Food+Travel

Survival Guide: How to win 420 in Golden Gate Park

June 19, 2017
Survival Guide: How to win 420 in Golden Gate Park
David Downs
Survival Guide: How to win 420 in Golden Gate Park
SOURCE: David Downs

Golden Gate Park’s Underground Pot Party Goes Legit, Gets Permits and Food Trucks

San Francisco’s famously free-form 4/20 pot party, the annual pop-up smoke-out presently priming for upwards of 15,000 cannabis enthusiasts in Golden Gate Park on Thursday, will greet the legalization era sporting new constraints.

For the first time in its decades-long history -- heretofore without official organizers and experiencing ugly crowd behavior in recent years -- San Francisco’s underground high-holiday bash is going legit.

Deemed by Mayor Ed Lee to be on par with public pillow fights and Critical Mass bicycle rides, the amorphous April 20 gathering received permits for vital services from the Recreation and Park Department late last month.

Transformation of the stoner shibboleth from an after-school smoke sesh in 1971 into a full-fledged public festival (see official poster) featuring food trucks in 2017 comes with a modern-day price: regulations erecting gates and fences, and prohibitions against glass bongs, alcohol and children under age 18.

​Official 420 Hippie Hill event poster.
courtesy of ​Official 420 Hippie Hill event

Official 420 Hippie Hill event poster.

The regulations address growing concerns of the violence and hard-core drugs that have harshed 4/20’s mellow in recent years. Last year, eight people were arrested. A man wearing brass knuckles robbed two teenage boys. In 2015, someone smashed a bottle on a park ranger’s head, and two groups of men violently robbed people in the park. Five people were arrested in 2015, 11 in 2014. Four adults were ejected last year for bringing children.

This year, 4/20 has sponsors, a semblance of leadership and promises of much-needed amenities like medical and ambulance services, more portable toilets, increased security and park clean-up. And, of course, food trucks.

Party on, and smoke it if you’ve got it.

“The city recognizing the 4/20 event is a major marker along the road to the normalization of cannabis,” said Terrance Alan, a longtime San Francisco nightlife advocate who chairs a citizens’ committee advising city leaders on cannabis policy. “Good for San Francisco to show leadership and great for the cannabis community that it can tackle such a complicated event.”

Need to know more? Here’s a survival guide:


WHY IS 4/20 A THING?

4/20 honors stoner culture’s revered hour and minute, an afternoon social phenomenon and counterculture buzzword begun in 1971 by a group of Marin County high school buddies.

WHERE IS 420 ON HIPPIE HILL?

The 4/20 festival happens on Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow, located at the eastern end of Golden Gate Park between the tunnel near Haight Street and the children’s playground and the tennis courts.

WHAT IS THE HIPPIE HILL SCHEDULE?

Gates open at 9 a.m. By 2 p.m. Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow should fill up and likely will be bursting by 4:20 p.m., the day’s smoke-out climax. Gates close at 6 p.m.

WHERE ARE THE FENCES?

The fenced perimeter encompasses Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow, plus the tennis courts, bocce ball court, children’s playground and the carousel.

​The official 420 Hippie hill 2017 event map.
courtesy of ​the official 420 Hippie hill 2017 event.

The official 420 Hippie hill 2017 event map.

HOW DO YOU GET IN AND OUT?

There are two ways in and two ways out: There’ll be a gate at Kezar Drive and John F. Kennedy Jr. Drive. There’ll be a gate at the tunnel near Haight and Stanyan streets.

SO WHAT CAN I BRING?

Coolers smaller than 9x12”, your personal pot and consumption paraphernalia other than glass bongs. Pets are allowed on-leash. Bring sunscreen and water. (And extra sunscreen to sell or trade to the the unprepared.) Bring food. Bring sunglasses. Bring layers -- it'll be 62 and "sunny" in San Francisco Thursday. Bring your phone. Bring a blanket.

WHAT CAN'T I BRING?

Anyone under age 18. Because kids and drugs ain’t cool. Glass bongs and glass bottles. Because glass can break and jeopardize the public and park workers. No folding chairs, tables, tents or canopies. No alcohol, no barbecue grills, no coolers larger than 9x12”. No amplified sound equipment. No items for sale.

