Busted? Lawyers For Burners Can Help You Beat The Rap

Lawyers For Burners gave an interview on BMIR today, with some useful information.

lawyers for burnersIf you get a citation at Burning Man, please contact Lawyers for Burners. More than 2/3rds of citations at Burning Man are for drugs. If you just pay the fine, you will have a drug offense permanently on your record. If you show up in court, or send a lawyer on your behalf, you are almost certain to be able to plea-bargain the offense down so the drug aspect is removed.

Court appearances are November, December, January in Reno.

Every person in the past has been offered the opportunity to plea bargain it down from a drug offense, usually to a traffic offense. The fine may be reduced also.

Drug offenses are handled by the BLM. Pershing County Sheriff’s department may be involved for other offenses.

Lawyers for Burners can recommend a lawyer who will appear for you for $200. Their recommendations are lawyers who are part of our community. They are very experienced with Pershing County, which is a small jurisdiction, with only a few lawyers who regularly appear.



How Much For That Ranch In The Desert?

The Black Rock Beacon published a story about the Burning Man Founders’ cash out. The $10 million figure they use seems very much on the low side, unless it is per director. See The Great BMOrg Cash Out $28-45 million post – so far, no-one has attempted to dispute the calculations from our guest author A Balanced Perspective. These calculations did not include the estimated $2.5 million per year in royalties paid to Decommodification LLC, a private company owned by the founders which in 2017 will probably be sold back to themselves (ie., another entity in their complex web of for-profit and tax-free companies). This transaction is by no means a done deal, since the directors still have the power to vote against the transfer.

The cash out numbers we have estimated do not include any rent the organization pays for the use of their Nevada work ranch and other properties. This year, just before the announcement that Burning Man had finally “completed” their transition to a non-profit, the ownership of the Gerlach ranch was transferred to yet another private company in their complex, non-transparent corporate web.

Santafemous did some investigation of this property:

Beginning in 1999, Burning Man had a 10 year lease on an 80 acre parcel they called The Work Ranch (80 Jackson Way) and, in 2001,they purchased 200 acres next door (88 Jackson Way) called Black Rock Station.

“…this property originally served as a landing zone for all the stuff left on the playa after every event..the years of stuff now amount to an unorganized tract of land. We will completely remove and relocate operations to Black Rock Station…because Washoe County Community Development isn’t happy with some conditions on the property.”

…Some of the…properties are, “Black Rock Station (a fully functioning work ranch), the Gerlach Office, “Helen’s House”, the Black Rock Social Club and the Gerlach Showers. From these properties, Burning Man uses these properties for administrative operations, supplies storage, and staff support facilities.”

work ranch burning_man2

aerial view burning_man_80_acres

In a 2008 permit application, the ranch at 88 Jackson Lane was owned by Black Rock City, LLC

On January 9 2014, the title was transferred from Black Rock City LLC to Black Rock City Properties LLC for $0. On March 3, 2014, BMOrg announced the completion of their non-profit transition.

Black Rock City Properties LLC was formed at the end of 2013, presumably for the sole purpose of this real estate transfer. It has the same address as Burning Man’s HQ. Black Rock City LLC is listed as the managing member. Will Roger is the only listed director. This is different from Gerlach Holdings LLC, which lists all 6 founders as officers  – does anyone know what that company does?

So just before they announced they’d fully transitioned to a non-profit (which later turned out to be not true), they shifted the real estate holdings out of one company in their group, and into another. Why?

The government valuation information on the work ranch is:

2013/2014 Fair Value

$582,177 taxable

$203,762 assessed

Gerlach real estate is only going one way: down. Dramatically so.

2014/2015 Fair Value:

$487,244 taxable

$170,535 assessed

They purchased the property in 2001 for $70,000. In 2013 the taxable improvement value was $550,177.

