YOUtopia 2019: The Little Regional That Could

SDCAP and the YOUtopia Production Leadership Team are thrilled to announce YOUtopia 2019 is Wednesday, October 23 to Sunday, October 27, 2019! The charming, gracious, unrelentingly stylish, dare-we-say-sexy proprietors of Wasteland Weekend are welcoming us to their property near California City, CA, a smidge north of Los Angeles.

We know you have oodles of questions about this new-to-us venue, and we pinky-swear promise you answers will be forthcoming. Stay tuned to your email and social media in the coming days for announcements about ticket sales and event details. In the meantime, sleep easy knowing:

  • General Admission ticket prices are staying the same.
  • The Leadership Team has revamped a number of policies to make things more enjoyable for volunteers, artists, and theme camps.
  • You’ll never again have to camp on a pile of rocks surrounded by poison oak, with your besties on the other side of a stream.
  • No. More. Hills.

We are immensely grateful for the outpouring of support, ideas, and encouragement we received from all corners of the San Diego Burning Man community. It’s been stressful being in limbo for so long, and we were able to power through fueled by the knowledge that YOUtopia is deeply important to so many people. We’re obviously behind schedule, but we have an amazing team and many years of event leadership expertise on our side. And still, we need YOU to keep YOUtopia alive! Now that we have a venue, the real work begins, and as a 100% volunteer-run organization, we always need people who embrace the 10 Principles of Burning Man to step up and participate in our do-ocracy. If you want to get involved and have the bandwidth to take on a big ol’ chunk of responsibility, email PLT@sdyoutopia.com to inquire about department management roles. If regular Burner-style volunteerism is your jam, sit tight and wait for volunteer applications to open in a couple weeks and then submit your application.

Start working on your art, your outfits, your theme camp, and your LNT plan. We’ll see you in the dust!

YOUtopia Venue Updates: Renting and Buying and Realistic Expectations, Oh My!

Spoiler alert: we don’t have any earth-shattering news to share. The purpose of this blog post is to keep YOUtopians in the loop about our progress with respect to renting and/or buying land for YOUtopia. Skip to the end for the TL;DR.

Renting

After we sent out the survey requesting public commentary about land purchase, we heard from some very impassioned folks who made a great case for why we should rent again in 2019. More specifically, a great case for why we should rent our previous venue, even at their asking price. We revisited the numbers and came up with a way we could make it work. However, despite our efforts to revisit this option, it appears the tribe does not want us back. We hope we’re wrong about that, but right now it seems we’re getting ghosted like a bad Tinder date. 

We have also attempted to rent the campground down the road – the one some of you rave about (pun intended) and others of you malign because of its lack of water. It appears they are also not interested in hosting us.

In our request for public commentary, many of you extolled the virtues of hosting YOUtopia on tribal land so we don’t have to deal with issues of permitting and LEO. We could not be more aware of the benefits of holding the event on tribal land, but that is contingent upon a tribe being willing to host us. Many of you also extolled the virtues of the LALA/Bequinox property; we’ve explored that thoroughly and for a variety of reasons it’s not logistically or fiscally viable.

We’ve been exploring other rental venues in Southern CA that are capable of handling a population of 3,000+ people (100 acres) as well as smaller venues that would entail contracting our population size. We haven’t exhausted every possible option, but pickins are slim.

Our wish list is long and glorious, but the reality is that right now we’ll settle for a venue that will allow us to obtain a Conditional Use Permit, gift alcohol, and allow sound (even if it’s not super loud or 24/7). There are a great many other features we want but something, something, beggars, choosers.

Buying

Hoooboy! At time of this writing, we’ve gotten 252 responses to our Request for Public Commentary about buying land. That is far and away the most responses we’ve ever gotten to anything ever. We’re going to leave the form open indefinitely, so if you haven’t weighed in yet, you still can. Here are the results to date, with a little editorial following.

 

After these multiple choice questions, there was an open-ended “tell us what you think,” section. The most frequent (paraphrased) comments were:

  1. LALA/Bequinox did this and OMG BEST THING EVER!!!
  2. I love trees and water and power. You must only buy land with trees and water and power.
  3. I have concerns that if we’re on private land, we have to deal with permitting and LEO and that will radically change the nature of the event. 
  4. I love LJIC and am willing to pay more to stay there.

