Santa Monica City Council Makes Safety-Inspired Changes To Twilight Concert Series

Friday, 17 Jan 2014, 10:42:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

The format of the 2014 Twilight Concert Series will be changed to reduce the size of crowds.
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The format of the 2014 Twilight Concert Series will be changed to reduce the size of crowds.

Changes are in store for the Twilight Concert Series (TCS) courtesy

of a one-year pilot program unanimously approved Tuesday night by the

Santa Monica City Council.

In its first public meeting of 2014, the council authorized several

key changes to the TCS in hopes to making the event safer for attendees.

The pilot program would also “reposition” the TCS this year in order to make the event more community-based.

All seven council members in attendance approved a scaled down TCS

for 2014, which would do away with the jumbotron for the event’s

attendees on the sand but maintain the speakers, allow for the stage

position to be altered or moved while mitigating sound impacts on local

residents, and give the City some flexibility with signage on the pier

in order to allow for more sponsorship opportunities.

City Manager Rod Gould made it clear Santa Monica has no intention to

scrap the TCS but instead is aiming addressing public safety concerns.

The goal, he said, would be to shrink the event’s footprint to ensure

public safety but still provide attendees with an entertaining

experience despite a scaled-back TCS.

“This is a 30-year tradition in Santa Monica,” Gould told council

members. “I want to make very clear … this is not about recommending

elimination of a beloved tradition. It is raising serious public safety

issues. What we’ve noticed in the past year or so is we are beginning to

attract large crowds, many larger than any had seen for years before.

Our goal is to right size this concert series over time without diluting

its quality (and) its impact.”

Gould pointed out the 10 concerts during the 2013 TCS averaged 15,000

people, with an estimated two-thirds of them congregating on the sand

surrounding the pier. The largest concerts drew anywhere between 20,000

and 30,000 attendees, Gould stated.

One recommendation made my Gould and City staff: have the TCS focus

on emerging talent instead of national or mainstream audience, therefore

not attracting crowds of 20,000 or 30,000.

“When it gets that size, we have very serious public safety

concerns,” Gould told council members. “We must make certain that our

police officers, our paramedics, our firefighters, (and) our harbor

guards are able to intercede in case of emergency rapidly and

effectively. When the crowds get that large, it becomes highly


Another issue rose by Gould: the event is growing as such where more

people enjoy the TCS from the beach instead of on the pier. If a

majority of attendees take in the TCS from the sand instead of on the

pier, Gould said the concert series would essentially become a beach

event, which is prohibited under City law.

“Staff feels very strongly that we need to move back toward the

original conception of the Twilight Concert Series and that it be

community-based, and on the pier,” Gould said. “Yes, there would still

be people on the beach, but the focus of the activity would be on the

pier and the marketing would be Santa Monica, Westside, local.”

Gould also suggested as part of a one-year pilot program the TCS not

include a jumbotron and speakers for those attending the event on the

sand. However, the council vote only did away with the jumbotron for


One side effect of making the TCS smaller in size: the Pier

Restoration Corp. (PRC), which oversees the annual concert series, would

have a more difficult time raising funds for the event. Accordingly,

the City would have to subsidize about $200,000 to the PRC keep the

event running.

Santa Monica Fire Chief Scott Ferguson and Santa Monica Police Chief

Jacqueline Seabrooks also addressed the council about the public safety


Ferguson told council members the pier was not designed to be a

concert venue, but the Santa Monica Fire Department would make certain

adaptations to ensure people can still enjoy the TCS.

Ferguson added the capacity load for the entire pier is about 8,000.

For the TCS, the Fire Marshall established an occupancy load of 4,742,

which allows for chairs and standing room. For standing room only

events, the occupancy load is set at about 6,000.

In addition to public safety, the configuration and layout of the

stage and surrounding vendors would also be altered, the City staff

report stated.

Gap funding in the amount of $200,000 to the Pier Corporation is

recommended to mitigate some of the impacts of the framework. The City

would likely incur additional public safety costs, depending on the

scalable event plan.

The proposed pilot program also suggests TCS could focus more on

local or emerging talent instead of established artists of national or

international stature.

“One way to bring locals to the pier and create a sense of community

is to create programming with a local interest,” City staff stated.

“Booking emerging local talent, rather than a performer with established

name recognition or a regional, national, or international fan base,

would reinforce the TCS as a community-based event and likely draw a

crowd that could mostly fit within the revised deck capacity. Targeting

marketing efforts to Santa Monica and Westside-based communities and

outlets would help draw people who live and work in the area.”

The estimated budget for the 2014 TCS is $400,000. City staff

anticipates the event would earn about $225,000 in sponsorship funding.

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