SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – With as many as 15,000 people expected to visit Golden Gate Park on Friday to celebrate the first 4/20 since marijuana became legal in California, city officials are planning on how to deal with the massive crowds.
The fact that recreational pot is now legal in the state is not changing how the city is preparing for the annual event.
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City leaders are doing what they can to keep the large gathering safe for participants and reduce the disruption for local residents in the area not attending the festivities.
"Love it or hate it, the historic 4/20 festival is not going away," said SF Board of Supervisors President London Breed. "People from all over the world will continue to visit our fair city for this event and probably will for years to come."
With 4/20 revelers comes traffic, massive crowds, and the potential damage to city property. At its worst, an estimated 10,000 pounds of trash has been picked up following 4/20 activities one year, all at the cost of taxpayers.
For the second time in a row, the city has partnered with event producer and Haight Street business owner Alex Aquino.
According to Aquino, he and other local merchants have raised about $200,000 this year for 4/20. The funds will cover the cost of erecting chain-linked fence surrounding the event, an increased police presence and 60 additional private security guards, traffic control officers ticketing and towing illegally parked vehicles, 30 portable toilets and extra trash, recycle and compost bins.
"I've been a merchant and resident of this district for over 12 years and I've seen the impact of this event in the surrounding neighborhoods and the park. Being an event producer for the last 20 years, I saw a solution to raise money, build the infrastructure for this event and make it more safe and clean," Aquino said.
"Overall, the sponsor provided more structure allowing for a safer, less chaotic experience for everyone," said Breed.
Phil Ginsburg, the Director of the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department, is asking the participants at Golden Gate Park to be mindful of others and the environment.
"Our task is to try to mitigate immediate impacts of 12 to 15,000 people showing up," said Ginsburg.
The SFPD said additional security will be in place to closely monitor what is happening in the park and on Haight Street.
"I'm very confident that regardless of the number of people that come here, we are going to be successful in what we do," said San Francisco Police Captain Una Bailey. "We're going to keep everybody safe."
A one mile long chain-linked fence will surround the perimeter of the 4/20 event. The fence will be erected on Wednesday, April 18, and come down on Saturday, April 21.
The fence will encompass JFK Drive, Kezar Drive and MLK Drive-Bowling Green Drive. Areas impacted by the fencing include Robin Williams Meadow, Little Rec, Koret Playground, the park carousel, Sharon Arts Studio the lawn bowling area, and the Golden Gate Park Tennis Courts
While recreational marijuana is legal in California, it is still illegal to smoke it in public. There will be an exception for those inside the fencing at Hippie Hill, but there are no exceptions for people outside that area.
There will be no drugs for sale inside the fenced-in area and no alcohol will be allowed, authorities said. Only people age 18 and older will be permitted inside the fenced-in area after passing through security screening.
Attendees are also being encouraged avoid driving and to use public transportation, with the San Francisco Municipal Railway N-Judah and 5-Fulton lines heading to the immediate area. Additionally, four shuttle buses will depart from John F. Kennedy Drive and Conservatory Drive with express service to Market and Eighth streets around 5 p.m., Muni officials said.
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