SM PIER — As attendance at the Twilight Dance Series increases, the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp. is looking to reorganize to accommodate more concert-goers each week.
Last week the Santa Monica Police Department added heightened security along the beach once the pier reached capacity and people began to overflow onto the sand. It was the first time many locals can remember such a strong police presence during the concert series, now in its 25th year.
“We’ve had huge crowds for the first two concerts this summer and it has forced us to reevaluate some of the things we’re doing,” said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pier Restoration Corp., which manages and promotes the pier.
The first two nights of this summer’s concert series have reached capacity early in the evening, something that Franz-Knight said doesn’t typically happen until later in the summer, which is why the SMDP has added new security measures.
“It’s getting more and more crowded,” said SMDP Sgt. Jay Trisler. “There are a lot of people coming down onto the sand area also and enjoying the shows from down there.”
Franz-Knight attributed the big crowds to the economic downturn. “We’ve had some great shows but I think people in a down economy are more excited and looking more for free events and community gathering spaces, and I think the concerts provide that,” he said.
Regulars at the Thursday night concerts will notice new barriers, orange cones that now form an X-shaped pathway along the beach below the pier. The path leads from the bike path along the beach, the steps to the pier, the beach and the area south of the pier and spans about 10 feet.
“The cone system is so people can walk through safely, a pathway for emergency vehicles and for people to get out,” Trisler said.
Officers present during the concerts will make sure those lanes are kept clear at all times and to remind concert-goers of the municipal codes governing the pier and beach areas — fires, unleashed animals, glass bottles, alcohol and smoking are prohibited.
“It’s been identified that there are some people violating the municipal codes,” Trisler said, adding that the number of police in attendance will vary based on the size and celebrity of the concert performers.
Mike Mendelson, manager of the Santa Monica Pier Bait and Tackle Co., said he has noticed a lot of people coming to the pier during concerts. Last week he had a hard time leaving his parking spot on the pier because the crowds forced many people to walk in the street.
“There’s definitely a lot of people but I don’t think it’s benefiting any of the tenants on the pier,” he said.
Though people are encouraged to listen to the music from the beach, Franz-Knight said he cannot cater the concerts toward those people due to the pier’s strict permits.
“I think there’s this anticipation built up about great sound from the beach, but as much as we’d love to please everyone on the beach, our permit doesn’t allow it,” he said.