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Santa Monica 'Twilight' Concert Series on Pier Survives Proposal for 2018 Hiatus
By Niki Cervantes
December 13, 2017 -- On Tuesday, Santa Monica’s “Twilight Concerts on the Pier” survived a recommended hiatus to help the City deal with overflow crowds and the dangers to those deep on the beach, beyond the reach of police protection.
But the City Council’s vote was also intended to close a chapter for “Twilight,” which transformed in recent years from a cozy local event on Thursday evenings to a revved-up must-go destination regionwide.
“No one is suggesting we drive a stake through its heart,” said Council Member Gleam Davis as the council debated the one-year break City staff requested as a way to get a handle on an event too big for the small City -- and its police and fire departments -- to handle.
“I’m looking for a middle,” she said.
Council Member Kevin McKeown, however, said decisive action was needed.
“What we need to do is hit the re-set button,” he said. “We need to reboot this baby.”
Instead of approving a one-year break, the council voted unanimously on changes starting next year -- when Twilight turns 34years old -- to downsize and essentially re-brand the concert series.
Included is shifting Twilight from summer to fall, cutting the total number of performances to no more than six, and re-orienting the staging so audiences head for the pier, instead of the surrounding sands.
The motion also said the evenings -- popular for their eclectic mix of music genres and performers -- should retain their “original spirit,” but also broaden their appeal to include “culturally-oriented” concerts.
And the series was put on a strict budget. The 2017 season alone racked up $800,000 in unanticipated costs for City police, a report to the council said.
Next year, the City is allotting $400,000 for those costs. If “Twilight” surpasses that figure at any time, operations will be suspended, the council said.
Tuesday’s vote came after hours of testimony from dozens of community members urging the council to keep the series intact, despite its crowds and the congestion created in a beach front area already packed during summer, the tons of trash left behind and -- mostly -- the potential perils to safety.
Evan Spiegel, the billionaire CEO of Snapchat, which sponsored the 2017 Twilight season, offered to donate $1 million personally to help the City with its extra law enforcement costs.
“Did you bring your checkbook?” McKeown joked.
Interim Fire Chief Kenneth Semko told the council the concert crowds spilled so far onto the beach that they would be almost impossible to reach quickly in the dark, and that even a minor mishap could escalate into chaos as a result.
“I have nightmares about that,” he said.
But one 13-year-old girl told the council she’d been going to the concerts with her parents “since before I was born," and that her memories are of always feeling safe and happy.
"I'm glad it has been a family tradition," she said. “When someone asks what makes Santa Monica so good, I tell them about the concerts. Please, don’t take that away.”
Others spoke of the individual connections between people the concerts forge, unusual in a society so immersed in impersonal technology, they said.
“It’s a place where everyone can get together,” another resident, and loyal Twilight fan, said. “We have something very, very special here.”
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