The recent saga of the Sunset Junction Street Fair probably gibes pretty well with what we already thought about the people of Silver Lake: pretty cool, aggressively hip, but not necessarily the friends you want to count on to drop the check in the mail when they say they will. Which doesn't bode too well for this weekend's scheduled festival, which yesterday was denied its permit by the Board of Public Works as a result of several hundred thousand in unpaid fees from this and last year's festivities. Is this the end of the three-decade-old institution?
Originally founded in 1980 as a way to bring Silverlake's pre-existing Latino community together with the first wave of gays and hipsters moving in, the Street Fair has indeed served as a cross-community event for most of its lifetime, with proceeds (a $20 admission fee gets you into several blocks of closed-off Sunset Blvd with multiple music stages) going towards gang intervention, neighborhood cleanup, and after-school programs, to name a few. And the lineup is generally as eclectic as the neighborhood itself, with this year's Fest set to include Butthole Surfers, KD Lang, Lil Jon, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! and Dum Dum Girls, among many others. All in all, a good time for a good cause.
But, well, you gotta pay your bills, according to the Board of Public Works, and the organizers of the festival (the non-profit Sunset Junction Alliance) still owe about $260,000 from last year, most of which according to WSJ came from additional off-duty LAPD and security deemed necessary by the city. Surprisingly, Board officials claim that the denial of this year's permit is not due to the outstanding bill from last year, but from $142,000 that the Alliance would have to come up with ahead of time to take care of those expenses for this year's Street Fair. The Board claims that despite the Street Fair's charitable aspirations, it is ultimately a commercial venture, and that newer ordinances explicitly forbid granting waivers and require all fees in advance.
All of which means that, despite claims by its promoters that the festival is still a "go", the Sunset Junction Street Fair is officially in limbo, which has left band managers scrambling to arrange last-second backup plans for the big name artists already planning to be in the area this weekend. While the upswing of this might be some really cool bands playing some really fun small venues, it remains to be seen if Sunset Junction can come up with the money by Wednesday, when the Board will meet again. And of course, they could still deny the permit based on last year's outstanding fees. In other words, nobody knows anything, but as soon as we do, we'll be letting you all know when, where and how Silver Lake will be rocking this weekend.