The California Incline is slated to open on Sept. 1, which is great news for the city and, more importantly, for the future of the Twilight Concert Series. Diverting traffic from the Pacific Coast Highway onto Ocean Avenue has been putting additional pressure on an already congested bottleneck. On Thursday nights the outflow of traffic has been exacerbated by the traffic patterns and the City has responded with putting in place additional officers and traffic diversion patterns that help slightly but don’t resolve the situation.
The great success of the Twilight concerts this year is a blessing and a curse. It’s great for the businesses that see an uptick in customers, like Casa Martin, Bruno’s, Chez Jay and Big Dean’s. There’s been many a Thursday this summer that I wanted to grab dinner after working out and there was not a seat available at either Casa Martin or Bruno’s.
To a degree, that’s the point of the concerts — to bring people to the city and increase not just awareness but also business. It’s great for us to be supporting our local restaurants and retailers with this type of event. I haven’t been able to find out if a study has been done to track the dollars that are generated — maybe the Pier Commission has this info, or Santa Monica Travel and Tourism might. It’d be good to know, but I’m pretty sure it’s a big number.
Then there’s the expense that must be examined. This number is also going to be a big number and given the record crowds we’ve had this year it’s sure to be much higher than in prior years. As I watch the traffic officers set up cones and diversions to deal with the traffic I’m adding up the costs. Hourly wages and overtime mean additional staffing and administrative costs that are incurred.
I noticed last week extra police from Culver City were around; I assume that we have to reimburse those costs. There must also be some insurance costs to all of this for the increased risks that go up with each increase in attendance.
Crowds of humans can make huge messes and those messes have to be cleaned up. If you have ever walked by the beach after everyone has left you see the huge amount of detritus that is left for someone else to clean up. Among the pizza boxes and beer bottles and dirty diapers, there are the ever-present cigarette butts and burger wrappers that have to be cleaned out by our sanitation staff.
This, of course, is nothing new — it’s been like that for the last 20 years I’ve been attending these concerts. The issue really is in scope of mess that is being created. Back when this was a small local event, most of us cleaned up after ourselves leaving a small amount of trash for the City to clean up. But what I have noticed lately is that, as the crowds grow and it becomes easier to walk away from your trash, people are less responsible because they can hide amongst the crowd.
Many people are complaining about how crowded the concerts are. They’re saying the concert are no longer enjoyable. I understand that there is a sense of nostalgia for the way things used to be, but that is no reason to end, or stop enjoying, the concerts.
It’s been reported that we have 30,000 to 40,000 people each week at these concerts. That’s a large population that is being exposed to the city and the beach on a regular basis. Over the course of a year, if 10 percent of those people come back and spend an additional $150 in our restaurants and movie theaters, that’s about $3.6 million.
Now I understand that the city’s revenues and the city’s expenses are not offset by that privately spent $3.6 million, but expenses could be offset by additional sponsorship deals. It strikes me that in a city as connected as we are to the entertainment world, we should be able to figure out a way to have the concert series be a major revenue source and self-supporting for all of its expenses.
I’d hate to see the concerts end because of something as easily fixable as money. I’ve heard that there are safety concerns a la the fireworks displays we used to have, but those too are overblown in my opinion and I don’t want to live in a constant state of fear that the nervous nellies would have us live in.
The concerts are an excellent event for the city, its businesses and its residents. We should do all we can to keep the series free, open to the public and going long into the future.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-664-9969. Follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.