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‘Shockingly loud’: Pounding bass from SF fest heard in East Bay

A pounding bass — boom, boom, boom — could be heard in parts of San Francisco and the East Bay over the weekend during the two-day Portola Festival at Pier 80 in Bayview, where top electronic music acts such as Flume, the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim performed. 

Residents complained on social media that the pulsating music was “shockingly loud” and driving them crazy. The sound could be heard in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, Castro and Twin Peaks neighborhoods — and all the way across the bay to Oakland and Alameda.

Mark Schulze of Alameda told SFGATE that at times, the music was so loud that the windows in his home rattled.  

“Unbelievable that … I can hear the thumping bass from the Portola Music Festival all the way here in Noe Valley,” wrote one Twitter user.

“@LondonBreed time to SHUT DOWN the nightmare of a ‘music festival’ tonight in San Francisco!” shared another. “We live miles away in Alameda and our walls in our house are shaking from the vibrations! This is a violation of State of California noise laws. Shut it down!”

The city of Alameda issued a message on Sunday alerting residents of the noise source and said the police department was aware of the issue, but was “limited in their ability to address the issue.”

The San Francisco Police Department told SFGATE in an email that it is aware of the noise complaints and is addressing the issue with the event coordinator. 

The SF Entertainment Commission, which is the agency that issues and regulates permits for all events with amplified sound, said it is also reviewing sound impacts on residents. The commission told SFGATE in a statement that its staff and team members from Goldenvoice, which put on the event, worked together to take multiple sound readings on both days of the festival.

“Goldenvoice has a specific department that monitors and responds to all community feedback, and at 3 pm on Saturday that department began receiving calls about sound levels at the festival,” the commission said in an email statement. “They immediately began real-time mapping of complaint locations to take decibel readings, and met with their production and sound teams to implement a plan to limit the frequencies for the following day.  All readings on Sunday showed compliance with their sound limit.”

The National Weather Service said a temperature inversion, where a layer of warm air rests over a layer of cooler air hugging the surface, was present in San Francisco and surrounding areas on Saturday and Sunday. This may have allowed the sound from the festival to travel farther than it would have under other weather conditions.

“There was a shallow inversion layer, and that may have acted as a lid,” said Warren Blier, a meteorologist and science officer at the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office in Monterey, “so the sound would to some degree bounce off that lid, and that could enhance the distance it was audible and potentially, the loudness.” 

Some Twitter users said they were confused by where the sound they heard in their homes was coming from. “I went outside in my jam-jams to have a neighborly chat with the hooligans bumping the deep, pulsating bass reverberating through my floors only to discover it is coming from @PortolaFestival, ACROSS THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY,” wrote one.

“Where’s the noise coming from, do you know?” said another Twitter user. “Folsom Street Fair, or Portola Music Festival? I’m in Twin Peaks and the bass is driving me wild.”

While the festival ran Saturday and Sunday, the Friday rehearsal could also be heard. “That bass rumble: Portola music festival, Pier 80 in SF. Friday rehearsal, still going at 10:30 tonight,” a Twitter user shared

Many on social media also applauded the musical acts. “The Chemical Brothers are the undisputed masters of electronic dance music,” wrote one. “They just absolutely slayed Portola.”

The festival was produced by Goldenvoice, the same promoter behind Coachella. The company also received complaints about crowd management, with fans rushing over fences at one stage. The police department told SFGATE it received no reports of injury related to rushing crowds. The department also said no arrests were made at the event. 

The entertainment commission said 30,000 people attended each day and called the event a success. 

“Large, destination music festivals are important to the City’s economic recovery and are an example of how arts and entertainment activity can catalyze long-term recovery at the neighborhood level, and for the City at large,” the commission said. 

This was the festival’s first run in the city. The name of the event is a nod to the 1909 Portola Festival, which celebrated a reopening of the city after the 1906 earthquake. 

The commission said ahead of the festival, it began working with Goldenvoice to have conversations with residents and business in Bayview and Dogpatch, the neighborhoods closest to the event. 

“Festival organizers attended a public hearing and discussed their festival plans and sound strategies,” the commission said. “Our staff and commissioners worked with the Portola organizers to ensure that meaningful neighborhood outreach occurred, including setting up a hotline managed by Festival staff that was shared with 311 prior to the event.  We also set an 11 pm end time and worked to set reasonable sound limits that were monitored for compliance throughout the event.”

SFGATE reached out to Goldenvoice for this story, but had not received a response as of publication. 

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