Catching a (sound) wave: Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley residents complain about Kaaboo noise

Although Kaaboo is already set to return to Del Mar next year, the verdict is still out on whether the three-day music, comedy and art festival will be welcomed with open arms.

The inaugural festival featured more than 100 performances on seven stages from Sept. 18-20 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, beginning with a VIP event on Sept. 17.

Shortly after plans for the event became public, community members expressed concerns about noise, traffic and security. In the months leading to the festival, organizers met with representatives from the fairgrounds and the cities of De Mar and Solana Beach to develop plans to mitigate potential impacts.

Organizers presented their plans to both city councils, the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board, which governs the state-owned facility, and the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

“We worked very closely with the fairgrounds and Kaaboo organizers for many months and put together a proactive plan,” said Kristen Crane, assistant to the Del Mar city manager, during the Sept. 21 council meeting.

With the city’s Community Services personnel well-staffed, including lifeguard and parking enforcement personnel, Crane said that the Del Mar did not receive any complaints regarding city operations.

However, Del Mar did receive a total of 43 phone calls and emails regarding noise, with many of the complaints coming from the communities of Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights.

“There seemed to be something unusual with how the noise was traveling yesterday,” Crane said.

She said the city has referred the concerns to the fairgrounds, which has to comply with a noise ordinance.

“I’ve responded to all 43 people,” she said. “They were doing their best to try to be responsive and calling people back. They were running around trying to figure out what was going on.”

Some people also complained that when they called the fairgrounds to report noise issues, they received a voice-mail message. Crane assured the community that Julie Coleman, of Denver-based The Madison Companies, LLC, the company that produces Kaaboo, and other organizers were taking the phone calls on the complaint line.

“She personally was answering that call, and they had others as well,” Crane said. “I think what may have happened is it went to voice mail when they were talking to people. They were doing their best to call people back.”

The fairgrounds received about two dozen calls on Friday, a few on Saturday and the majority of complaints on Sunday, Crane said.

“Yesterday (Sunday) they had a lot of calls,” she said. “They were very, very busy.”

Councilman Don Mosier said the louder sounds on Sunday could be attributed to the stronger winds and humidity.

“As any other concert in Del Mar, there’s unusual sound transmission patterns,” he said. “That’s something we can’t control.”

Once city staff has more information about Kaaboo, including attendance numbers, they plan to bring a report back to the council.

Resident Robin Crabtree also requested the council discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting so community members have an opportunity to reflect on the event and share their thoughts and concerns.

“This is the first year and I’m sure there will be more,” she said. “I guess it takes up to three to five years to establish something like this, so we just have to keep up on our toes and watch really closely.”

The 2016 edition of the festival will take place Sept. 16-18. It has not been announced yet when tickets will go on sale or who will perform.