Downtown residents express frustrations with Made in America

County Supervisor Gloria Molina, from left, Los Angles mayor Eric Garcetti, Jay Z, United Way President and CEO Elise Buik and Council President Herb Wesson on the steps of City Hall after a press conference to announce the inaugural L.A. edition of Jay Z's Budweiser Made In America festival.
County Supervisor Gloria Molina, from left, Los Angles mayor Eric Garcetti, Jay Z, United Way President and CEO Elise Buik and Council President Herb Wesson on the steps of City Hall after a press conference to announce the inaugural L.A. edition of Jay Z’s Budweiser Made In America festival.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

As crews are working to transform downtown’s Grand Park into the Budweiser Made in America festival, local residents gathered at the nearby Caltrans headquarters to express confusion and frustration just days before the two-day concert was scheduled to kick off.

About 40 people attended a community meeting Tuesday that was meant to ease ongoing concerns about the festival. Tuesday’s meeting, the second open forum of its kind, was supposed to address residential worries about the event taking control of downtown’s Grand Park over the Labor Day weekend.

Kanye West, John Mayer, Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar are among the acts to perform at the Jay Z-curated festival, which could attract up to 50,000 fans per day. Residents wanted organizers to detail the festival’s footprint in the neighborhood.


Representatives from promoter Live Nation and Los Angeles Police Department gave an overview of the festival and took questions. Reps from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jose Huizar were in attendance but did not speak.

Residential grievances were abundant.

Most felt shut out of the planning process and ignored by city officials. Fears about security, noise and crowd control were expressed and horror stories of Fourth of July revelers were shouted by tenants of nearby apartment buildings, who said they are forced to hire private security guards for major events.

While the LAPD said it would dedicate more than 250 officers around the perimeter of the festival grounds and the mayor’s office stressed it would monitor noise levels throughout the day, fans viewed the responses with skepticism. A Live Nation rep said the city had agreed to a decibel level, but residents gruffed when she couldn’t divulge the actual number.

“We’re paying for the city to have a party that we don’t even want to go to,” one woman shouted.

Still, the room was far from packed. Those with the most irate voices seemed to be opposed to any large downtown gathering downtown. Most of the concerns were similar to the ones raised at a previous meeting last month.

July’s meeting was held at the request of Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes the park. Huizar had earlier requested that no permits be issued for Made in America until it could be properly vetted. He expressed a desire for the community to be included in the process “sooner rather than later.”


“When you’re talking about a proposed event of this magnitude, with 50,000 expected, multiple-day street closures, beer and for-profit ticket sales at a public park, it is imperative that we have an open, inclusive dialog in ensuring it’s a good fit for the neighborhood and if it is, that concerns are mitigated well in advance,” Huizar said in a statement issued in April.

With just a dozen acres of space and bookended by the Los Angeles Music Center and City Hall, Grand Park -- with its lush grounds, interactive fountain plaza and eye-popping bright pink seating -- has yet to welcome an event of this size.

Crews began constructing the space on Saturday, more than a week before the festival. The six-day build will include aggressive overnight work, with partial and full closures on major area streets, including Main Street, Spring Street, Hill Street, Grand Avenue, Broadway, 1st Street, 2nd Street and Temple Street expected.

Both the main stage, which rests on the steps of City Hall, and the secondary stage at the intersection of 1st and Spring streets, are largely complete. A third stage will be built inside the boundaries of Grand Park.

An exhibition skate park with dedicated DJs will also be erected inside festival grounds.

Kevin Michael Key, a community organizer for United Coalition East, said he was most concerned about how organizers planned on monitoring alcohol sales. There will be five beer gardens offering several brands of Budweiser with no hard alcohol sold on the premises.

“You are going to have young frustrated homies that can’t afford to go, but will come down to drink and smoke outside of the festival and get a free concert,” Key said after Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s an explosive mix that I hope won’t happen. And it’s too late for any prevention strategies.”


Launched in Philadelphia in 2012, the inaugural Made in America has generated more than $10 million in revenue for the city.

The inaugural L.A. edition will be staged concurrently with the one in Philadelphia, making it the first time a major music festival has happened at the same time on opposite ends of the country. Like L.A., the festival in Philly is hosted in the middle of the bustling city on the historic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a tree-and-sculpture-adorned boulevard that makes up the spine of Philadelphia’s museum row.

Ginny Brideau of public affairs firm the Robert Group ran the meeting and assured residents that she will closely monitor potential issues during the weekend.

Brideau did balk at angered residents who said they have been kept in the dark about plans by detailing the extensive outreach from festival organizers.

Thousands of flyers and emails detailing road closures and festival information were disseminated by Budweiser and Live Nation and briefings were held for neighborhood councils, the Downtown Center Business Improvement District and community organizers, according to Brideau.

“I live here too. I am not going to burn my bridges with you guys over an event,” she said. “I’m going to make sure it’s right.”


Twitter: @GerrickKennedy