Del Mar council discusses KAABOO festival concerns

Although last month’s KAABOO caused fewer noise complaints than last year, Del Mar City Council members still have some concerns about the three-day music festival.

Dozens of people from the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and San Diego complained about hearing concerts from their homes during the inaugural KAABOO last September at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This year the city of Del Mar received seven complaints, six of which stemmed from noise, compared to 70 complaints during last year’s event.

Last year 91 people made 123 calls to a KAABOO hotline to complain about noise. This year 46 people made 56 calls.

“Noise was a huge concern last year,” Acting City Manager Kristen Crane said at the Oct. 3 Del Mar council meeting. “It does look like there’s improvement, but there’s still room for improvement as well.”

KAABOO organizers took several steps to decrease noise during the second annual event.

In a July presentation to community members in the Del Mar Fairgrounds Board Room, Julie Coleman, director of community relations for KAABOO, said the festival committed an additional $30,000 for audio design, monitoring and containment systems. Among other efforts to combat noise in surrounding neighborhoods, KAABOO repositioned stages and redesigned audio systems, deployed noise canceling technology, and implemented an independent sound monitoring system in the community.

Although these steps helped lower the noise, music was still louder than it should have been, according to Del Mar officials.

“In general, I think the noise levels this year were a lot lower than last year,” Councilman Al Corti said. “But I take exception to the (KAABOO report) that basically indicated that there were no noise violations and I don’t think that’s a fact.”

A report from KAABOO states that noise levels measured at locations in Del Mar, Solana Beach and San Diego never exceeded the decibel limit.

“Although some residents were still bothered by the noise, the data shows and the call log indicates that we substantially reduced noise in the community over last year,” Coleman wrote in the report.

According to data from Del Mar’s consultant, however, the noise averaged 74 decibels this year compared to 95 decibels last year. This is 10 decibels higher than the noise ordinance at the Del Mar Fairgrounds allows.

“They certainly did a much better job, but they didn’t meet their own criteria, their own sound ordinance, and it’s somewhat troubling that they report that they did meet it because all our meters show they got close and we should be working off the same database,” said Councilman Don Mosier.

“But that’s not their biggest problem,” he added.

In addition to the council and community’s concerns about noise, the council also expressed concerns about traffic and crowd control at this year’s event.

“I thought they did significantly less of a job this year than they did last year,” Corti said about traffic and crowd control.

In addition to gridlock on the streets, a Sept. 17 incident created gridlock at the entrance of an at-capacity venue.

When two outdoor concerts ended at the same time, crowds from both tried to enter another venue where rapper Ludacris and DJ Steve Aoki were set to perform. The situation left the venue filled to capacity and the entrance gridlocked.

Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Moreno said several individuals got into an altercation with deputies manning the entrance, and one deputy used pepper spray to help disperse the crowd. Flying over the location, a sheriff’s helicopter ordered attendees to clear the area.

“I thought the crowd control was problematic,” Corti said. “I don’t know how they’re going to address it, but traffic management was much more difficult for us and the impact on our community.”

His colleagues agreed.

“They better get their act together because that kind of situation can spill out into all sorts of other areas,” Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “It can be a safety issue for the community.”

City officials said they planned to meet with representatives from the fairgrounds and KAABOO in the near future to discuss the report.

The Board of Directors for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds, approved a new contract in April that allows organizers to hold the festival for five years, with up to five one-year extensions.

Festival organizers have already announced dates for the third annual three-day event. KAABOO is set to return Sept. 15-17, 2017, to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.