A Santa Rosa city councilperson aspires to “make lemonade out of lemons” by permitting sideshows at the county fairgrounds, complete with vending booths and safety barricades.
The daredevil donut street stunts known as sideshows are this year’s version of the nightly illegal fireworks displays of last summer. Half the city of SF seems to love these outlaw shows, the other half is furiously bitching on Nextdoor while printing up stacks of Recall Chesa Boudin petitions. But sideshows are becoming drastically more frequent in plenty of other Bay Area cities where Boudin is not the district attorney; San Jose has seen so many sideshows that they made it a crime to tweet about them, Oakland has called in the Highway Patrol for help (to little avail), and the Vallejo City Council just labeled sideshows as “street terrorism.” Here in SF, a so-called crackdown on these affairs has proven ineffective at best.
Up north in Sonoma County, where they are certainly fans of motor sports, one elected official thinks law enforcement needs to shift gears. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that city council member Eddie Alvarez is proposing legalizing city-sanctioned sideshows, holding them at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and permitting vendors at the events. He plans to introduce a measure at Tuesday’s meeting.
Lawmakers in Santa Rosa are proposing city-sanctioned sideshows in hopes it will stop the violence too often breaks out as drivers burn fuel and rubber, performing daring donuts and other stunts. https://t.co/r7eBSJontq— KPIX 5 (@KPIXtv) September 29, 2021
"If we could produce an alternative we wouldn't be seeing our roadways being destroyed in the way they are currently being dealt with," Alvarez tells KGO. In remarks to the Press Democrat, he said, “Ask me what period of time our youth hasn’t done something we consider dangerous,” and “Why not make lemonade out of lemons?”
You can imagine that Santa Rosa police are not thrilled with the idea. KGO reports “they would not be in favor of a sanctioned sideshow due to dangers posed and the liability involved.” Here in San Francisco, sideshows have brought with them shootings and fatalities, ands Santa Rosa saw two women stabbed at a sideshow earlier this month.
MORE SAN FRANCISCO SIDESHOWS: Cell phone video captured this one in the Mission District at 24th & Mission streets Sunday night around 9pm, just hours after drivers were burning out in SOMA at 6th and Harrison streets before 3am Sunday. More tonight on @kron4news pic.twitter.com/pj9oqqPHSz— Taylor Bisacky (@TaylorBisackyTV) August 24, 2021
But there is evidence indicating that sanctioning sideshows does lower body counts. San Diego’s KGTV explains that they tried it in San Diego, and “The number of deaths from street racing fell from 16 in 2000 to just two in 2018. Injuries also saw a drastic drop-off in the same time frame, from 39 to only one.”
Former Oakland cultural affairs commissioner Sean Kennedy introduced a sanctioned sideshow proposal in that city, but it did not make it out of committee.
“I think we need to stop criminalizing sideshows and dumping money into law enforcement and overtime hours and put that money into resources that train kids and then give spectators a place to come and socialize at an event that’s safe,” Kennedy told the Press Democrat.
Image: @sfvas via Twitter