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Hiatus Recommended for Popular 'Twilight' Concert Series on Santa Monica Pier


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 11, 2017 -- Santa Monica’s “Twilight Concerts on the Pier” might be put on hiatus next year as City officials scramble to deal with an overwhelming increases in crowds, costs for policing and the clean-up of tons of post-party trash.

A staff report going before the City Council Tuesday urges the 2018 “Twilight” series next summer be canceled while City officials decide its long-term future.

Basically, the free concert series has outgrown itself, and the City’s ability to cope, the report said.

The hiatus would give the City time "to re-evaluate the purpose and value of the concert series," said Andy Agle, director of Housing and Economic Development, and the Office of Pier Management.

The breather would allow the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, the City and others with a stake in the event, including concert goers, to decide on “timing, scope and funding in the future, Agle wrote.

It could be worse, he noted.

“While suspending the 2018 TCS may be unpopular to many in the community and region who consider the series a cherished part of their summer tradition, a one-season hiatus, rather than a complete cancellation of the event, would provide the City, community and the SMPC with adequate time to plan and consider an alternative program,” his report said.

In recent years, residents, public safety officials and others have complained about the traffic, noise and other problems created by the crowds streaming into downtown for the Thursday summertime concerts.

But it was this summer’s record-breaking crowds that seemed to doom Twilight in its current form as it started its 33rd year.

Rising teen R & B singer Kid Khalid drew such an enormous swarm -- mostly comprised of teenagers -- the crowd spilled from the Pier (which only has a capacity of 4,300 people far into the beach, raising concern that even the smallest misstep would trigger a stampede ("Santa Monica Mayor Says Crowds Could Bring End to Twilight Concert Series," June 27, 2017).

Officials had already tried to downsize the concert series, but to no avail ("Santa Monica Wants to Scale Down Pier Concerts," January 9, 2014).

The series still “attracted large audiences that compromised public safety, impacted residents and businesses on, and adjacent to the Pier and strained City resources, costing in excess of $1 million, nearly $400,000 over the amount Council budgeted,” Agle said.

The “Twilight” series started decades ago as a way to draw people back to the Pier, rebuilt after a series of devastating storms in 1980s.

Over the years, the series (which started as dancing under the tents at the site of the former La Monica Ballroom) evolved from its initial goal of being a mostly local attraction to one of the hippest and most popular such events in the region.

As concert goers started spilling onto the beach south of the Pier, the Santa Monica Pier Corporation (SMPC), as well as its predecessor, Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation, installed speakers and a jumbotron video screen to broadcast the concerts to the beach, Agle’s report said.

Although there have been no significant safety incidents to date, the report said, “nighttime crowd control efforts on the beach are intensive and challenging, and divert resources from the rest of Santa Monica.

“Many concertgoers on the beach engage in prohibited activities such as drinking alcohol and smoking, and often leave glass bottles buried in the sand," the report said.

Additionally, the location makes “both potential emergency response and evacuation of large groups of people problematic at best.

“In light of the tragic litany of national and international incidents of gun violence and terrorism that target vulnerable crowds, all these factors add to deep and growing concern from the City’s Police and Fire Departments.,” Agle said.

Meanwhile, after-concert clean-up is increasingly expensive and “staff intensive,” he said.

Beach maintenance staff reported an average of ten tons of trash collected after each concert, with 15 tons collected after the first concert of the 2017 series.

The problem was so bad that crews had “to replace the sand in the area because it had become degraded with trash and overuse,” the report said.

The Thursday night concert series has also resulted in community complaints about traffic and street congestion in surrounding areas, with traffic and street closures impeding access for residents and patrons of neighboring businesses.

Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), the agency that oversees the city's central business district, reported that TCS caused concerning disruption for workers, residents and businesses in and around downtown.

The SMPC’s cost for the production of the free concert series totaled about $690,000 for 2017, which was almost entirely sponsor-funded and included private security personnel.

Nonetheless, the City shelled out an extra $1,055,672 for additional police and fire personnel, traffic control, and clean up on the beach and in downtown.
Of the total, $965,857 was for police- and fire-related expenses.

It represented a sharp jump in City costs compared to 2016, Agle said.

The 2016 season was comprised of 10 concerts and the cost per concert to the City on average was $96,698 for police and fire services.

The 2017 TCS season was comprised of eight concerts, yet the same cost per concert increased 25 percent to $120,732 on average.


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