In 1999, about 20-25,000 people visited the Empire Polo Club in Indio over two days to watch Tool and Rage Against the Machine play at the first official Coachella festival. In 2011, about three times that many people showed up at Coachella every day (to see acts like Kanye West and Arcade Fire). Meanwhile, the neighboring town of La Quinta "has aggressively developed its nearby lands, and affluent gated communities nestle up against the site of the Festival," reports KCET. You know where this is going? The La Quinta City Council voted on October 4 to ask that Indio to do an environmental review "to assess the environmental impact of the noise, traffic and pollution generated by the festival each year." As we've seen time and again, environmental reviews (which are required under the California Environmental Quality Act for particularly impactful projects) are often used to stop or slow big projects. Indio has delayed signing a two-year contract with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice for 30 days while it hashes things out with La Quinta.
As KCET points out, any route Indio takes could create big delays for the festival. If it says Coachella doesn't need a full environmental review, it could be sued. If it carries out a full environmental review, it'll take several months, including a 75 day public comment period. Coachella's scheduled for April (for the first time in 2012, the festival will be held twice, over two consecutive weekends). Three-day passes sold out in January.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page has sprung up to support the festival. It says: "Lets not take for granted what Goldenvoice does here, and the revenue and PR it brings to our desert. Show your support for our festivals and the companies behind them!" KPSP estimated in April that the festival would bring as much as $36 million to the Coachella Valley over one weekend. And you can double that for 2012's double festival.
KCET thinks there's enough at stake that the 2012 festival will get worked out. But Coachella and the Valley are both only going to keep growing. Image via Coachella
· Coachella Music Festival in Limbo as City of Indio Delays Signing Contract [KCET]
· Support Coachella Music and Arts Festival [Facebook]