California legislation would ban raves at publicly owned venues

Attendees at the Electric Daisy Carnival rush a fence at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
(John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Sacramento -- Raves would be outlawed at publicly owned venues in California under a proposal made Wednesday by a lawmaker after the death of a teenager and scores of injuries at rave events in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Legislation introduced Wednesday by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D- San Francisco) would prohibit the dance concerts on public property, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where a June rave sent dozens to hospitals, including a 15-year old girl, who died.

Ma’s bill would also ban raves on private property unless a business owner had a license to host such an event.

“Raves foster an environment that threatens the health and safety of our youth,” Ma said. She called her bill, AB 74, “the first step toward eliminating these dangerous events.”

Ma cited the case of high school student Sasha Rodriguez, who died days after falling into a coma after attending the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Coliseum. Dozens of others required medical treatment, and Ma blamed many of the problems on drugs used by those in attendance.

In May, two people died after overdosing at a rave at the state-owned Cow Palace in Daly City, south of San Francisco, and an additional five people were hospitalized, Ma said.

She cited a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found that many teenagers attending raves use so-called club drugs, including Ecstasy, GHB, methamphetamine and LSD.

Rave promoter Jason Sperling of Skills DJ Workshop Inc. denounced the Ma bill as heavy-handed and urged legislators instead to try to deal with the broader issue of drug abuse in society.

“If electronic music is criminalized, our government will succeed in alienating a generation of Californians and simply drive dance parties underground -- a less regulated, less safe, less sane situation than we have today,” Sperling said in a statement.

Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Raves are a big money-maker for the Coliseum, which recently lifted a moratorium on the events that was put in place after Sasha’s death.

Pasquale Rotella, the promoter of the Electric Daisy Carnival, noted that the Coliseum Commission voted earlier this month to adopt safeguards that include requiring promoters to go before the panel for approval at least 60 days before an event. The Ma bill, he said, “ignores our 1st Amendment rights.”

The raves can draw tens of thousands of dancers to enjoy high-volume electronic music, flashy light shows and interactive theatrical performances. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to hold an event on public property “at night that includes prerecorded music and lasts more than 3 1/2 hours.” It would provide for a fine of $10,000 or twice the gross receipts for the event, whichever is greater.

Ma said her proposed regulation is narrowly focused.

“The bill is not intended to impact traditional music concerts and sporting events,” she said. “AB 74 is about cracking down on raves that harbor drug use and lead to teenage deaths.”