Pier Concert Fan

When it comes to the Twilight Concert Series, The Pier Board came out against the status quo Monday, saying it will recommend the City Council “reimagine” the events, possibly with just one “celebration of summer” and a musical line-up in the fall.

The Council will hear public comment and ultimately decide the future of TCS at their Dec. 12 meeting.  City staff is planning to recommend a hiatus in 2018 from the concert series in the wake of rising costs and public safety concerns, according to comments made by multiple Pier Board members.

A week earlier, a crowd of TCS enthusiasts overwhelming urged the Board to keep the live music events.

“I think we reflected a lot on what we heard during the community meeting and one of the things that resonated was that this is the only opportunity for feeling like there’s a sense of community,” board member Misti Kerns said.  Kerns is also the CEO of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism.

“It’s not necessarily a concert,” Kerns said of the event that would aim to foster the same local spirit while avoiding the crowds that made the concerts increasingly untenable.  Kerns said it as important to “position it in a way where the community doesn’t feel like something has been lost.”

The City tried to reduce TCS costs by scaling back the series in 2017, shifting the dates earlier to compete less with the busy tourist season and reducing the number of concerts from ten to eight.  The strategy did little, if anything, to curb perception the concerts had gotten out of hand.  The headliner of the very first show, Khalid, tweeted after his performance he drew a crowd of 60,000 people but officials later down graded the estimate to about 25,000.  Instagram and Snapchat captured images of teens jumping over barricades and assembling what felt like one of the biggest crowds in TCS’s more than 30-year history.  At one point, the crowd on the beach surged dangerously close to the Pier.

After the concert, Santa Monica Police Department’s now retired chief called the series dangerous in an interview with the Daily Press.  Her words resonated once again months later when a single gunman killed nearly 60 concert goers in Las Vegas.

Because the concerts take place on a public beach, attendees cannot be screened like they would be at a large arena event.  Instead, SMPD staffed the concerts with about 160 officers, 13 fire inspection personnel and three EMT teams.  Many of those officers are working overtime.  The City’s five-year contract with the Sheriff’s Department to assist with large events is $1.3 million.

The Board purposely kept their recommendation ambiguous, leaving it up to other stakeholders to develop a plan to capture the essence of the series but decrease its popularity.

“We’ve got to get a format so we stop fighting about this year after year after year,” board member Barbara Stinchfield said. The Council “needs some assurances that they’re not going to spend a million dollars on public safety.”

As far as what that format will be, board member Judy Abdo said she has an open mind.  She just hopes the City will come up with a plan quickly to keep the concerts on track for 2018.

“Our main recommendation is not to have a hiatus for a year,” Abdo said.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press