SM PIER — It’s been a rough year for large events at the Santa Monica Pier.
In January, City Council voted to downsize the popular Twilight Concert Series, beef up security, and add restrictions to pier events. Now, city officials have restricted guidelines for events at the Santa Monica Pier parking lot, including a requirement that all concert events with more than 500 attendees be sponsored or co-sponsored by City Hall or the Santa Monica Pier Corporation.
“During recent concert events on the Pier deck, large numbers of people (over 10,000) congregate on the beach on the south side of the Pier, the public sidewalks near the Pier and on the Pier itself, creating significant public safety concerns,” Director of Community and Cultural Services Karen Ginsberg wrote in a recent memo to council.
As an example she noted the Twilight Concert Series and Jack Black’s Festival Supreme, which was held last year and widely maligned. She also cited Pandora’s Back To School Night with pop star Iggy Izalea, which was held on Aug. 9, after the memo was written.
“The public sidewalks near the Pier are relatively narrow and often cannot accommodate significant crowds, especially the large crowds that simultaneously enter and exit concerts … ,” she said. “The streets adjacent to the Pier are arterial streets, which accommodate significant, vehicular and bicycle traffic. These busy streets leave no room at all to accommodate spill-over crowds.”
The pier itself, which is only 35-feet-wide in some places, is not designed for large crowds, Ginsberg said.
“Additionally, it has been shown in the past that concert events have had negative impacts on neighboring residents and businesses,” Ginsberg said. “City staff and Council members received complaints from south beach residential neighbors and merchants impacted by the traffic congestion, loss of parking on Ocean Avenue and the beach lots, as well as loud noise generated from the music on event day.”
Even with the council’s new Twilight Concert Series framework, which eliminated a beach-facing jumbotron and called for less big-name acts, “very large crowds have continued to gather on the beach during TCS concerts.
“And, those crowds continue to strain City resources,” she continued, “and detrimentally impact adjacent neighborhoods, City streets, the beach south of the Pier and beach parking lots.”
The changes implemented by city officials are meant to “right-size” future pier events.
Along with capping non-City Hall and Pier Corporation concerts at 500, city officials are reducing the number of events that can be held each season, and the number of events that can be held in a week.
“By changing the Community Event Site Guidelines for the Santa Pier Parking Lot to restrict the maximum number of participants at concert events to 500, with the exception of City and SMPC produced and co-produced concerts, staff will be better able to manage the impacts of large concerts on the community,” Ginsberg said.
The Pier Corporation, Ginsberg said, recognizes it may lose some revenue due to the size limitations. Council’s removal of the jumbotron, which projected advertising, also contributes to a loss of funding for the pier corporation.
Rum and Humble and RH&S Concerts (a partnership with Spaceland Presents) have produced a bulk of the pier events over the past four years.
Most of the events are co-produced with the Pier Corporation, said Martin Fleischmann of Rum and Humble.
“Since most of our work at the Pier falls into that category, I’m going to take it at face value and say that we don’t anticipate any major changes to those ongoing projects,” he said in an e-mail.
He hopes that the changes will have a negligible impact on his business.
Fleischmann alluded to broader issues with hosting events at the pier.
“We have, however, produced events from time to time on the Pier for clients such as Course of the Force (a charity event put on by Nerdist Industries and Make-A-Wish Foundation) and Pandora (the Iggy Azalea concert, which attracted about 1,500 people to the Pier deck and about 50 people to the beach below, contrary to the assumptions of Ms. Ginsberg’s information item),” he said. “Those clients, it seems, will no longer be able to bring their events to the Pier in the time frame that they desire so that will negatively affect our bottom line.”