A grassroots weekly dance party called Days Like This was issued a cease-and-desist letter from the City of Oakland, and while the party apparently still happens informally, the situation illustrates the contemporary conflicts over use of public space.
In the spring of 2022, when we were still seeing troublesome COVID surges and many were uncomfortable with indoor dining or club going, an informal little weekly Friday happy-hour dance party called Days Like This bubbled up at the Lake Merritt Pergola. The outdoor party employed social distancing circles like they used to have in Dolores Park, and grew in its popularity to where it eventually added volunteer security, medical personnel, and even started attracting internationally known DJs. And the cult-hit party eventually earned a KQED profile this past December.
But just three weeks after that KQED profile was published, the City of Oakland gave a cease-and-desist letter to Days Like This organizers Morgan Simon and Sulaiman Hyatt over the unpermitted weekly dance party. Now SFGate has the story of the Days Like This fight for survival, noting that the informal weekly party is still happening (without Simon and Hyatt’s organizing), just with volunteers and folks who've made a habit of simply showing up.
SFGate says attendance at the new, more rogue version has “dwindled slightly from its height of 300” per week, while Simon and Hyatt have started an online petition hoping to “seek changes in the permitting structure” that could help make the party permitted and legal.
The future of one of Oakland's best parties at Lake Merritt is in jeopardy. https://t.co/i2N43K579M— SFGATE (@SFGate) November 13, 2023
But this is more than just a story of the “fun police” cracking down. There’s a flip side to the growth of Days Like This, beyond just amplified sound going until 10 p.m., a proposition that is not likely to fly in any Bay Area residential neighborhood.
You also have the event at a large body of water, where the sound can carry an exceptional distance. And neighbors say it's generating more left-behind trash, and attracting a vending scene, which as we’ve seen at the 24th Street BART plaza, can quickly grow out of control.
“We have a level of unpermitted partying turning this area, this precious area, into an unregulated outdoor nightclub every single weekend,” local resident Ana-Marie Jones told SFGate.
Oakland’s legal event permitting system is not a good fit for Days Like This as it currently exists. Permits are not issued at Lake Merritt for events that go past sundown, and the permitting structures that do exist cost vastly more than what a volunteer event such as Days Like This can afford.
“The current permitting structure for Lake Merritt is really designed for big annual events who have large budgets,” Hyatt told SFGate. “What the local community is looking for is a permitting process that is streamline, and free or super low cost.”
That may be in the works. Oakland’s Economic and Workforce Development Department is starting a new permitting process, taking the process out of the hands of the Oakland Police Department which had handled such event permits prior to this year. That department is also holding more meetings and doing more outreach with applicants.
But this is no guarantee that Days Like This will eventually get permits, nor that after-dark parties with hundreds of attendees can ever be made suitable for Lake Merritt and the surrounding residential neighborhood. For rump-shaking parties such as Days Like This, we’ll have to see how this all shakes out.
Image: dayslikethis.oakland via Instagram