Santa Monica’s relatively new open streets festival saw a twenty percent decline in attendance in its second year, as 40,000 participants took advantage of a two-mile stretch of street space closed to cars for just one day in 2017.

The first COAST event coincided with the opening of the Expo Line in 2016, and drew about 50,000 people, according to staff estimates released as part of a staff report.

The City Council will decide the future of COAST Tuesday night, with staff members urging them to make it an annual event through 2020. The current 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 was held Sunday, Oct. 1 last year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The purpose of COAST is to be a distinctly Santa Monica community celebration that 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,” said the report by Karen Ginsberg, the director of community and cultural services department.

While staff considered shortening the route by removing Ocean Avenue or Main Street to concentrate activities, the length is required for Metro’s $149,000 grant that could support the festival in 2018, according to the report by Ginsberg.

“According to Metro, of all the open streets events that they fund, Santa Monica’s is one of the most successful. It also happens to be the shortest,” the report said.

Even with fewer folks walking, biking and skateboarding down Ocean Avenue, Colorado Avenue and Main Street, the success of COAST still dwarfed its predecessor, Santa Monica Festival, which drew about 12,000 people a year. Instead of hosting two festivals, the city began incorporating elements from Santa Monica Festival into COAST, including a performance stage and community resource booths.

Instead of booths, the staff is recommending nonstationary engagement along the route in 2018 such as a bike parade, interactive games, and other activities.

The festival came in under budget in 2017, costing about $390,000, with $150,000 of the funding coming from the Pedestrian Action Plan, grant money, and partner organizations. Staff is asking for $415,000 budget for 2018 to grow the event and allow for cost fluctuations. About $165,000 will come from the general fund.

During the event, the city surveyed 157 attendees and 83 percent said they felt more comfortable cycling, walking or using public transportation after the event.

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.

The Council will meet for a regular and special joint meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13 in City Hall Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street Room 213. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m.

kate@smdp.com

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