 

In reviewing all the responses, we were surprised by a few things:

Overwhelming Support for Purchase – we suspected the idea would be well-received, but we didn’t anticipate it’d be 78% well-received.

Resistance to Radical Self-Reliance – while 77% of you said you were on board with Radical Self-Reliance, the number of comments demanding water, trees, and (to a lesser extent) power was surprising. We get it, LJIC is really nice. Trees and water and power are great and they make things easy, unlike BRC. The reality is, though, that trees and water and power are really, really expensive in Southern California, and unless you’d like to gift SDCAP with several million dollars, it ain’t happenin’. If we buy land, it’s going to be raw land without amenities. And we’ll all have to be radically self-reliant.

Willingness to Pay More – we were blown away that 85% of respondents said they were willing to pay more to help with start-up costs associated with land purchase. Again, we have no (zero, zilch, nada) plans to increase ticket costs; it was truly a hypothetical question. A huge part of our motivation for considering purchase is that (if we find the right property) it should pay for itself in a year or three – meaning we could possibly, maybe, eventually even lower ticket prices. Which should please the 15% of you who were angry we even dared ask such a question.

 

Beyond those surprises, we were really touched by all the words of encouragement and thoughtful advice people had for us. We absolutely share all your concerns and are taking our time exploring the purchasing option. We’ve gotten the ball rolling with permitting, but that process is a marathon, not a sprint. And it’s likely going to involve an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) just like Burning Man, which is also a big deal. We have our work cut out for us, and even if purchasing makes sense, it’s not going to happen in time for YOUtopia 2019.

Realistic Expectations

We’ve had a sweet deal at LJIC for the past 9 years, but it appears that era is coming to an end. We would love to be able to rent tribal land for 2019 and more or less maintain the status quo that people have come to expect, but that does not currently seem to be a viable option. This means we’re going to have to compromise and make concessions. We don’t know what those concessions will be, but first and foremost, YOUtopia will continue to adhere to the 10 Principles in order to maintain its status as a Regional Burn.

We appreciate all the feedback and support we’ve gotten from the 2019 YOUtopia Leadership Team, survey respondents, folks who showed up at our last board meeting, and folks who’ve reached out us with offers to help. We absolutely need your help, so please keep it coming!

We’ll be discussing YOUtopia venue at our board meeting this week (June 12 @ CoLab, 7-9pm) and at every future board meeting (2nd and 4th Weds of the month) until it’s resolved. Please join us!

TL;DR: we still don’t have a venue for YOUtopia 2019. Buying land is an option but we’re not going to rush it, so it’ll be 2020 at the earliest. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to secure a rental venue. If you can help with a rental venue for 2019, please reach out to us!

Request for Public Commentary: SDCAP Land Purchase

The San Diego Collaborative Arts Project (SDCAP) is exploring purchasing land to use as a venue for YOUtopia and other events aligned with our mission. As part of our exploratory process, we are soliciting community feedback and want to hear from you! Please tell us what you think of this idea – the good, the bad, the creative, the concerned. If you want to go straight to the feedback form, it’s here.

For additional context about this issue, read onward!

Land Ownership in General

Purchasing land is something SDCAP has been talking about for years. Our collective motivation to pursue it has been bolstered by past board members who were hot and heavy for the idea and then tempered by the sweet setup we had renting the La Jolla Indian Campground (yes, the hills are rough, but it has water and trees, and being on tribal land allowed us to avoid permitting issues).

Speaking of permitting, that’s one of the biggest driving factors in our decision making process about where to purchase, if at all. We know from other comparable events that permitting issues vary wildly from county to county in Southern California, and we want to be sure that if we do buy land it’s in a county where we will be able to get the permits we need. The other mission-critical qualities we’ve identified are:

  • Within 2-3 hours of central San Diego
  • South of Los Angeles (because it’s the San Diego Regional Burn)
  • Terrain that will allow us to burn art
  • Lacking neighbors who would be upset about sound

If you’re familiar with the rural and unincorporated areas outside San Diego, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “hey, that sounds like Imperial County!” That’s what we’re thinking, too. We’re certainly open to other ideas, but we have more concerns about permitting (and cost) in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

Why Now: YOUtopia 2019

For the past 9 years, YOUtopia’s home has been the La Jolla Indian Campground. We’ve enjoyed a good relationship with the tribe and have taken pride in our additional donations as well as our extensive Leave No Trace (LNT) efforts, always leaving the campground in better condition than we found it. As one would expect, the cost to rent the campground has gone up significantly over the years, but it’s always been a relatively predictable increase (review our financials here). This year, when we contacted the tribe to begin our annual contract negotiation, they informed us they wanted more than double the amount we paid them last year. We attempted to negotiate and they then informed us they are considering no longer hosting any festivals at all due to complaints from residents about sound, but if we were willing to pay their asking price, they would still have us back in 2019. We reviewed our financials, and determined there is no way we can pay that amount without dramatically raising ticket prices, so we exited the negotiation.

