50th anniversary concertThe 50th anniversary of Summer of Love music festival is facing cancellation after organizers were denied a permit for their event.

Summer of Love promoter Boots Hughston and San Francisco Recreation and Parks are at odds once again after Hughston began advertising the event before securing the necessary approvals needed for the event commemorating the magical summer of 1967 that gave birth to the hippie movement.


On June 1, the Council of Light, a nonprofit group putting together the free concert, was informed that its permit for the suggested date of Aug. 27 was denied. In a letter written by SF Recreation and Parks Manager of Permits and Reservations Diane Rea, the festival was denied a permit over safety concerns, lack of organization and a decision by the organizers to incorrectly announce on their website that a permit had been granted for the event, when it actuality, the city had simply told organizers that the August date was available and invited them to apply for a permit to secure the date.

“They gave us permission, and then immediately denied it. It’s crazy,” Hughston told Amplify.

The long-time promoter said he originally applied for a permit in April of 2016 for the significantly larger Polo Field at Golden Gate Park to host the Summer of Love concert June 4, 2017. Hughston said the parks department was unresponsive until November of 2016 and denied the request in February.

In a copied email chain provided to Amplify by Hughston, Director of Property Management for Permits and Reservations Dana Ketcham informed Hughston that “August 27 is now available,” asking if he was interested in the date and if he could provide a name for the event coordinator.

The following day, the Council of Light accepted the date for the “substantially scaled down and smaller” space of Sharon Meadow, also located at Golden Gate Park. The group announced that it had accepted the date of Aug. 27 for the Summer of Love 50th Concert on its Facebook page and, according to the park department’s denial letter, writing “Permited Granted” on their website and  reached out to media to begin promoting the event.

On May 30, Ketcham contacted Hughston via email to voice the department’s concern about advertising the event without actually securing the date.

Ketcham wrote in the email to Hughston: “You have represented to us that this time you want to follow the rules and do it right. Advertising an event in advance of obtaining confirmation of a permit is not a good start. Our commission emphasized that they are willing to give you another chance but only if you meet the requirements.”

Hughston said events like Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly (Bluegrass festival) in Golden Gate Park “are advertising over a year out,” he said. “Our event is only two and a half months away and they are refusing to let us advertise. It’s crazy.”

The email identified several other reasons the permit had not yet been secured by the Council of Light, including the unconfirmed number of expectant attendees and the insufficient hand drawn site map previously provided.

boots hughston

Drawing provided to Amplify by SF Recreation and Parks Department

By the evening of June 1, the Council of Light responded to the department’s complaints, explaining the attendance expectancy and providing a more detailed and professional site map.

Less than 15 minutes after Hughston’s email, Rea sent an official denial letter for the Aug. 27 permit. The Council of Light immediately appealed, requesting the department reconsider the application given the additional information provided in the received email.

Ketcham replied on June 2, confirming that the department looked over the new information, but that the Summer of Love was still being denied the permit.

Ketcham’s email stated “Our denial of the permit application also applies to this newly submitted application for the same reasons. The concept that ‘volunteers’ were contacting the press and updating the website suggests that there are no controls in place.”

“We are a free event that charges no admission and they don’t want it,” said Hughston, who got his start in the 1960s playing with and promoting shows for Janis Joplin, Gregg Allman and Jefferson Airplane.

When asked to comment on the permit denial, a spokesperson for the department provided the denial letter sent on June 2. (Read it here).

“We have spent over a year trying to work you to produce an event,” the letter reads. “You have refused to comply with conditions reasonably imposed on approval of the permit,” later writing, “the General Manager has reasonable cause to conclude that the event may result in physical injury or substantial damage” to Golden Gate Park.

“At this point we are deeply concerned that you will not be able to satisfy the permit requirements,” the letter reads. “Rather than put the park and general public at risk, we must deny the permit.”

Hughston accused the department of trying “to corporatize Golden Gate Park” and cited hiked rates for park permits.

“They just hate hippie shows and don’t want anything to do with it,” Hughston told Amplify.

Despite the acrimonious back and forth between the two entities, Hughston still believes the event will happen.

“We are appealing on June 15. We expect this to go through too,” Hughston said. “The city has actually been turned around in the last couple of days and they are realizing the folly of their footsteps, of what they have done. So, I see it positively turning around. I see the city actually allowing the event to go on on Aug. 27.”

The Council of Light believes it has addressed the concerns laid out in the denial letter, including necessary police and security. The nonprofit also explained that their previous estimated attendance was based on the larger event expected to occur on June 4. Given the space, time constraint, and promotion limitations, they expect the Summer of Love 50th Concert attendance to be significantly reduced.

Hughston and his group remain determined to put on the event. He explained that the majority of the acts have remained committed to playing the Aug. 27 event.

“This event means more to San Francisco than probably anything that’s occurring these days. San Francisco’s heart and soul is in this,” Hughston said. “People grew up here. They were involved in the 1960s movements. We impeached presidents and stopped wars. They are passionately behind this. The biggest thing about it is that it is the only event that promotes peace, love and compassion. That’s what this event is about.”