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After teen deaths, LA County moves to place restrictions on EDM festivals in SoCal

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Festival goers enjoy the music in the Sahara Tent during David Guetta at the 2015 Coachella Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)
Rich Fury/Invision/AP
Festival goers enjoy the music in the Sahara Tent during David Guetta at the 2015 Coachella Music and Arts Festival.

County Supervisor Solis talks about the things that went wrong at HARD Summer Festival that led to the deaths of two festival goers, plus how the County Board is trying to make EDM festivals safer.

The County of Los Angeles is examining whether to continue allowing Electronic Dance Music festivals to take place at the county fairgrounds in Pomona.

This comes after the deaths of two young women at an event there last month. The victims — one 19 years old, the other 18 — died of suspected drug overdoses, and it’s safe to say that drug use is not just common, it’s practically rampant at EDM festivals.

While the county considers its options, another EDM event will take place at the Fairplex over Halloween weekend.

The fairgrounds are in the district of County Supervisor Hilda Solis. She joins The Frame to talk about the troublesome history of raves in Southern California, the things that went wrong at the HARD Summer Festival and how the County Board is trying to make EDM festivals safer for the general public.

Interview Highlights:

Last week it was announced that the promoter Live Nation would cancel an event that was scheduled to take place this month. But the county is allowing an event to happen over Halloween weekend. What led to that decision?

Well, it's precisely because we lost two young women that were under the age of 21, and this isn't the first time. Before I took office last year, there was the death of another young woman at Whittier Narrows, another county facility in the first district. There have been other casualties — back in 2010, there was an issue that was brought before the County Board of Supervisors to look at raves because of a death at the Coliseum.

So the Board took action and put together a strategic plan to go about enforcing more security and safety at these events, and my understanding is that the State Assembly passed statewide legislation to also provide enforcement of measures to protect the public. Now, what's occurred to me is that, for some reason, at the Fairplex there may have been more lax enforcement of safety precautions, so obviously we wanted to take a look at what actually happened on the ground.

In addition to the two deaths that tragically occurred at the Fairplex, there were nearly 30 people taken from the Fairgrounds by ambulance due to serious drug and alcohol problems. There are several local ER doctors and heads of emergency rooms who have said that these events should simply not be happening on county property. Have you spoken with any of those physicians?

I've spoken with the ones out near Fairplex and I had my staff go into detail with them about the occurrences. The advice I'm getting from the County Council is because there was already a contractual agreement with Live Nation that we had to work this out, at least for the time that the contract provides coverage for — these two events that are coming up on October 31 and November 1.

Is that the duration of the contract with Live Nation?

Yes, for those two events. We'll see what happens after those events, and that's why we've asked for this task force. Once you see that our health facilities are inundated as a result of these events, for me that was a cause for concern.

And finding out why we didn't have more precautions made available for more strict enforcement of what was being brought into the Fairplex facility, more security, the availability for more parking, or for water to be provided freely for people.

I heard from some of the eventgoers that they were told to dispose of their water bottles before they got into the Fairplex, because they wanted them to purchase water at the event. We thought, Well, that doesn't make sense, it's so hot. And if these kinds of circumstances evolve, we need to provide safety and protection.

I'm glad that we were able to work something out with Live Nation, but that doesn't mean that we'll remove the possibility a moratorium on these events. As we move forward, we're going to be looking at what they're doing to help abide by our agreements, our memorandum of understanding. I do want to say that one thing that was pretty clear to me was that most of the people that have died at these raves were usually under the age of 21.

Live Nation has agreed for the upcoming Halloween weekend event to make these 21 and over events, and they're also lowering the number of people that can attend each day. Do you believe that those measures will be enough at this point?

I don't know. That's why we're going through this memorandum of understanding, to try to come at an agreement so it's more manageable. We've also asked for more security, so we want our LA County sheriffs involved. We also want to see more information given to those concertgoers regarding the effects of misusing alcohol or drugs before they enter into the venue.

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