Since then, we’ve been exploring all manner of other options for rental venues. Yes, of course we’ve reached out to the campground down the road from La Jolla. Yes, of course we’ve reached out to our regional neighbors to the north. Yes, we’ve been exploring other venues in San Diego County. A variety of options are on the table in terms of renting a venue for 2019, but none have come to fruition yet.

At the same time, we have begun talking about a land purchase. If we’re being honest, part of what spurred us on is that for the amount of money we would have to pay to rent La Jolla for 1 year, we could buy similar acreage outside San Diego and own it permanently. Pretty appealing.

We’ve done a couple scouting missions of properties in the desert, and there are some cool spots out there. They would be tremendous shifts in the look and feel of YOUtopia. It’s highly likely that any property that could truly sustain our event and allow us to burn the way we want to burn is going to be a lot more like Black Rock City than a cushy campground with amenities. We’ll be trading creature comforts for a blank canvas. In some ways it’ll be harder and in some ways it’ll be easier. We’d be lying if we told you we’ve haven’t fallen a little bit in love with the idea and believe the timing is right.

While we’re not going to rush into anything, we are quietly keeping our fingers crossed for some serendipity so we can do this in time for YOUtopia 2019. We know that’s super soon, and that there’s only so much planning the YOUtopia Team can do until we have a venue locked down.

We also know lots of folks have been wondering about the details for YOUtopia 2019. Once we have a venue and a date finalized, tickets will go on sale. We promise. In the worst case scenario, if we have to take a year off to make sure we buy the right property at the right time, we’ll make a public announcement by early August.

How Can YOU Help YOUtopia?

Most importantly, tell us what you think about land purchasing by filling out the survey.

You can also come chat with us about it in person at an upcoming Board Meeting. We meet the 2nd and 4th Weds of every month from 7-9pm at CoLab and we’ll be carving out a big ol’ chunk of agenda time for public commentary about this, at least for the next few meetings.

Beyond that, if you know of any properties for rent or purchase that meet the criteria outlined above, please let us know! We need about 100 usable acres for the whole enchilada.

And finally (shameless plug), there are ongoing opportunities to get involved with SDCAP and YOUtopia. The SDCAP board is a little light right now (we have 7 members, but prefer 9), so if you are interested in a “Mid-Cycle Appointment,” please get in touch by messaging bod@sdcap.org. The YOUtopia Team also still has some Department Manager positions open. Management positions are usually filled by people who have volunteered with YOUtopia in the past and have direct experience with event operations, but folks with special and specific skill-sets are always welcome and encouraged to apply. For more information, get in touch with the Production Leadership Team (PLT@sdyoutopia.com).

SDCAP Community Code of Conduct

Hey there, community! You spoke up, and we listened! Better yet, we followed through. After doing a ton of research on practices within other regionals and local Burning Man communities, we have drafted a comprehensive Community Code of Conduct.

Beyond our basic expectations around upholding the 10 Principles within the burner community, a Code of Conduct empowers us to facilitate healthy, constructive community behavior. Being proactive reduces the likelihood that you, or others, will become bogged down in destructive behavior and enables the community and, when under its purview, SDCAP to take action when someone does something that isn’t cool.

Outlining expectations for behavior, providing instructions for reporting incidents, and following up with enforcement allows us all to be accountable to keeping the community a strong, productive, and positive place where we can all explore, play, and create.

2019 Collaborative Arts Grant – Toxic Unicorn

Congrats Maddie and the Unicorn Liberation Front! In this post, SDCAP shares with you a Black Rock City Honoraria project headed to Burning Man that has been awarded a 2019 Collaborative Arts Grant! Follow this post for updates on fundraising and when to come help with the build.  Grants are available year-round (grant application), so it’s still not too late to get moving with an idea for this coming Burn!

