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KAABOO Del Mar this year features more than 65 artists, including Blondie on Sept. 14. Courtesy photo
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Del Mar, Solana Beach have few concerns about KAABOO

Hoping to prove they want to be good neighbors, organizers of KAABOO Del Mar have invested significant amounts of time and money to address issues associated with the three-day entertainment and arts festival since its debut at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 2015.

Their efforts seem to have paid off.

City Council members in Del Mar and Solana Beach had few questions or concerns during presentations last month about this year’s event, which kicks off Sept. 14.

According to a recently conducted economic impact study, KAABOO generated approximately $37.5 million countywide in 2017. Of that, about $15 million directly benefited Del Mar and Solana Beach.

Council members in both cities asked for a breakdown for each city. Del Mar officials also had questions about ride-hailing services and crowd flow, both of which created problems during past events.

At the July 16 meeting in Del Mar, events consultant Brett Arendt said those issues have been, and continue to be, addressed and improved.

“We have worked diligently over the last 10 months with our ride-share partners to increase the spacing … and the efficiency of getting vehicles in and out of the transportation hub,” he said.

Directional signage and alternative egress points were added.

“If traffic backs up on Jimmy Durante, vehicles will be routed through the south portion of the fairgrounds and out through the fire gate,” Arendt said.

Technology improvements have also allowed KAABOO to extend the geofence “to ensure attendees are getting rides from within the transportation hub and not pinging a car outside,” Nathan Prenger, KAABOO’s operations vice president, said.

“It did seem to be better than the year before so the geofence is definitely helping overall,” Solana Beach Mayor Dave Zito said.

Traffic studies indicate 42 percent of attendees drive and park, 38 percent use Uber, Lyft or a taxi, 10 percent walk, 4 percent take a coach, bus or shuttle, 3 percent bike and 2 percent use public transportation.

Solana Beach Councilman Peter Zahn asked what was being done to promote the latter.

Prenger said he’s unsuccessfully lobbied to get additional train cars.

Although more bike parking was added, Zito was less than pleased with a safety decision to eliminate bike parking at the transportation hub, which is located at the training track in the northwest corner of the site near the Solana Gate.

An entrance was added near the fire station.

“We feel like we’re being a little disadvantaged here because you’ve got a nice new southern entrance for Del Mar,” Zito said. “The vast majority of Solana Beach residents that either walk or bike want to use Solana Gate because everything else is much more difficult to get to.

“So you need to figure out a way to improve that,” he added, suggesting the organizers build a temporary pedestrian bridge over where Uber drivers come.

“There is no easy way to get into that site from Solana Beach at this point,” Zito said. “It doesn’t make us happy. Next year hopefully you can improve on this.

“I do appreciate the event,” he added. “I do seriously encourage you to take another look at how to accommodate alternative transportation for Solana Beach because you’re not doing it right now and you need to figure that out. OK?”

Because the transportation hub is adjacent to Solana Beach, some in that city asked that it be moved elsewhere on the fairgrounds.

Arendt said his team looked into that but concluded it is currently in what is considered the safest location.

As for overall security, Prenger said the event plan was created with input from local, state and federal law enforcement “based on the current threat landscape and some of the things that have been happening at events worldwide.”

One element implemented successfully last year was a unified command center.

“So if something bad were to happen at our event we have all the key players in one centralized location so they can make quick decisions and send resources in a quick manner so that we can remedy that situation and sometimes even deter it from happening,” Prenger said.

“We monitor crowd flow patterns from there, too,” he added, referring to a problem in 2016 when two outdoor concerts ended at the same time and crowds from both were trying to enter a venue for another performance.

Sheriff’s deputies had to respond and a taser was used to calm one attendee.

“On the medical side, we’ve beefed up our deployment … mainly to reduce the need to pull resources from outside of our event, from local communities,” Prenger said.

One past issue that seemingly is no longer a problem is noise. During the inaugural event, residents from as far away as Carmel Valley said their windows shook and they could distinctively hear song lyrics.

KAABOO hired a sound expert with a doctorate degree. Stages were repositioned and speakers were angled to direct sound toward Interstate 5. Performers are contractually required to maintain sound levels dictated by KAABOO, which can override sound consoles if noise exceeds acceptable levels.

Noise-canceling technology was also implemented. As a result of those efforts, noise complaints went from 123 the first year to 10 in 2017.

This year’s musical lineup features more than 65 artists, including Foo Fighters, Incubus and Blondie on Friday night, Imagine Dragons and Billy Idol on Saturday and Katy Perry and Robert Plant on Sunday.

Comedians include Craig Ferguson, Kevin Nealon, Nikki Glaser and Pauly Shore.

Tickets range from $139 for a one-day pass to $15,000 for a VIP package. Discounted tickets are available to local residents. Call (855) 798-5995.

“We want the neighbors to be part of this event,” Arendt said.

During KAABOO people can speak to a representative from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or leave a message before and after those times at (858) 794-1104. Email co[email protected] anytime with questions or concerns.

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