Does Black Rock City LLC pay rent to Black Rock City Properties LLC? Although there is no direct evidence either for or against that, I think it is a reasonable assumption. The IRS Form 990 filings from the non-profits show that both Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Burning Man Project pay rent. Since both organizations are housed at BMHQ, this establishes the precedent that BMOrg is cross-charging rent (and other expenses) across its various entities. Occupancy was $5500 in 2012 for BMP, and $12,900 for BRAF. Office Expenses were $9,497 and $26,390 respectively.

The rent charges skyrocketed (62%) at the same time that BMOrg announced their transition plan, 2011. They’ve been growing dramatically every year since.

Rent (from Afterburn reports):

2013    $732,900

2012    $615,944

2011    $444,000

2010    $274,000

2009    $167,000

2008    $236,000

2007    $281,000

In 2013, Burning Man moved its headquarters from 3 floors of a $17 million building in Market Street, to a building in the Mission. Here are the details on that building from LoopNet:


660 alabama

The 2 lower floors are 11,555 square feet each; level 4 is 15,000 square feet. Burning Man’s headquarters address is Level 4, 660 Alabama Street.

Burning Man took up 3 floors in their Market Street offices. The floors there are 4500 square feet each.

Consolidating the work force onto a single floor that is slightly larger seems to make sense. The top floor at 660 Alabama has high ceilings, as you can see in the photos here. There are stairs in the offices, but these seem to go to a mezzanine, rather than to one of the lower floors.

bmhq stairs

bmhq mezzanine

This page from 2010 lists the rent for the upper 3 floors of the building at $65,100 per month.

Assuming the lower floors are priced less than the penthouse, a reasonable estimate for the rent is half the total: $32,550 per month.

Rents in San Francisco have been steadily increasing over the last few years, so let’s factor in 10% growth per year. This brings us to $43,000 per month by 2013, or $520,000 per year.

From the 2013 Afterburn report, total rent of premises was $732,900.

So my estimate is about $200,000 per year goes to rent the Nevada properties. If this ends up in the pockets of the founders, then this is another $1.5 million or so over their 7-year cashout. Presumably this is a revenue stream that will continue as long as the event is held on the Playa.

If the money doesn’t go to the founders, then why would they transfer the real estate holdings out of Black Rock City LLC, before transferring Black Rock City, LLC to the Burning Man Project? If the properties needed to be transferred at all, why not transfer them directly to the Burning Man Project? Why form yet another private, secret corporation?

If all the rent simply goes to the HQ building, then that is more than $60,000 per month. The company claims 30 full time employees and contractors, so they would be paying $2,000 per person, per month. Even in rent-hungry San Francisco, in the hipster Mission District, that seems unfathomably high.

Another possibility is that Burning Man rented the whole building, which lists the expenses on the Afterburn financial chart, and then sublets the other floors. Revenue data is not shown in the Afterburn reports, all we have to go on is Maid Marian’s claim of $30 million per year. This scenario still does not explain the last minute transfer of real estate holdings to another private company.

As always, if anyone else has other data, or a different take on the math, please share.

ranch burning_man4

29 Hours in Line; Only Half Made it in Before Closure

John Curley has provided an update from Media Mecca HQ. Last year, there were 55,000 people in Black Rock City by midday Tuesday. This year was a lot less:

giant feathers

photo: John Curley

The sun had come out by midafternoon, and the puddles started drying up, and there were rumors that Gate Road would soon open up. That apparently happened around 6 pm for the people who had been stuck between the gravel of Route 34 and the entry gates. After those people made it into the city, traffic control people started telling the folks who were stuck out on the highway that it was safe to travel. Then the ok was given to the people in Gerlach, then presumably the green light extended all the way to the 447 exit off of Route 80.

We heard stories of the spontaneous parties of people trying to make the most of being stuck, of being participants at Waiting Man, and we also heard of horror tales of the hours it took to get through the lines. Louder Charlie said he heard the longest it took for one person  to make it from Gerlach to Black Rock City was 29 hours. Oof.

