Cow Palace reforms examined in effort to prevent drug deaths 

Three months after rave-type events were banned from the Cow Palace, legislators and local leaders are proposing a variety of ideas for preventing the drug overdoses and deaths that have plagued earlier events.

Cow Palace CEO Joe Barkett said officials from the state-owned venue have been meeting with lawmakers and law enforcement “to try to get a grip on what’s best to do going forward” since the Cow Palace board passed the moratorium in November.

The latest idea comes in a state bill that would give the mayors of Daly City and San Francisco two appointments each to the nine-member Cow Palace board, which is currently picked entirely by the governor.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said his bill introduced last week “will ensure that our communities at least have a voice in the decision-making process, and will hopefully result in a safer, more sustainable venue.”

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, a co-author on Yee’s bill, is considering separate legislation that could involve age limits, event lengths or notification for law enforcement and medical responders, spokesman Nick Hardeman said.

“She’s considering all the options right now,” Hardeman said.

Two people died at the etd.POP 2010 music festival in May from drug overdoses and at least a dozen were hospitalized after Spookfest in October. The Cow Palace board in November canceled those two events in 2011 plus a show by DJ Tietso, who last appeared there in 2009.

Barkett said the “heart of the issue” is how to identify a potentially problematic event. Some of the hospitalizations happened despite “an enormous amount of preparation” by promoters, he said.

Ma proposed a statewide ban on raves in December, but sidelined the bill less then a week later amid criticism from the entertainment industry.

Daly City Councilman David Canepa said Yee’s bill is “a good first step in terms of neighborhood representation,” but believes the city police chief should have the authority to deny permits for events.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet taken a position on Yee’s legislation, spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said.

The Cow Palace board is currently made up of four San Francisco residents plus one resident each from Woodside, Menlo Park and Belmont; two seats are vacant. Canepa said Daly City needs “a voice at the table,” and Barkett said he agrees the venue should “be very tied into our local community and sensitive to its needs.”

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Shaun Bishop

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