GUEST OPINION: We Must Strengthen Our Stadium Curfew
By Santa Clara City Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe
As many Santa Clarans know, the City Council has been dealing with controversy about the stadium curfew on weekdays. We have had in place a 10 p.m. curfew for concerts and events since the stadium opened in 2014. On weekends, the curfew is extended to 11 p.m.
I think our curfew makes sense. It helps protect the residents around the stadium, especially during the week when children have to go to school the next day or adults have to go to work.
But the 49ers would like us to extend our weekday curfew so that they can attract more big name music acts who want to play later. They came to us in January, 2017 and made the request to allow U2 to play to 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night during the school year. The majority of the council did not support the request.
But then the 49ers who manage the stadium for NFL and non-NFL events decided they would ignore the council’s position and the law. They allowed U2 to play past 11 p.m. In fact, they advertised on their website that the band would play past the curfew when they let attendees know that VTA service would be available until 11:30 p.m.
I think this is not just an unlawful act but it demonstrates disrespect for the City of Santa Clara and it’s residents – especially those on the Northside.
So it’s time for us to put some real teeth in the curfew. Right now, we can only fine the 49ers $750 for violating the curfew – even if they do it intentionally.
At our council meeting on June 6, 2017, I asked Brian Doyle, our Interim City Attorney, to research options for us to strengthen the curfew by having law enforcement act if a concert goes overtime. At the BottleRock Festival in Napa, they cut the video and sound at the curfew even if acts are still playing on stage. In 2012, Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney had the plug pulled and had to leave the stage in Hyde Park, London when they exceeded the 10:30 p.m. curfew. Maybe our police department should do the same here.
I’ve also asked how we can make our fines for violating the law significant so the 49ers won’t simply ignore the law. For example, Folsom Stadium (Boulder, Colorado) fines acts $1,000 for every 15 minutes they go over their curfew and $10,000 per minute beyond 15 minutes. They could be a good example for us.
At our council meeting, I also mentioned how I discovered that the NFL has regulations for stadium noise so that visiting teams are not disrupted. The NFL seems to care more about visiting teams than neighboring residents.
I also suggested at the council meeting that the 49ers provide free tickets to the community because most events, including football games, are unaffordable to a lot of Santa Clarans.
This idea was misinterpreted by some to suggest that the team could simply give away tickets in exchange for us lifting the curfew. This was not my intent. I want the 49ers to have a better relationship with the community. One way to do that would be to figure out a way for more Santa Clarans to attend stadium events.
But the best way for the 49ers to improve their relationship with Santa Clara is really quite simple. The team should follow city laws whether they like them or not. Santa Clara residents and other Santa Clara companies do.