The Portola Music Festival will take place this weekend on San Francisco’s Pier 80. Alamedans have been warned to prepare themselves for a weekend of intrusive sound from the electronic music festival. Organizers claim they will monitor sound levels and have made changes to mitigate the problem. Nevertheless, both the City of Alameda and the Alameda Police Department (APD) have posted to social media to alert Alamedans to prepare for the weekend of loud music.
Portola is a two-day electronic music festival with different lineups each day. Performances take place on Saturday, September 30 from 1 to 11 p.m. and Sunday, October 1 from 1 to 11 p.m. There will also be soundchecks beginning Friday, September 29, noon to 10 p.m. and on the mornings of show days from 9 a.m. to noon.
Boom Boom Boom Oontz Oontz Oontz
Local residents remember the event from last year when the sounds of the festival carried across the San Francisco Bay into Alameda. All weekend long, local social media was flooded with posts attempting to determine where the noise came from, who was responsible, and how to stop it. APD was so overwhelmed by complaints that they raised a white flag and posted to their social media accounts: “The Alameda Police Department is aware of the issue… If you have a noise complaint that you feel is not related to the music festival, please call APD.”
The festival’s organizers, Goldenvoice, were quick to respond after last year’s event, and sent a letter to their contact list, addressed to “Dear SF Resident.” The letter stated in part, “I want to apologize for any possible sound disturbance that traveled to your area from the Portola Music Festival at Pier 80 in San Francisco this past weekend.”
But their response lacked concrete plans for mitigating future noise, and indicated that weather was the problem. The letter’s author, Community Relations Manager Darren Carroll, quoted an SFGate article that stated, “The National Weather Service said a temperature inversion, where a layer of warm air rests over a layer of cooler air hugging the surface, was present in San Francisco and surrounding areas on Saturday and Sunday.” Carrol added, “This may have allowed the sound from the festival to travel farther than it would have under other weather conditions.”
Mitigation for Portola 2023?
Earlier this summer, Carroll sent out another letter, this time stating, “With the input we received last year from community stakeholders, we will monitor audio levels at more strategic locations in and around the site, including Alameda County.” Again, his letter lacked concrete steps taken to mitigate the noise.
Yet another letter was sent by organizers on Monday of this week, addressed to “Dear Pier 80 Neighbor.” In this latest missive, Carroll repeated the same statement verbatim about monitoring audio levels, still with no further information about mitigation. Helpfully, he provided a way for the public to contact the festival’s producers with complaints during the festival. “For your convenience, Goldenvoice’s Community Hotline will be active from Friday, 9/29 through Sunday, 10/1 at (877) 324-8151.”
Despite not providing any details of the efforts to mitigate the noise in their letters to the community, the Portola Music Festival producers appear to have taken steps to correct the problem. A recent SFGate article about improvements to the festival included, “A new audio vendor has been hired to attempt to mitigate complaints that kick drums could be heard as far away as Alameda.” And in the City and APD’s post to social media, they similarly stated, “The City has been in close contact with event organizers who developed sound mitigation solutions based on advisement from an industry expert sound system designer and engineer, including adjusting stage and speaker configurations and hiring a sound monitoring consultant group.”
The weather for the upcoming weekend over the Bay may turn out to be less reflective and conducive to transmitting deep bass frequencies and other sounds than last year’s conditions. Currently Friday through Sunday are forecast to have clear skies with no chance of precipitation, and temperatures in the upper 60s during the day and mid 50s at night.