San Francisco denies permit for 'Summer of Love' concert

Joan Baez sings in San Francisco in 1967 during what became known as the Summer of Love. Photo / AP
Joan Baez sings in San Francisco in 1967 during what became known as the Summer of Love. Photo / AP

A war of words has erupted over a concert planned to mark the Summer of Love in San Francisco.

The city at the centre of the 1960s counterculture movement is gearing up for celebrations that included a "Summer of Love 50th Anniversary" concert that was to be a focal point of citywide cultural events. The June 4 concert was expected to draw tens of thousands of people to an all-day, outdoor, free concert in Golden Gate Park.

But city officials informed event promoter Boots Hughston this week that his request for a permit was being denied.

In a sharply worded, three-page letter, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department said that Hughston had made "numerous misrepresentations" about how security and crowd control would be handled, leaving them with concerns about public safety.

It said Hughston has made conflicting statements about the expected attendance and security measures, on-site medical facilities and other matters and then went ahead and publicised the event before securing a permit.

"Given the ongoing uncertainty about basic safety elements of your plan and your unfortunate pattern of deception and misrepresentation about your planning efforts, we cannot put the public at risk and grant a permit for your proposed event," said the letter, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

It was dated Tuesday and signed by Diane Rea, the manager of permits and reservations at the Recreation and Parks Department.

Hughston called the letter a "character assassination", saying he had a flawless record as a concert promoter and had organised events at Golden Gate Park and elsewhere since the 1970s without any problems.

A crowd of hippies keep a large ball, painted to represent a world globe, in the air during a gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Photo / AP
A crowd of hippies keep a large ball, painted to represent a world globe, in the air during a gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Photo / AP

He said the parks department had given him permission two weeks ago to advertise the event but was now searching for ways to back out and cancel the event and that it had fabricated what it called misrepresentations.

"They're going after my credibility, saying I lied to them which is totally untrue," Hughston said in a telephone interview, accusing the parks department of penalising him because the permit fees for a free concert are less than for a ticketed event.

Sarah Madland, a parks department spokeswoman, called it "patently false" that money played any role in the permit decision.

Hughston said he planned to file an appeal against the permit denial this week and said he still hoped the event could take place.

Hughston said he had already lined up about two dozen performers for the event at the park's Polo Field including the remnants of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin's Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Santana Blues Band.

"The Summer of Love all started in the Polo Field in San Francisco. This event celebrates that whole movement," Hughston said.

"To cancel this event is like slapping San Francisco in the face, and the rest of the world for that matter."

- AP

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