Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

Sunset Junction Organizers Say City Tried to Gouge Them

5b2a58f70161a1000dd74031-original.jpg
Sunset Junction Organizers Issue Statement, Say They Had the Money, They Got a Raw Deal / Read the post here (A woman runs into the stream of a fire hydrant struck by a car after Sunset Junction in 2006. Photo by colin.brown via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.

Sunset Junction organizers are firing back at city officials, who said they spent the entire year trying to hammer out negotiations over last year's bill before they voted to call the whole thing off.

Andrea Alarcon, the 32-year-old president of Board of Public Works and a political up-and-comer, told the Los Angeles Times that she tried to meet with the organizers of Sunset Junction all year to resolve the $260,000 in debts that were supposed to pay for police protection, traffic enforcement and other services.

Alarcon took a hard line on the festival and in the process, she's made a name for herself as a budget-conscious public official.

"In this fiscal crisis, I don't agree that it's the most responsible thing for us to waive any fees, and that's the position I took in Sunset Junction," she told the Times. "We can't afford to not hold them accountable."

Support for LAist comes from

But organizers say that they didn't want to pay the bill without knowing why they — a non-profit that supports poor, disadvantaged youth — were being charged $260K. They didn't have to pay a cent during almost 30 years of the festival, and now they thought the price tag was a little steep:

This is ten times more than any other comparable citywide event that shares the same footprint/demographics, and it is substantially more than the Hollywood Bowl pays for a year of street closures and police, along with the Oscars, for their street closures and security.

The organizers say they requested more information about the 2010 fees all year without a response until July. The explanation they finally got just pissed them off even more and made them think the city was trying to gouge them with fees:

The police time sheets were finally received by Sunset Junction on July 11, 2011, with some officers stating they worked 27 hours in one day, when Sunset Junction was informed officers were scheduled for four and eight hour shifts. The data also indicated that 144 police officers were onsite to manage the event. Sunset Junction disputes this number of police. Onsite event photos and videos widely covering the fair clearly do not show this amount of police.

What happened in the days immediately after they got this bill are unclear, but by the time August rolled around, the city was threatening to cut it off if the festival didn't pay up quick. The rest was widely reported: the city voted to deny the festival permits for this year's fest, and the organizers fired back saying the vote was unfair because they had the money and backers.

Support for LAist comes from

Oh, one more thing: the organizers hate being called "No Function Junction" at City Hall — it's "at best, inaccurate and unnecessarily demeaning."

No word on refunds in the statement.

Here's the full statement:


For 27 years, Sunset Junction wasn’t charged street closure fees because it is a 501(c)3 non-profit Youth At Risk program. The 28th year, Sunset Junction paid $23,000; the 29th year, 0 fees were charged; and four days before the 2010 Street Fair (the 30th year), organizers were told they owed $263,000 before the street closure approval could be made. This is more than a quarter of a million dollars leveled at a non-profit that had previously paid substantially less in fees. This is ten times more than any other comparable citywide event that shares the same footprint/demographics, and it is substantially more than the Hollywood Bowl pays for a year of street closures and police, along with the Oscars, for their street closures and security. *This is backed up by public record. Three days prior to the 2010 event, Sunset Junction organizers were told by Ms. Alarcon that they needed to sign a provided document in order to move the fair forward. This is the first time the charges of $263,000 were presented to Sunset Junction, and without an accountable breakdown of city costs for services to be provided. Sunset Junction's lawyer advised to sign, but to also mark "under protest," in order to move the fair forward, which they did. Sunset Junction also disputes Ms. Alarcon’s claim that she has worked with the organization for over a year to come to an agreement.

Sunset Junction also feels that it is their right to a justifiable itemization and accounting of city costs, similar to Ms. Alarcon’s noted audit of a city contractor in which she concluded public works officials had overpaid. She also demanded financial info from said company, which is similar to Sunset Junction’s request to receive city accountability for fees charged.

Several requests were made by Sunset Junction and their lawyer asking for an itemization of said bill to determine how fees were calculated but no information was forthcoming, just bills.

In October 2010 a letter was received stating "This Is The Second Notice" requesting payment. Sunset Junction responded this was the first piece of paper they had received stating a partial breakdown of fees. The previous notice that Ms. Alarcon was referring to, is dated October 7, 2010, wasn’t received until December 7, 2010. Some of the items claimed as services rendered, were not actually performed. Sunset Junction subsequently issued a series of letters requesting a complete breakdown of fees to obtain clarification, especially pertaining to police fees, which were a large portion of the fees being charged.

In a meeting with Ms. Alarcon in July 2011, she stated Sunset Junction hadn't made an attempt to pay the fees. Sunset Junction mentioned all of the correspondence previously sent and offered her copies to review. She stated she had copies of Sunset Junction’s correspondence and that she was the one in charge of billing. Sunset Junction's conclusion is that she was withholding information that had been repeatedly requested.

The police time sheets were finally received by Sunset Junction on July 11, 2011, with some officers stating they worked 27 hours in one day, when Sunset Junction was informed officers were scheduled for four and eight hour shifts. The data also indicated that 144 police officers were onsite to manage the event. Sunset Junction disputes this number of police. Onsite event photos and videos widely covering the fair clearly do not show this amount of police.

To clarify the function of Sunset Junction: Sunset Junction Fair is an annual fundraiser for At Risk kids, former gang members and lower income/working class Latinos in the neighborhood whose residence in Silverlake pre-dates gentrification. This is an important piece of the story that is not clearly being addressed by the media. The detractors/critics of Sunset Junction do not connect or necessarily interact with this faction of the community, nor have they offered their support.

To hear an elected official refer to Sunset Junction’s dedicated work and considerable efforts as “No Function Junction” is, at best, inaccurate and unnecessarily demeaning. Numerous former gang members and at risk youths supported by our programs, returned to show that support, by speaking up on our behalf at the Board of Public Works hearing on 8/22.

Another clarification: Sunset Junction did provide documented proof of $142k in funds that could have potentially allowed the festival to move forward this year. This included a substantial loan from a well established corporate music entity that should have removed any doubt as to the issue of payment of 2011 fees. Sunset Junction legal informed the Board of Public Works on 8/23 that a corporate donor loan had been secured. The date marks one day prior to the 8/24 hearing that would decide the fate of city permits.

The Sunset Junction area of Silverlake was deserted over the weekend, with no crowds to support the local businesses. Many business owners have complained about lost revenue due to Sunset Junction being canceled during this economically challenging time. The businesses are questioning the city’s motives in cutting the crucial revenue stream generated by Sunset Junction, income they depend on each year. The LA Weekly says it plain terms: “Local Businesses Got Screwed.”