San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Tuesday denied a request for a temporary commercial outdoor entertainment license that could have allowed up to 10,000 people to attend a two-day "music and fun" festival in Avila Beach in September.
The Forever Never Land festival will still be held, however, with a limit of up to 3,000 attendees per day. The festival, planned for Sept. 13 and 14 at Avila Beach Golf Resort, will combine concerts and activities such as zip-lining, laser tag and beer and wine tasting.
Forever Never Land founder and CEO Valerie Wang said she was disappointed by the supervisors’ decision and plans to scale back the festival, while still keeping all of the types of activities promised. Safety is still her No. 1 priority, she said.
Forever Never Land will feature four interactive "lands" including neon-lit Future Land and foodie-focused International World. Pirate's Cove will have beach volleyball and a 200-foot water slide, while Castle Land will feature bounce castles, rock climbing and a human-sized chess board.
County supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Debbie Arnold dissenting, to deny the request for a license. Arnold mentioned the importance of tourism-related revenue to the county's budget.
Supervisors briefly discussed limiting the number of attendees but weren't sure how best to pick a number and whether that would set a precedent for future events at the golf resort.
"I just think that this is too big," said Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Avila Beach. "And because it's two days, and involves a lot of drinking, I don't find myself wanting to find a middle ground on the number."
However, Forever Never Land organizers can go forward with a smaller festival because of the way county officials have interpreted their codes over the past decade for events at the Avila Beach Golf Resort.
A practice established in 2004 held that events don’t have to obtain a temporary commercial outdoor license if they have fewer than 3,000 people, last for eight hours or less, and are organized by a nonprofit or donate a portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit.
Forever Ever Land plans to donate $1 from every ticket sold to the Avila Beach Community Foundation.
A few local residents urged supervisors take another look at this practice.
“It's highly important that the board address the continually increasing number of events at the golf course with 3,000 attendees,” said Sherri Danoff, a member of the Avila Valley Advisory Council.
About 15 local residents spoke in opposition to the festival plan with concerns including parking, traffic, potential fire dangers and safety. No one spoke in favor.
"Please put a limit on the tickets," Avila Beach resident Jack San Filippo asked the supervisors. "No matter what you do, people will still drive in; they'll still try to park in my driveway."
Wang said she still plans to provide shuttles for participants, though she’ll have to decide how many locations to offer. (The original plan called for nine stops.) The plan also calls for on-site parking that can accommodate up to 500 vehicles.
“The entire event is supposed to be about fun and having adults re-live some of their favorite years,” Wang told supervisors.
Her target age demographic, she added, is 25 to 45 years old — which prompted Supervisor Frank Mecham to comment, “I guess we can’t go to this.”
“How old do you feel?” Wang said.