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Santa Monica City Council Votes to Continue COAST Festival as Attendance Drops

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 16, 2018 -- Undaunted by a 20 percent drop in attendance in the second year of its car-free COAST Open Streets festival, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday voted to continue the event annually through 2020.

Council members advised COAST’s organizers to start looking beyond the “usual suspects” to entice more people to attend -- especially senior citizens -- and possibly moving the event away from the coast in the future.

“It’s important to give (neighborhoods) a shot at the spotlight,” said Council Member Kevin McKeown.

COAST was inaugurated in 2016 to coincide with the excitement around the May 20 2016 debut of the Metro expansion of the Expo Line into downtown Santa Monica, as well as the opening of the Colorado Esplanade ("Santa Monica Celebrates New Expo Line, Carless Alternatives," June 7, 2016).

By closing a two-mile stretch of roadway downtown to vehicles, the event is meant to help sell the public on ditching personal vehicles for bicycles, walking or using trains or buses. It also includes art and other festivities.

The route includes Main Street from Marine Street to Colorado Avenue, Colorado between 4th Street and Ocean Avenue, and Ocean between Colorado and Wilshire Boulevard. The event took place on October 1 last year, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year’s COAST festival attracted about 40,000 people, down from about 50,000 visitors its first year.

In its unanimous vote, the council agreed to keep the same route for the time being, and to re-evaluate the entire event at the five-year mark.

In its initial year, COAST cost $354,000 was funded by multiple sources, including a grant from Metro, funds from the Office of Communications and money previously used for the Santa Monica's Festival, an annual spring celebration in Clover Park, staff said.

Last year’s event cost $393,000, and 2018’s festival is budgeted for a minimum of $415,000, although spending could rise to $450,000 if outside funding can be found, staff said.

Nonetheless, the event is still short of funding, with gaps of up to $250,000 in 2019 and 2020.

Karen Ginsberg, the director of community and cultural services department, said COAST is meant to be "a distinctly Santa Monica community celebration."

The event, she said in her report, "uses art to transform two miles of city streets into a fun, car-free experience that empowers people to take action against climate change, embrace a pro-planet lifestyle and experience the city on foot and bicycle.”

The event is planned by the Cultural Affairs Division, Mobility Division, Office of Sustainability and the Environment and the Office of Communications, adding up to nearly 200 city staffers working at the festival.

Staff also hired a production team Community Arts Resources to produce the events in 2016 and 2017 ("Santa Monica Poised to Spend Nearly Half a Million on Expo Party," March 21, 2016).


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