The population at midnight the night before last [Sunday] was 27,900; by midnight last night [Monday], there were 38,400 people in Black Rock City. So a little better than 11,000 folks made it through the gates by midnight Monday, the day of the big rain. But last night the city still felt small and intimate. That might have been because the recent arrivals were still setting up their camps, not going out and about.

photo: John Curley

photo: John Curley

…We finally made our way out to the Man and wandered around the tent-like souks for a bit. The souks really were a philosophical and aesthetic risk this year; there was a lot of affection and community-building around the Regional Projects, which the souks effectively replaced. But for us the move worked on two levels; the playa area around the Man felt more open and spacious, giving the Man the space he needed to have the most impact. Plus, the souks created a gathering place at the base of the Man. It very much felt like we were in a marketplace, at least of ideas, as we were making our voyage. Canvassary, indeed.

Read the full article here.

This means that there were at least 30,000 Burners who couldn’t get in because of the rain.

People on social interwebz watching the live video feed have been wondering what happened to all the art this year. In past years, Burners from official regional events have created art for CORE – the Circle Of Regional Effigies. These statues were placed on the Playa around The Man, and were burned on Thursday night. Last year there were 24, in 2012 there were 34. This year they have been replaced with one giant fuck-off effigy, the 120-foot tall Burning Man. There can be only one, as they say in Highlander. Back in the day, we used to burn everything – big art, small art, camp structures, items symbolizing things we wanted to let go of. Now, it seems the energy of the 70,000 strong event (which happens in the middle of a pentagram) is being directed to 2 major burns, both controlled by BMOrg: The Man and the Temple. From a spiritual/magickal perspective, this is very significant.

The scale of The Man and Embrace also contributes to the perception that the Playa is empty. There are actually a ton of art pieces visible in the UStream feed, but most seem pretty minor. It’s only when someone is standing next to one or cycling past that you realize that even these small art pieces are really rather large. Most of the camera shots feature the Man or Embrace, which dwarf everything around them. Last year’s Control Tower was one of the biggest things on the Playa and it seems to be back, turned into a climbable observation platform. If that is the same basic structure as last year (and why wouldn’t it be), it definitely looks small in the shadow of the Giants.

tomas embrace

photo: Tomas Loewy

The “live traffic updates” from @bmantraffic ended at midnight Tuesday:




Tuesday Afternoon Update: All Systems Go

Some updates via BMIR:

caravansary tapeThe gate and all roads leading to the festival are open. Travel times are:

Wadsworth to Gerlach 1:48

Gerlach to gate 0:15

Highway to Gate 2:00-3:00

Will Call wait time is unknown. Go to the bathroom before you line up, you could be standing for a while.

Make sure you fill your gas tank before heading in. The chaos of entry will have caused many Burners to use more gasoline than expected, meaning it could be  a clusterfuck of epic proportions on the way out. Last we heard was Gerlach was out of gas but Empire had some, if anyone has recent information please update us.

Black Rock City is full from 6:30 to 10:00. There is plenty of room on the 2:00 side. Proving that most Burners are there to rage.

The airport is fully functional, as of 1:45pm both runways are open.

art burner-plane1



iP-RampartThere is a police station staffed 24/7 next to Rampart (the Medical center). We hear one medical emergency this year was a Burner being struck by lightning during one of the storms.

sheriff stuckThe cops will be having a big procession to the Temple on Wednesday afternoon for a fallen officer, so if you see a bunch of cop cars in a big line, that’s what’s going on. Please be respectful, they are part of this city too.

The police are encouraging Burners to interact with officers, say hello, be friendly. They realize that the majority of the population are taking drugs. They are not actively looking for narcotics, but if they notice you smoking a joint in front of them they have to cite you. Remember you’re on Federal land, you’re not in San Francisco or Seattle or Denver! You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your tent or RV.

They have never given a citation for riding a bicycle too fast, which might be difficult anyway this year given the Playa condition. Speed limit for all other vehicles within Black Rock City is 5 MPH.

The officers at Black Rock City work 12 hour shifts a day, and do not get any time off to wander the city as civilians – their bosses worry that they wouldn’t show up for work the next day. The supervisors are working 16 hour shifts, which is to be commended.

Rampart workers also work 12-hour or more shifts. 

embrace 2014