SM PIER — Hoping to salvage the popular free summer concert series held annually at the Santa Monica Pier, the City Council Tuesday night unanimously agreed to give $35,000 to the series organizers.

The gift leaves the Pier Restoration Corp. with a $57,000 shortfall it hopes to bridge with private donations.

After most sponsors of the Twilight Dance Series drastically reduced their contributions in the past two years, the PRC last week announced it was $92,000 short of the amount it needs to put on even a scaled-back version of the event.

For the past 25 years the series, paid for with a combination of PRC money and contributions from sponsors, has consisted of 10 free concerts featuring acts like Joan Baez, Los Lobos, Fallout Boy, Patti Smith and Dick Dale. The remaining $57,000 the PRC is trying to raise would pay for a series of seven concerts, the group said.

With the deadline to book musical acts approaching, members of the council and others on Tuesday night urged local residents and businesses to send in donations to the PRC, calling the concert series one of Santa Monica’s signature events.

“The Twilight Dance Series really defines the summer for so much of Santa Monica,” said Roger Genser, a Landmarks Commission member. “The quality needs to be maintained and that requires funds.”

The plea for donations came despite a proposal from one PRC board member to partner with CBS Radio to hold the free concerts — an arrangement she said would save City Hall and Santa Monica residents money.

Though no agreement with CBS Radio has been finalized, PRC Board Member Ellen Brennan said the company is interested in sponsoring nine concerts and would pay enough to keep the cost of the series within the PRC’s existing budget.

Council members on Tuesday night, though, said they were reluctant to allow a commercial entity to play such a central role in putting on the concerts.

“The radio stations will be presenting more commercially oriented acts that will, for obvious reasons, be more important to their bottom line,” whereas the series in the past has been designed to be strictly a community benefit, said City Councilman Richard Bloom.

“From my perspective, it’s the only option that meets the community’s expectations for what the pier concert series is all about,” he said.

PRC Executive Director Ben Franz-Knight called the council’s gift “a huge shot in the arm for us” and said the goal is to raise enough money to put on the series by the PRC board’s meeting on March 24. If enough money has not been raised by then, he said the board will have to consider other options to fund the concert series, including partnering with a radio station.

But he said: “Our first and foremost goal is to maintain a good thing that we have.”

Since the recession, Franz-Knight said corporate sponsorships for the concerts have fallen off dramatically. In 2008 he said the PRC raised about $140,000 from contributors, compared with about $30,000 last year. He said producing the concert series cost $360,000 last year.

Those who wish to donate to the concert series can do so through the PRC’s Web site at www.santamonicapier.org

nickt@www.smdp.com

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