The popular Twilight Concert Series will return in June with an abbreviated schedule as an effort to cut back on the exponential costs of the Santa Monica summer series.
Instead of ten concerts there will be eight and they will start earlier, in June instead of July, to compete less with the busy tourist season when City resources are already strained.
“From the standpoint of the crowd, we are still committed to amazing talent, fun activities, and the same iconic summer tradition we’ve always had,” Executive director Jay Farrand said in an email to the Daily Press confirming the shorter schedule.
The artists themselves have not yet been booked for the series but Farrand says “the talent and format will remain the same.” Organizers got a late start booking bands after on-going discussions with the City put an emphasis on a need to save money.
Organizers lament that the cost of policing the 32-year-old event has soared beyond the cost of actually producing the free concert series. To bring down the cost, organizers are looking to increase the ratio of private security to sworn officers since they cost about a third of the money to hire.
Back in 2007, just 16 officers guarded the event. But as the crowds swelled – approaching up to 40,000 at some concerts last year – the need for police swelled as well.
The Santa Monica Police Department schedules 150 officers to work the concerts, in addition to their usual staff to meet the needs of City residents. Most of those officers are working overtime. Many of them are actually deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The City’s five-year contract with LASD to assist with large events is for $1.3 million.
SMPD Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks recently noted the crowd often stretches so far away from the Pier it is doubtful many attendees can even hear the music.
“They are coming for the experience of Santa Monica,” Seabrooks said, noting the police department cannot predict when social media or internet buzz about a band may send people flocking to the Pier for a particular act.
Farrand says initial data indicates the crowds on the beach may not be as large as some estimates. This summer, organizers will be employing third-party auditors to more accurately count the number of people.
As a final nudge to placate the City, concert organizers are developing a traffic plan to reduce congestion on Colorado Avenue and Ocean Avenue and implementing a cleanup campaign to reduce trash.
“With soaring housing costs, inviting people of all backgrounds and incomes for an incredible free experience is more important than ever to the ethos of this community and reminds us why we live here,” Farrand said.