A proposed two-day, 10,000-person Avila Beach festival known as Forever Never Land was denied a vital permit by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors at the board's June 3 meeting.
After almost three hours of discussion, the board voted 4-1, with Supervisor Debbie Arnold opposed, to deny a Temporary Commercial Outdoor Entertainment License for the festival.
Without the license, the festival will be restricted to 3,000 attendees at most. While the event will still happen, according to festival CEO Valerie Wang, it will be a drastically scaled-back version of the original plan.
“There will be two stages instead of three, probably. And two or three water slides instead of six to eight,” Wang told New Times. “It’s sad for me as a visionary; it’s not going to be as grand, but we’re still going to deliver everything we promised.”
Forever Never Land was envisioned as a weekend-long 21-and-older party on Sept. 13 and 14, where adults could “be a kid again.” In addition to the water slides and live music, there will be events like laser tag, bounce houses, and a “foam pit.” Plus alcohol, of course.
At the June 3 meeting, 16 concerned citizens spoke out against the festival, with no member of the public speaking in support. Their grievances covered every conceivable issue, from fire safety to whether or not the water slide water would be potable.
“What isn’t a concern?” said fourth-generation Avila Beach resident Jack San Filippo. “Noise level, garbage, parking, illegal parking, resident security, violence, fighting, drunk persons. No matter what you do, these things will happen.”
In general, the supervisors seemed to agree with San Filippo and the other speakers. The biggest sticking point was the venue itself, especially due to the unprecedented number of expected festival-goers.
“I personally think this is too big of an event for this community,” said District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Avila Beach. “The idea of 8,000 to 10,000 people in Avila is daunting to begin with.”
Supervisor Arnold disagreed with Hill on the feasibility of a festival on that scale. Arnold compared Forever Never Land to the Mid-State Fair, which, she said, regularly has more than three times the number of attendees per day.
Arnold mentioned the paramount economic importance of tourism to the county and was reluctant to infringe upon the private property rights of the Avila Beach Golf Resort, which will host the event.
Wang said that—due to the difficulty of working with SLO County—she would most likely look to take the festival elsewhere in coming years.
“I am hoping after this year, we can prove to the county that Avila can host a larger event,” Wang said. “We will have no choice but to go somewhere else if county attitudes don’t change.”