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Boom Boom Boom, Oontz Oontz Oontz

Sounds from Portola Music Festival reverberate across the Bay to Alameda.

A portion of Alameda’s population was disturbed by the loud noise that carried across the water from the Portola Music Festival over the weekend. The weekend event, staged on Pier 80 on San Francisco’s waterfront, featured dozens of musical acts playing for tens of thousands of spectators in a schedule that stretched until 11 p.m. each night. And the festival featured a robust sound system that broadcast the booming bass not just around San Francisco but across the Bay and into the homes of Alamedans.

Alameda Post - Portola Music Festival banner

Social media lit up right away, with many posts to popular Facebook groups like “Alameda Peeps” and “Alameda – What Was That Noise??” Consensus was soon reached that the Portola Music Festival was indeed to blame. Many were surprised the festival was the source, and not a house party on the next block, while others explained that there was nothing to baffle the sound and stop the low frequencies from traveling across the water.

Alamedans and others comment on the noise

We received a couple letters from readers about the issue. John Galloway wrote, “The bass booming across the bay from Pier 80 where the Portola Festival is occurring was staggeringly loud on Ballena Isle. So loud that it would drown out passing cars or even planes out of OAK… Sat’s levels had to be wildly exceeding normal noise regulations.”

Some had clearly had it with the noise. Sean wrote on Facebook, “If this indeed was the Portola Music Festival doing this over such a distance then I can probably legally prove that they exceeded the legal limit for volume and we have grounds for a class action lawsuit.” NextDoor user Reece said, “Whoever granted this permit should offer a public apology.” Even San Francisco residents were surprised by how loud the festival was. “The Portola Music Festival is shockingly loud,” stated Twitter user @jesteinf.

Others tried to make the best of the situation. Facebook user Jonathan posted, “Can only hear the low frequencies, but if anyone hears it well and wants to have a respectfully quiet dance party, I’m in.” Some users didn’t see what the big deal was. “This is what constitutes an emergency? Music on a Sunday afternoon? APD has been bombarded with calls about music?” wrote Judy on NextDoor. “This is part of living near an urban environment, that is dubbed as a world class city, it is what makes all the property in Alameda so valuable, proximity to the city.”

Noise complaint calls overwhelm APD

Callers to APD, SFPD, and the festival’s hotline were left unsatisfied, as the festival continued until its scheduled ending on Sunday evening with a performance by the Chemical Brothers. Nevertheless, on Sunday, the City of Alameda and the Alameda Police Department had received so many calls, they published an alert to social media. It read in part, “The Alameda Police Department is aware of the issue but they are very limited in their ability to address the issue… If you have a noise complaint that you feel is not related to the music festival, please call APD.”

In response, Facebook user Cata commented, “I went out looking for [the source of the noise] and walked 6 blocks before I gave up (and a good thing, since it turned out to be 8 MILES away!). This response, or rather, shrug of the shoulders, from our city government is unacceptable.”

Other media reports on the noise from the Portola Music Festival, include KTVU, which quoted local resident Sarah Bumpis. “I closed the window, I could still hear it. I turned my fan all the way up, I turned my TV all the way up, and I could still hear it.” They also reported that the festival had other issues besides noise complaints, including poor crowd management and access. KRON reported that Alameda resident Mary Lou Krauland was frustrated by trying to figure out the source of the noise, but “Eventually I fell asleep.”

Looking ahead

When the Post contacted the City to ask how to prevent the festival from being so disturbing to Alamedans in the future, Sarah Henry, the City’s Communications & Legislative Affairs Officer, stated that Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft will reach out to San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed to see what can be done about the noise.

Alameda will have to brace itself for more unwanted noise in the coming weeks as the Blue Angels prepare for Fleet Week from their temporary base at Oakland Airport.

Adam Gillitt is the Publisher of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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