Toxic Unicorn
Grant Awarded: $5000
Lead Artist: Madeleine Hamann

Toxic Unicorn is a mesmerizing, life-sized sculpture of a unicorn. She is made of translucent, rainbow-swirled, recycled HDPE plastic that is pelletized, extruded, wrapped, and molded onto a waffled plywood frame. The frame, designed to hold the weight of 5 adults, is laced with tri-color, addressable LEDs that shimmer like rainbow mist. Her mane and tail are fibrous strands made from 2L soda bottles with their edges left raw so that they are beautiful but scratchy and unpleasant to the touch. Her golden horn is wrapped in cow tape that delivers a safe but memorable 120V shock at 120 microamps. A spring mechanism attached to her tail opens a valve briefly to spritz water vapor, release ammonium sulfide, and dispel the smell of rotten eggs. She is supported by carousel pole that run through her centerline and beckons you to climb aboard, but proximity sensors on her back trigger disturbing, discomforting sounds if you stay too long!

Most Burners have run into a real-life Toxic Unicorn or two–those enchanting humans that draw you in until you realize there’s something a little… off.

Outwardly, Toxic Unicorn seems to encourage a superficial level interaction–a perfect prop for an insta-worthy photo. Her unpleasant reactive features, though, force participants to reckon with a playful, unexpected piece and her multi-level message.

On one level Toxic Unicorn is a shimmery facade warning that a focus on outward appearances can lead to disappointing, dissatisfying relationships rather than genuine interpersonal connection.

On another level, Toxic Unicorn’s composition begs us to reflect on humanity’s relationship with our favorite toxic unicorn material. Since post-war popularization, plastics have enabled incredible innovation and permeated human culture; now, we’re beginning to see something a little… off!

Though each will have a unique experience, Toxic Unicorn aims to instill curiosity and provoke reconsideration of those things in life that appear to be beautiful and perfect.

Toxic Unicorn is birthed by the Unicorn Liberation Front: a budding collective of artists, scientists, engineers, designers, and radical humans that stand to liberate the unicorn from its social stigma and the constructs of fantastical standards. We fight to end expectations about how we look, how we behave, and WTF we’re actually capable of. We will regain magical sovereignty and ultimately dismantle the delusional mythological-caste system. Join us! Oh, we make art, too.

2019 Collaborative Arts Grant – Pieuvre

SDCAP is delighted to share with you another project headed to Burning Man that has been awarded a 2019 Collaborative Arts Grant! Look for updates to this post as fundraising and the build get underway. Grants are available year-round (grant application), so it’s not too late to get moving with an idea for this coming Burn!

Pieuvre
Grant Awarded: $7,000
Lead Designer: Kelly Schott

“With arms outstretched and swirling in the sea of stars, we watch her as she dances gracefully through the dust… carrying lanterns of light to lead our way”

This beautifully ornate octopus will create an ethereal essence of submersion underwater into the deep depths of the sea by bringing the ocean floor to the BRC.

Made of stainless steel, copper, and brass textured metals – the body form will feature delicate seaweed filigree accents, LED lit suckers, and stained glass mosaics. An assortment of colors, textures, shape, line, and movement will be used to create contrasting visual effects and accentuate certain detailed decorative aspects of the body. “Pieuvre” will be grounded by the support in her home of beautiful coral reef, swimming fish, and delicate sea anemone flowers that dance by our feet as we stand beneath her alluring light show. She will hold fire lanterns to light up the night and heat passerby with her warmth.

ASAP Collective
A talented group of friends – welders, woodworkers, artists, and creatives who have been making beautiful things, building art, and integrating their work into the BM community throughout San Diego for the past couple of years.  Design team includes San Diego Community Members: Kelly Schott, Bryson Allen, Kristen Williams, Dawn Sardenas, Wiley Weldy. ASAP projects include: Kinetic fire sculpture, “Genesis“; Fire breathing, “Worm“; Venus firetrap, “Dionea“; and “The Punkin” Art Car.

2019 Collaborative Arts Grant – Traversing Through Dust

SDCAP is excited to share with you one of several projects headed to Burning Man that has been awarded a 2019 Collaborative Arts Grant! Look for updates to this post as fundraising and the build get underway.

Traversing Through Dust
Grant Awarded: $15,000
Lead Designer: Ramiro Martinez Jr.

