Southport ‘Horror Campout’: did city follow rules in approving permit on farm property?



By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

After the “Great Horror Campout” broke camp on July 19, the News-Ledger was left with a couple of lingering questions about the permit process that allowed it to set up on a Southport farm on July 18-19. That commercial event, at which paid customers camped overnight and participated in horror-themed activities, was viewed as a disruption by at least a few of its Burrows Avenue-area neighbors.

Some of those neighbors protested at a city council meeting two days ahead of the event, as the permit was still being weighed. They objected to congestion, noise, and to the event’s gory content, and said no one had given them proper notice of the permit application.

The News-Ledger asked local police if either the applicant, 1031 Productions, or the landowner, Dave Vierra of Vierra Farms, were required to give advance notice of the planned event to neighbors as part of the city permit process.

According to the West Sacramento Municipal Code, said Lieutenant Tod Sockman in an email, “no prior event notifications to surrounding area is required by City or event staff.”

He added that a rep from the event company “walked the neighborhood and left her personal card and phone number with any residents to talk to her,” making that effort “of her own will (and in an attempt) to work with the neighbors to address any issues.”

The News-Ledger also relayed a charge from one neighbor who said he had asked the police department for a copy of the permit application shortly before the event and was told to file a California Public Records Act request and wait five days.

Lieutenant Sockman appeared to say that didn’t happen:

“Everyone that asked for a copy of the permit from the police department was directed to City Hall, which handles all PRAs (Public Records Act requests),” wrote Sockman. “(The City) had a copy to hand out if someone came in, as directed. According to City Hall, only one person actually went to City Hall to get a copy of the permit and he had it within one business day, which was prior to the weekend events.”

Lieutenant David Delaini noted that the “Great Horror Campout” filed its permit less than the required 45 days in advance, but for good cause – the event’s initial choice for a site in Sacramento had been damaged by a fire. The Chief of Police – who is responsible for deciding on such a permit, after getting input from other city departments – has the ability to waive the 45-day requirement for “good cause.”

Delaini said the permit was issued the day before the event, with the provision that there be no amplified sound after 11 p.m.

“During the course of the event,” he added, “officers from the West Sacramento Police Department conducted a total of seven ‘extra patrols’ of the area. The event generated a total of two documented calls for service. One of which was a medical aid and one was for a female who was refusing to leave the event. . . no noise complaints were called in during this two-day event.”

The News-Ledger did spot one other crime report apparently affiliated with the “Great Horror Campout.” The morning after, “Great Horror Campout” staff reported the vandalism of a $999 mannequin.

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