Festival organizers mull noise reduction


With KAABOO Del Mar about two months away, organizers of the three-day music festival discussed how they plan to dampen noise during the second annual event. Dozens of people from Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carmel Valley complained about hearing the concerts from their homes during last year’s inaugural KAABOO at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Julie Coleman, director of community relations for KAABOO, said during a July 6 presentation to community members in the Del Mar Fairgrounds Board Room. “That’s why we’re trying to make these changes. We don’t want to have the same situation we had happen last year. That is not our goal. Our goal is to fix this issue and move forward.”

KAABOO kicked off last year with more than 100 acts on seven stages throughout the fairgrounds, including headliners No Doubt, The Killers and Zac Brown Band. The second annual event is set for Sept. 16-18 with Jimmy Buffett, Aerosmith, Jack Johnson, Fall Out Boy, Lenny Kravitz and OneRepublic, among a slew of other artists.

Coleman said KAABOO received and responded to 91 unique callers during the 2015 event, with all of the complaints about noise. Officials said dozens more called the city of Del Mar.

“Where I live, it does get noisy,” said Del Mar resident Betsy Milich, noting that she sometimes hears the fair and concerts at the fairgrounds. “Those things I’m accustomed to.”

KAABOO, however, was another story, she said. She and several other community members said the noise last year was so loud it shook window panes.

“I will tell you that when KAABOO started, I was shocked,” she said. “I envy the people who could turn on their TV and block it out because there’s no way that I could.”

More than 50,000 people attended the festival last year. With attendance expected to increase this year, organizers on July 6 shared lessons learned from the first-ever KAABOO and plans to improve the event the second time around.

In an effort to combat noise in the surrounding neighborhoods, Coleman said KAABOO has committed an additional $30,000 for audio design, monitoring and containment systems, which take into account how weather impacts the way sound travels.

“There were some lessons learned last year,” said Gary Reist, deputy general manager for the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “I regret, the fairgrounds regrets, KAABOO regrets this sort of inconvenience. We’re regrouping and trying to solve these things and work with you.”

About 15 residents attended the meeting, with most people from Del Mar and San Diego. While listening to community concerns, organizers listed the various steps they plan to take this year.

“Turn down the volume,” one resident said.

“I’m in direct line of fire,” added another resident off El Camino Real. “It’s KAABOOM through the neighborhood.”

“Honestly, I want a hotel room to stay somewhere away from here, so far away that I don’t have to be here,” said another local resident.

“We don’t want you to have to do that,” Jim Dorroh, production manager for KAABOO, said in response.

KAABOO is working with a sound engineer to reposition the stages and redesign the audio systems, in order to contain the sound to the crowd at the event. Organizers are also deploying noise canceling technology, including sound blankets and other devices, as well as implementing an independent sound monitoring system in the community.

About a half-dozen stationary sound monitoring stations will be placed in neighborhoods around the fairgrounds to provide real-time noise level information. Data will be collected and reported back to the sound team at the fairgrounds. KAABOO will also have two or three roving sound monitors.

In addition, outdoor music concerts will end at 9 p.m. Sunday, an hour earlier than last year.

This year organizers will also control the sound levels that artists produce. Artists are contractually obligated to abide by noise levels, Dorroh said.

“We have a great plan in place,” Dorroh said. “We know we didn’t do a good enough job last year.”

Despite noise complaints, the festival could be at the fairgrounds for the next decade under the deal the board of directors for the 22nd District Agricultural Association approved in April. The new contract allows organizers to hold the festival at the state-owned fairgrounds for the next five years, with up to five one-year extensions.

As part of the contract negotiations, board members worked with the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach to address noise problems. Organizers will face fines of at least $1,000 and up to $150,000 for noise violations.

“We worked very hard,” said Lee Haydu, a member of the fairgrounds board of directors, Solana Beach resident and former Del Mar councilwoman. “Everybody had to be in agreement before we even signed this contract.”

She said she received emails and calls from her neighbors, and admitted she, too, felt like singer Gwen Stefani was in her living room.

“There’s been a significant improvement in KAABOO and the fairgrounds working with us,” agreed Del Mar Councilman Dwight Worden. “I think they’re sincere. They’re going to try to make it better this year and it is going to be better this year.”

The inaugural KAABOO generated approximately 2,000 jobs and between $2 million to $3 million in “direct economic benefit” to San Diego County, according to a previous presentation by KAABOO founder and CEO Bryan Gordon.

KAABOO also donated nearly $73,000 to local charities last year and aims to increase the donation this year to $150,000.

“They’ve been extremely responsive to our requests,” said David Cain, president of Del Sol Lions Club, adding that Coleman recently spoke to his club, which sells tickets and receives a percentage of the sales. “I wish the fairgrounds would take this kind of approach to where we can give them some strong feedback on noise, traffic and all those things.”

For questions or concerns, email KAABOO at communityinfo@kaaboodelmar.com. Complaints can be made to 858-794-1104 during the festival.