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Jay Z festival coming to Grand Park on Labor Day weekend

Mayor Garcetti hails the event as a sign of downtown's growing popularity, but some question the impact of the Budweiser-sponsored event, where tickets will be $125.

April 16, 2014|By Soumya Karlamangla
  • United Way President Elise Buik, rapper Jay Z and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti hold a news conference to announce that Jay Z's popular Made in America music festival will be held at Grand Park over the Labor Day weekend.
United Way President Elise Buik, rapper Jay Z and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)

Announcing that rapper Jay Z's popular Made in America music festival is coming to downtown, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that the event will "shine a spotlight" on Grand Park, the city's up-and-coming Civic Center gathering spot.

But what was billed as a coup for a reemerging Central City is also prompting debate about the idea and future of a refurbished and increasingly lively public venue that cascades from the edge of the Music Center to the steps of City Hall.

The open space, expanded to 12 acres and relaunched in 2012, hosted free Fourth of July fireworks and a New Year's Eve party, events that each drew tens of thousands of visitors.

The two-day Budweiser-sponsored Jay Z music festival, which could draw 50,000 people over Labor Day weekend, is the first paid-entrance event planned for the park. No music lineup was announced, but big acts including Jay Z's wife, Beyonce, have appeared at the festival in other cities. Tickets will cost $125 and went on sale Wednesday.

Garcetti told reporters at City Hall that Los Angeles is "the perfect place, the perfect West Coast home for Made in America," an event he said will be an economic boon for the city.

Grand Park Director Lucas Rivera said he is proud of the park's success in hosting a range of events. "This park is for everyone," he said.

But Rick Coca, a spokesman for Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents downtown, said: "We have questions over whether that is the best use for Grand Park, the so-called people's park.

"If it is, what is the public — that is the city and downtown Los Angeles community — getting in return?"

Huizar has expressed concern about street closures and beer sales at the concert. Last month, he introduced a council motion calling for permits to be withheld pending a review of the effects on the neighborhood.

Downtown resident Christina Branson said she expects traffic from the festival to be comparable to the monthly Art Walk, which draws large crowds to sidewalks, galleries, restaurants and bars. "I don't love festivals, because you're just surrounded by drunk people, especially if it's an alcohol sponsor," she said. "That's when things get damaged. I'm worried about how things are going to look the day after."

Branson, who has lived downtown for 10 years, said the big-name festival fits with a broader upscale shift in the price of living in the neighborhood. "A lot of artists have moved out of the area because of the cost," she said.

Jay Z, who attended Wednesday's news conference, said he was pleased the festival will be "in the middle of the city" where everyone can access it easily. "It's inclusion, it's not exclusive," he said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who represents the Civic Center area, said she is confident that organizers can address the concerns raised by some residents. "Los Angeles has 99 problems, but Jay Z and Made in America ain't one," Molina said.

Jenny Schuetz, a public policy professor at USC, said the concert will be an opportunity for the city to prove that Los Angeles is a player with other major cities and can draw crowds to a central, iconic space.

"The city is certainly trying very hard to market downtown as an area that has a high quality of life, lots of entertainment options, lots of chances for people to be engaged in the city in all kinds of ways, and not car-centric," she said. "This plays really well into the narrative that L.A. has a real downtown that's vibrant and active."

Echo Park resident Sanam Abbas, 30, said Los Angeles regularly accommodates large-scale community events, such as the CicLAvia celebrations of bicycling. "We have street closures for everything," she said.

"A New York rapper is coming to L.A. and putting on a festival," she said. "That never would've happened 10 years ago."

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