Project Summary
Life can sometimes feel as though we are aimlessly traversing through the dust while we try to get to our destinations. The path is not always clear or visible, or for that matter, the path may not even exist. A bridge is defined as a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle. A bridge is also defined as a time, place or means of connection or transition. Traversing Through Dust aims to remind participants that the means for transition/bridges are ours to create. In the end the decisions and self-reflections we make, pave the path to where we want to be and whom we choose to become.

Physical Description
Out of the dust citizens of Black Rock City will see a metal bridge made up of 5 towers with 6 decks suspended from the towers. These decks will be made of wood and held up with lifting cable. Decks will start at ground level. They will rise to a height of 20 feet. The bridge will take up 6 sides of an octagon. Participants will be able to interact with lights which will be attached to the towers. The lights will produce shadows and trail effects that will cause participants to question their reality. Participants are encouraged to write on the structure about their experience at designated locations. Participants will be able to climb the structure.

MATH Collective
The MATH Collective is comprised of a talented group of individuals ranging from the fields of architecture, engineering, mathematics and electronics. Our Design team includes San Diego Community Members: Mark Anderson, Max Elliott, Diane Hoffoss, David Timms, Brenda de la Cruz, Jazmin Arredondo and Ramiro Martinez. Collective project experience includes the following projects, Wonderlust Arcade, Critter Art Car, Unfolding Humanity, Cabina Exuro, Caroushell, Quemaduras del Sol, Starfish, Isis Pyramid and The Journey. Our mission is to bring new experiences to the community using Architecture, Engineering and Electronics that evoke the minds of Participants.

 

Incoming 2019 Board Members

We recently wrapped our annual New Board Member Selection Cycle. Here’s an overview, by the numbers:

  • 6 open positions
  • Promoted  to our mailing list of 8k+ subscribers and posted on 5+ Facebook pages and groups
  • 4 applications received
  • 1 resurrected Community Advisory Vote in response to community complaints because did away with the Advisory Vote in 2018 due to low participation (back then ~25 people voted)
  • 2 ways to vote: online and in-person at a Town Hall
  • 1 Town Hall to conduct the interviews:
    • 3 out of 4 applicants attended
    • Approx. 12 community members attended
    • 6 people voted in person
  • 13 people registered and voted online
  • 19 total people voted
  • 6 current Board members reached consensus matching the Advisory Voting results
  • 3 shiny new Board members to be sworn in on 3/13/19:
    • Dan Reeves (who has been serving as an Interim Director since August 2018
    • Bob Syfrett
    • Ken Klausen

Thanks to everyone who participated and a huge thank you to our 3 new Directors for their willingness to serve!

The Best Laid Plans

If you’ve been keeping track, gentle reader, you know we had a plan. A lovely, well-paced plan to transition the YOUtopia production structure over the course of 2 years. We planned to keep things mostly the same for 2019, and use it as a transition year to prepare for the new structure in 2020. In order to keep things mostly the same, we needed to maintain the Co-Producer positions. But no one applied for the job. For some historical context, 2018 was the first year we had an open application process for the Co-Producer role and there were 3 applicants for 2 positions. In 2017 and earlier, outgoing Co-Producers more or less selected their successors. For a variety of reasons, that method was no longer sustainable, and we switched to open applications for 2018 and 2019.

When we realized we had no applicants for the Co-Producer roles, we decided to hold an open meeting to talk about the path forward. We invited everyone who’d previously reached out to us to express interest in YOUtopia 2019 leadership as well as prior Hub & Department Leads. The open meeting was held at CoLab on 1/17/19 and was comprised of the SDCAP BOD plus 10 people who’ve been in various YOUtopia  leadership roles. In the course of that meeting, we decided to forge ahead with the team model for 2019, a full year ahead of schedule.

We are jumping off the cliff and sewing the parachute on the way down.

Which bring us to the shiny new Production Leads Team Role Description and Application. We outlined the overall idea of the Production LeadsTeam in a prior post and the Role Description should offer some additional insight. We expect interested candidates to have a lot of questions about how it’s all going to work, and the best thing we can tell you is: start thinking about how you want to make it work. It’s a collaborative endeavor and it’s largely going to be up to the Production Leads Team to design itself: its culture, its policies & procedures, and its methods for accountability. Yes, the BOD is going to provide oversight (it’s literally our job), but the BOD is not the Production Team.

We’re excited about the implementation of a team model and look forward to seeing your applications. If you have any questions prior to applying, please email bod@sdcap.org.