The Third Street Promenade to me is a three-block long microcosm of the world. We have tourists from all over who come to enjoy the restaurants, shopping and free entertainment. I am, conservatively, on the promenade five times throughout the week. I am usually there from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and then almost every Friday evening. The variety of the acts and the carnival feel they bring to the street enhances immensely the experience in my opinion.
That said, we have to do something about the sound levels of the amplified artists, and the regulation of them by Santa Monica’s City Hall. I have spent too many evenings walking from Wilshire to Broadway being assaulted by a cacophony of sounds that are stepping on each other.
Each performer loses when they are stepping on each other, because that in turns means the environment is losing, due to the obnoxiousness of the competition. Which is precisely why the police, through their Community Service Officers (CSO), monitor the sound levels of the performers.
The goal is to allow the performers to express themselves, but not so much so that they exceed certain levels that would cause interference with the neighboring act. That’s the theory at least.
The reality is something different. As anyone who walks down the promenade can attest to, there is definitely an interfence between the performers.
I was curious about this, so I asked my friend Josh Vietti about it. He’s the pop violinist who always draws an admiring crowd of hipsters, young children and adults for his playful, upbeat, inventive musical stylings that combine the violin with pop rhythms.
He shared with me his experiences, having been metered on two occasions by the CSOs. They used a sound meter and measured the noise levels exactly one foot from his speaker using a ruler. They determined he was over the allowed level of 97 decibels (DBs) Monday through Friday and 107 on the weekends and holidays.
On each occasion he says he was under the allowed decibel level by 2 or 3 DBs just to be safe. Having known Josh for quite a while now, and having had my own run in with the CSOs and their flexible versions of the truth, I believe him.
Vietti’s defense to his notice of violations is that on both occasion there were performers next to him who influenced the decibel reading with their amplifiers.
“I couldn’t even hear myself playing it was so loud” says Vietti. He continued, “The word I would use to characterize the other performers levels would be ‘assaulting.’ There was a wall of sound assaulting the ears of the locals, tourists and vendors.”
In what can be characterized as nothing more than a blatant lie, the CSOs told Vietti that their sound readings isolate any other sound. Which would not be the first time that I have caught the CSOs in a lie, so it is not surprising to me that they would be dishonest.
Vietti has won in court on a previous citation for the same thing. The judge ruled that it was reasonable to assert that the noise from amplifiers next to him could influence the sound reading conducted on his speaker easily by 10 decibels or more, which anyone walking along the promenade knows.
The current rule on the promenade is that performers can set up 40 feet away from other performers. Often there will be four or five audio acts (singers, bands, instrumentalists, dancers) all 40 feet away from each other, all trying to outdo the act next to them by cranking up their amps often 10, 20 and 30 decibels over the allowed limits.
I think audio acts (whether singers, dancers, bands or instrumentalists) should have to be 80 feet away from other audio acts (two performer spots away) instead of 40 feet away. Let non-audio acts (any performer without an amplifier creating audio levels of music or for a microphone) be 40 feet away from any performer. This would create a much more pleasant environment.
When I proposed the idea of the acts being further apart, Vietti jumped on the idea like a dog on a meat-covered bone, “That would be awesome, I totally agree.”
So, spreading out the performers would increase the enjoyableness of the promenade, reduce the congestion in the courts with the frivolous citations by the CSOs, and free up the CSOs to do other work, like cite people for spitting on the sidewalk, which I really wish they would do. It’s a disgusting habit, against the law, and it’s disgusting to me that the CSOs don’t enforce it.
David Pisarra is a Divorce Attorney who specializes in Father’s Rights and Men’s Issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He is the author of the upcoming, “A Man’s Guide To Child Custody.” You can pre-order the book by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.