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Santa Monica Mayor Says Crowds Could Bring End to Twilight Concert Series

 
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Reporter

June 27, 2017 -- The highly popular Twilight Concert Series on the Pier may end soon if officials can't quickly “downsize” the growing crowds, Santa Monica Mayer Ted Winterer said Monday.

The warning came after crowds mushroomed to an estimated 60,000 people at last Thursday's opening concert, prompting public safety concerns.

“That's simply not a sustainable turnout for what was originally supposed to be an event for locals rather than a regional draw,” Winterer said.

“We cannot adequately provide for the public safety with that many people on the beach and have only budgeted so many dollars to address the impacts of this summer's concert series.”

A spokesperson for City police said the crowd -- much of it teenaged and drawn by Khalid, a rising R&B star -- was well behaved ("Santa Monica Pier Concert Series Kicks off with Contrasting Views of Teen Years," June 19, 2017). .

But with such a packed audience, it would not have taken much to create a dangerous turn of events, said SMPD Lt. Saul Rodriquez.

“All it takes is one thing to happen,” Rodriquez said. “We definitely could have used more (police officers). The crowd was too large.”

Large crowds at the carousel gate caught the attention of police.

“There was too much compaction,” Rodriguez said. “It has to be orderly so people can’t get hurt (or) can’t be trampled.”

Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks was also extremely worried, he said.

Crowding grew so extensive that police tweeted a warning to the public to stay away from the area. Officials said they had anticipated a bigger audience for the concert and had taken precautions, including using more security guards and ushers.

Police and others were already huddling Monday to determine what changes need to be made before this Thursday’s Twilight concert.

Rodriquez declined to say how many officers worked the concert, but said it will be decided if more are needed. One problem, he noted, was that the concert-goers were so concentrated as they entered the Pier that trampling could have become a problem.

The Pier itself has a capacity of about 7,500 people, so most of the crowd spilled out beyond it.

Some residents are expressing increasing frustration about the throngs who stream into the city for the Twilight series.

Mayor Winterer, who learned of the concert’s estimated attendance after returning from a vacation in the Alaska wilderness, said he would not support additional funding to boost policing at the series, which kicked off its 32nd year.

“If those funds are depleted midway through the summer, I'm personally not prepared to allocate additional monies which could be better spent in community priorities such as reducing homelessness, funding early childhood education and keeping rent-burdened seniors in their homes.”

“So unless the Pier Board and Jay Farrand (executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation) can find a way to quickly downsize attendance we may well have seen the end of these concerts,” he said.

Other city leaders were also upset.

“As much as I’m concerned about disproportionate impacts on residents, I’m even more concerned about public safety,” said Council Member Kevin McKeown.

“Thursday’s Khalid the Kid crowd was young, well-behaved for the most part, and extremely vulnerable,” McKeown said. “Parents and families entrusted us with their young people for a safe night of music at the beach, and we let them down.

“I am 100 percent with Chief Seabrooks that the planning by the Pier for last week’s event was insufficient and irresponsible.”

Council Member Terry O’Day had a more measure response.

“I will be waiting for the threat assessment and input from our safety professionals,” O’Day said. “The pier concerts are very beloved, as the turnout indicates, and I remain hopeful that solutions will be presented to address safety concerns.”

Last summer, the concert’s crowds were reportedly increasing, with estimates as high as 40,000 people.

At one point, City Manager Rick Cole blogged last summer that the growing popularity of the free Thursday night concerts contributed to record congestion downtown.

By one account, the City’s cost for hosting and providing security for the event has risen dramatically as well, hitting about $950,000 this year.

As recently as 2013, the cost of security for the City was reportedly about $50,000, with average attendance of about 13,000 people per show.

This summer’s series is scheduled to continue until August 18.

 


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