The Napa City Council weighed in publicly for the first time Tuesday night on the event that rocked the city in May and has neighbors still rattled.
BottleRock took up the evening portion of the council's regular meeting, as the members were briefed on how the event went and impacted neighboring residents and businesses. About 20 residents attended the meeting and some spoke to the council, which provided its own input on the event that could return for an encore in 2014.
“I appreciate that there were people here from all over the world and all over the country and they had a great time — that’s wonderful — but when you talk about win-win situations, there can also be win-lose situations,” Councilwoman Juliana Inman said. “In this case, the neighbors really feel like they came out as losers and were very badly impacted. ... We need to keep foremost in our minds that we are here to protect and serve the residents of the city of Napa. If we can’t figure out a way to make it happen without all these negative impacts, then we shouldn’t be doing it.”
The council’s discussion centered on how the city can create better lines of communication with the Napa Valley Expo Board of Directors to ensure if another large event, or BottleRock itself, returns to the fairgrounds, the city has ample time to prepare and try to mitigate the impacts to its residents. While the Expo is state-owned and -governed property, the city does have control over what happens on its streets and is attempting to enter into agreements with the Expo regarding events that spill over the state-city property line.
“I’m hoping that if this does move forward or if we move forward with different events, that we can find that relationship with the fair board to be one that is mutually respectful and working to accomplish the same goals,” Councilman Peter Mott said. “I don’t want to be in a place where we’re talking about court injunctions because of issues that we might have because we need to answer to our citizens.”
The city was initially approached about BottleRock in November 2012, when it was presented as a three-day event spread throughout downtown venues, including Veterans Memorial Park, Captain Steve Potter said. The city denied a special event permit at the time because organizers requested a 72-hour closure of the Third Street bridge, which serves as a major artery for emergency responders.
Organizers then proposed its three-day event to the Expo board in December, which approved it, believing it would be spread out at the Expo and other venues, Potter said. BottleRock ultimately was a five-day-, four-night festival that brought about 120,000 people to the fairgrounds.
Councilman Scott Sedgley acknowledged the Expo’s need to host events to remain financially viable, but said the city needs to have some authority when it comes to events of this nature.
“If more and more of these events are the answer to the revenue stream, local jurisdictions where these events exist have to have some authority,” Sedgley said. “The only way we’re going to get that process is if we lobby our assembly members.”
Staff suggested standards and guidelines that could be adopted by the council to begin to address the problem. Some of those include: Establishing maximum noise limits; discouraging the use of helicopters; reaching agreements with the Expo related to limits on the number of large events; addressing neighborhood parking impacts during multi-day events; and requiring full payment of estimated city costs associated with special events prior to the event.
A handful of neighbors voiced concerns to the city about the event they said was more than disruptive to their lives. They cited window-rattling noise, inability to move their vehicles about their own streets because of road closures, property damage and sanitary problems by revelers.
One man, who volunteered at BottleRock, said some things went well and others didn’t but he believes the problems can be fixed and hopes the festival returns for a second year.
At its meeting earlier in the day, the Napa Valley Expo Board of Directors also discussed BottleRock. About 10 neighbors — most of whom attended the council meeting — showed up and voiced concerns over the event. They urged the board to consider how the BottleRock hurt the neighborhood in deciding whether to allow it to return for a 2014 repeat. The board members acknowledged they would explore possible mitigations, but also noted they represent all of Napa County, which includes supporters of BottleRock, and have a duty to ensure the financial success of the Expo.
Board President Al Wagner said the Expo has not received a contract application for another BottleRock, but the board could discuss the past event and possibility of a future BottleRock at its September meeting. He said the fairgrounds is still owed $310,938 from BottleRock. The city is still owed $106,730.
Wagner attended the council meeting, a move Mayor Jill Techel said was meaningful in that it showed the board was willing to collaborate with the city. She noted that there was some discussion after BottleRock between the two entities wherein it was realized that both sides assumed the other knew things when in reality, they did not.
Potter said staff will now try to meet with Expo officials and create a more open line of communication specific to large events and reach an agreement on how they should be handled. The matter could come back to the council at a later date, when it could approve some kind of procedures related to large events that spill into city limits and how to work more effectively with the Expo in the future.