The organizers behind the Pacific Coast Dream Machines charity fundraiser – one of the Coastside’s largest annual events – say they will not host a demolition derby this year in an effort to ease concerns by federal and county officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Half Moon Bay Airport officials scrutinized the event after last year’s popular demolition derby drew some complaints. FAA officials warned that the derby and other “motorized sports” weren’t appropriate for an airport zone. The new finding reportedly comes following an FAA environmental study that showed the potential for protected red-legged frogs in the area. Robert Lee, an FAA airport compliance specialist, warned in an email that the Half Moon Bay Airport could lose future federal grants if it hosted “inappropriate” events.
"A demolition derby is a serious departure from exotic auto display," he wrote. "This activity will be completely contrary to the promotion of the aviation business and should not be associated with aviation."
The loss of federal funds would be devastating to the local airport, which has received about $8 million in grants in the last five years, said Gretchen Kelly, airport manager.
“The FAA has been very, very helpful,” she said. “We have a good relationship, and when they say this isn’t compatible, we have to listen.”
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is set to consider permits for the Dream Machines event at a meeting on Tuesday morning. The Dream Machines discussion is expected at about 9 a.m. Tuesday in the supervisors’ chambers at 400 County Center in Redwood City.
The Coastside Adult Day Health Center, the nonprofit which benefits from Dream Machines, announced on Sunday it was voluntarily withdrawing the demolition derby from this year’s event. The organization also raised concerns that the FAA restrictions could force it to cancel other Dream Machines motorized sports and exhibitions, such as go-karts, big-wheel truck rides and motorcycle shows. Organizers plan to urge county supervisors on Tuesday to give the organization latitude for this year’s event.
The demolition derby proved a major draw for paying crowds at last year’s Dream Machines, and board members with the Coastside Adult Day Health Center had wanted to make the show a main attraction to help grow the fundraiser. It was also a lightning rod as some people in the community complained that it was out of character with the environment and the original nature of the event.
The competition involves drivers crashing junk cars into each other until they’re bashed to pieces and rendered inoperable. The driver of the last car still functioning is declared the winner.
A huge crowd cheered on the motorized mayhem last year, but some onlookers raised concerns soon afterward. Local environmentalists contended the event was noisy and disturbed nesting birds on the Midcoast. Those concerns and others resonated with county elected leaders, and supervisors Carole Groom and Don Horsley both said they couldn’t support a return of the demolition derby.
Horsley later relented and indicated he would support bringing back the demolition derby.