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Portola Festival Noise Response

Alameda residents who complained about the noise emanating from the Portola Music Festival last weekend received a response on Monday from Goldenvoice, the event’s promoter and organizer. In the letter, Community Relations Manager Darren Carroll apologized for “Any possible sound disturbance that traveled to your area from the Portola Music Festival.”

Alameda Post - Excess noise from Portola Music Festival

His letter explains how it was their first time producing the event and acknowledged the organizers didn’t properly anticipate how sound travels across unobstructed bodies of water and could affect areas outside of San Francisco. Even though the letter was addressed to “SF Resident[s],” Carroll stated, “We did receive some complaints on the SF side of the bay, but most complaints received were from across the bay in different areas of Alameda.”

The letter does not offer any concrete plans for mitigating noise at future events. Instead Carroll suggested, “We will need to do more technical strategizing on ways to mitigate sound travel, and increase our radius of community outreach, if we plan to return.”



In her column this month for the Alameda Post, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft explained that after the event, “City staff were connected with representatives from San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission, the permitting agency, and the Port of San Francisco, Pier 80’s landlord. Going forward, these individuals will communicate with Alameda staff before large-scale music events, allowing the City to advise our residents in advance, and will provide contact information if issues arise with other events.”

Carroll’s letter is reproduced in full below.

Dear SF Resident,

My name is Darren Carroll, I am the Community Relations Representative for Goldenvoice. On behalf of Goldenvoice, 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.

Our team was genuinely excited to produce an amazing experience at this beautifully unique location, while providing world renowned talent, art, and incredible, locally sourced food vendors. We worked with local companies and municipalities on all permits and planning. We hosted a local hiring fair, did the required outreach, and consciously designed our site to limit sound from traveling to surrounding communities, all with the sole intent on making a positive impact.

However, we learned a lot as we usually do when producing a first-time event at a new location, this is the nature of what we do. This location was as equally challenging as it was rewarding. Needless to say, we will need to do more technical strategizing on ways to mitigate sound travel, and increase our radius of community outreach, if we plan to return. We really do appreciate the feedback even in the form of a complaint, as this is essential to the learning process.

We knew that weather and water could have an effect on sound, and we took extra measures to stay within our required limits by continuously monitoring our levels at the main stage (front of house mix position) and on the perimeter of the venue. However, we did not expect the extent of sound travel that apparently took place at various times during our event. Our main stage (which was the only stage facing the water) was situated the farthest distance feasible from where the piers edge meets the water. We did receive some complaints on the SF side of the bay, but most complaints received were from across the bay in different areas of Alameda.

On Sunday, I personally spent some time with our lead site engineer at various Alameda locations taking sound measurements where the bulk of Saturdays complaints were coming from. It happened to be mid-afternoon and windy so the sound coming from across the bay wasn’t as audible as it may have been later in the evening with different weather conditions. Bodies of water, moisture in the air, temperatures, and wind direction, can create unpredictable factors regardless of our sound monitoring efforts. I do not state this to make excuses, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t state our efforts as well as how unexpected it was for us to learn of the distance that sound had traveled from our event.

Here is a link to a post event report by SFGATE that includes the below assessment / weather report which may help explain the physics behind how sound could have traveled across the bay at such far distances. https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/portola-festival-bass-sound-carries-17467439.php

“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”. This may have allowed the sound from the festival to travel farther than it would have under other weather conditions.

“There was a shallow inversion layer, and that may have acted as a lid,” said Warren Blier, a meteorologist and science officer at the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office in Monterey, “so the sound would to some degree bounce off that lid, and that could enhance the distance it was audible and potentially, the loudness.”

Thank you for your insight and communication.

Sincerely,

Darren Carroll
Community Relations Manager

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