WHAT STREETS ARE CLOSED?

Police say some streets near the park will be closed but have not announced specifics. These streets were closed in 2016: Haight, Page and Waller streets between Masonic and Stanyan streets; Stanyan Street between Frederick and Oak streets; and Shrader Street between Beulah and Waller streets.

MASS TRANSIT OPTIONS

The preferred mode of transportation for day. The N Judah train (from Market Street and the Castro, and from Ocean Beach and the Inner Sunset) stops at Cole Street in Cole Valley, a half-mile walk from Hippie Hill. Buses stop closer to Golden Gate Park. From Market Street, take the 6 or 7 buses. North of the park, take the 43 bus to Masonic and Haight, then walk 5 blocks west to the park. The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency said it will run additional buses on these lines Thursday.

RIDE SHARE OPTIONS

Here’s something else to mull if surge pricing starts at 4:21 p.m. Thursday: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, the masters of Muni, say Lyft and Uber make street traffic worse.

420 HIPPIE HILL PARKING

Drive if you must. This is your warning. Mind posted time limits if you park in surrounding neighborhoods or on the park’s streets. Don’t park on sidewalks or in driveways. Avoid parking paranoia and try the park’s 800-space garage beneath the Academy of Sciences nearby in the park. Enter at Fulton Street and 10th Avenue. Return for your car before the garage closes at 7. Rates are $5 an hour or $29 all day, about $40 less than a parking ticket.

CAN I SMOKE IN THE PARK?

Smoking pot in the park is illegal but laissez faire enforcement is expected for the day. (Don’t ask how this is any different from any other day of the year. Just accept the opportunity to toke with implied impunity.)

WHAT'S THERE TO EAT?

There will be food trucks inside and outside. As for edibles, edibles are cool. Try micro-dosing, and drink lots of water.

IS THERE BATHROOMS?

Forget about urinating or defecating in the bushes. Thanks to private sponsors, the event’s website promises there will 11 portable toilet locations inside and outside.

HOW DO I ACT RIGHT?

There have been violent incidents and arrests in recent years, and what should be a mellow mood has been marred by thuggery and assaults. Watch 4/20 miscreants on YouTube but don’t be one. Behave yourself and control your friends. We want to have this party for years to come.

IF YOU NEED MEDICAL HELP

Ambulances and EMT crews will be standing by.

WILL POLICE BE THERE?

The San Francisco Police Department doesn’t disclose staffing numbers but said more officers will patrol this year’s pot party. Expect an anti-alcohol dragnet.

WHO TO CALL? COPS’ 4/20 HOTLINE

If you live in, have a businesses in or are just parking and walking in a neighborhood bordering the northern end of Golden Gate Park, the SFPD’S Park Station will staff a “420 Hot-Line” for quality-of-life complaints (noise, drug sales, public urination, etc.). Call (415) 242-3060 or (415) 242-3061 between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday; SFPD says the digits will also be good for non-emergency police assistance requests in the vicinity.

SCAM ALERT

Avoid the bogus Eventbrite web page advertising $20 tickets to something called Hippy Hill. The real 4/20 festival is free and unticketed and happens on Hippie Hill

CAN I BRING STUFF TO SELL?

Only authorized vendors allowed.

DO NOT LITTER, PLEASE

Your trash. Look for trash receptacles and use them. Because last year it took four days and cost the city $80,000 to pick up 11 tons of trash strewn by inconsiderate stoners.

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE HOME?

All personal items that you bring with you. Because see above. Also -- sunburns, hazy memories, questionable selfies.

WHO ARE THE SPONSORS?

Alex Aquino, owner of Haight-Street clothing boutique Black Scale, secured the first-ever permits and has spearheaded sponsorships. Cookies SF, the Haight Street store that sells cannabis-branded hoodies, t-shirts, accessories and gear, is a sponsor, as is Haight Street streetwear and skateboard hardware shop Diamond Supply Co. and medical cannabis dispensary The Green Door.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO?

Check out our Bay Area 420 Events Mega-Guide for our best bets.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?

The event launched a Facebook page last week, updated its website and tweeted for the first time early Monday.

Any questions? Email us at ddowns@sfchronicle.com