Car show tries to stay in park 

Despite Recreation and Park Department officials offering Jimmy O’Keefe four alternative locations to hold his annual car picnic in Golden Gate Park, the fundraiser’s organizer said that after 22 years, he’s not going anywhere.

Last year, O’Keefe’s application to hold the annual event benefiting developmentally disabled children was rejected for the first time. He was told that the fundraiser — which squeezes up to 800 cars on to Speedway Meadow — destroys the grass, and the number of permits for such events needs to be limited. 

But now O’Keefe says he has two attorneys and his daughter has filed an appeal, a matter that Rec and Park commissioners will address at their meeting in City Hall on Thursday.

“We’re No. 11 on the agenda, and I’m loading up the chambers with people, O’Keefe said. “I don’t think it’ll be settled this time. I’m not sure it’ll ever be settled.”

The denial letter came after Rec and Park cracked down on permits for events in Golden Gate Park because it received consistent complaints from surrounding neighbors about traffic, noise and the impacts on plant life.

“We offered him alternate sites and we never heard back from him, Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon said. “We’re not trying to get rid of the event, but the issue for us is the cars just don’t belong on the grass.”

The permit was denied just after Supervisor Eric Mar held a community meeting to manage the complaints stemming from events in Golden Gate Park.

“That’s one of the events where there were reports of some of the abuses,” Mar said. “All of these cars were parked in Speedway Meadow. It’s really not appropriate in a public park.”

But O’Keefe said he was a gardener in Golden Gate Park for 35 years and disagrees that his picnic is destructive. 

Even if Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic does go on, it will do so with a hefty price tag. Last year, O’Keefe paid $8,300 for his permit after Rec and Park raised its price from $1,650. This year, he would have to pay $9,000 for Speedway Meadow if the event gets a nonprofit price, and twice that if not, Pon said.


Finding a solution

The Recreation and Park Department staff recommendation is to deny Jimmy O’Keefe’s appeal and instead offer these four alternative locations for his annual car show fundraiser:

•Marina Green parking lot
•Ocean Beach parking lot
•Middle Drive near picnic areas
•John F. Kennedy Drive road closure, but would require outreach

Source: Recreation and Park Department

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