek street closure permits
by Matthew S. Bajko
After police officials unexpectedly pulled their street closure permit requests last month, organizers of this year's Folsom and Dore Alley Street Fairs have their fingers crossed that today (Thursday, April 23) will bring the approvals they need to mount the South of Market leather and fetish festivals.
Folsom Street Events officials had thought they would receive the sign-offs to shut down the streets at the March 26 meeting of the city's Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation. Known as ISCOTT, the panel of city staffers usually meets twice a month to discuss temporary street closures for special events.
But the day before the hearing, police officials from Southern Station tasked with staffing security at the events asked for a monthlong postponement. Their request sparked rumors that the police could not afford the personnel costs associated with officers working the events and wanted to charge Folsom Street Events more for their services.
Sergeant Laura Knight, who handles street closure requests for the station, said she could not comment on the budgetary issues. She did say the police asked for a delay in the March hearing because "we weren't prepared for the meeting."
Under the city's municipal code – which can be found online at http://www.municode.com – the police department's ability to recoup its costs associated with working street fairs is capped depending on the size of the event and if alcohol is served. For an event like Folsom Street Fair, which easily surpasses 250,000 people and relies on beer sales to raise funds for charities, the amount the police department can charge for its services is close to $22,000.
"My understanding is that SFPD is just trying to figure out how to operate staff and compensate those officers that work our event and make sure they stay in budget in doing so," Folsom Street Events Executive Director Demetri Moshoyannis told the Bay Area Reporter when asked why the ISCOTT hearing last month had been postponed. "It is a challenge but certainly not an insurmountable one. I think everything will be just fine in the end. We will find a way to make it work."
Moshoyannis said he will not know until after this year's fair how much the police bill will be nor does he know beforehand how many officers will be assigned to work the event.
"We never know," he said. "We don't expect any significant price increases unless we hear from the sergeant otherwise."
The budget for this year's two fairs and two dance events that the organizers also produce is set at $1.1 million. It is slightly less than last year's budget, which had added costs associated with celebrating the Folsom Street Fair's 25th anniversary. Instead of a lavish gala party with a huge star, organizers are planning a more scaled down formal dinner this year.
Although sponsorships are down an estimated 5 percent this year due to the economy, Moshoyannis said he has not had to make significant cuts like organizers of the annual Pride celebration have had to implement this year. The suggested donation at the gates will remain the same as last year, with $7 for Folsom and $5 for Up Your Alley.
"We are actually in really good shape, quite frankly," he said. "I am feeling pretty good considering how poorly the economy is doing."
This year's Folsom Street Fair takes place Sunday, September 27 and the organizers need numerous streets closed between 3 a.m. and 10 p.m. The fair is situated along Folsom Street between 7th and 12th streets; along 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th streets between Howard and Harrison streets, and all alleys and intersections bounded by 7th and Howard streets and 12th and Harrison streets.
For the smaller Up Your Alley Fair, which will take place Sunday, July 26, the producers of the event are seeking a permit to close several SOMA blocks between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. that day.
The fair's footprint includes Folsom Street between 9th and 11th streets; 10th Street between Howard and Harrison streets; Dore Street between Howard and Harrison streets; and the intersections of Dore at Folsom Street and 10th at Folsom streets.
By press time Wednesday, Moshoyannis had not heard that the police would need more time to review the permit request. The Folsom Street events are the first item on ISCOTT's agenda.
"I am expecting, frankly, that no news is good news, which is usually the case. If it were a problem, they usually let us know," he said.
The meeting begins at 9 a.m. this morning in Room 7080 at 1 South Van Ness Avenue.
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