The popular beach parking lot adjacent to the Pier can no longer be used for special events and while staff will honor existing contracts for upcoming events, event organizers looking for a beachfront location will have to look elsewhere.

Staff said the changed was prompted by an increase in yearly visitors to the Pier and beach area that has created year-round demand for parking at the site. Closing the parking lot for a special event created problems for visitors, nearby employees and reduced revenues for the city’s beach fund.

Council first approved the use of the lot as an event space in May of 2001 as part of a revision to a wider policy governing events in public spaces. Use of the lot was expanded in 2004 to include longer-term events that included a Cirque du Soleil show. The lot was recently leased to the Independent Spirit Awards under an extended policy for use through 2020.

“Closing the 1550 Pacific Coast Highway beach parking lot as an event forum will return the lot to its original purpose of providing parking for the public coming to the beach and/or the Santa Monica Pier,” said a report given to City Council. “Staff will work with event organizers to consider alternative event venues, and many have already reached out to the Santa Monica Pier.”

The lot was already subject to specific rental criteria. Uses had to be predominantly cultural and/or entertainment related. Music concerts were banned in the lot and events could not be primarily focused on promotion, sales or product sampling. Organizers were also limited to holding events in off-peak months. The busy season used to be from July 1 through Labor day but that timeframe was expanded in 2014 to run from June through September.

“Currently, community events are not permitted in the 1550 PCH beach lot from June through September,” said the report. “In addition, due to the established Extended Event Policy process administered by CCS, events proposed for after September and prior to Memorial Day weekend cannot be accepted more than six months in advance. Consequently, there is a limited window of opportunity to permit community events in the 1550 PCH beach lot.”

In the last four years, 20 events have been scheduled for the lot (such as the Pacific Car Show, Santa Monica Pet Expo & Adoption, Copa Cabana Beach Soccer, Rose Art 75, Fitness Event, Santa Monica Bike Expo, Rollergames World Cup 2016, The 420 Games Los Angeles, City of Hope Gala, Electric Bike Expo, Gran Tasting Food Festival, Out of the Darkness Walk and Touch a Truck).

While some of those events will continue in the nearby beach area without use of the lot, others will have to find new homes and the city has already banned events in other beach lots.

In 2014 staff prohibited events at the 2030 Ocean Avenue and 2600 Barnard Way lots over complaints of noise, traffic congestion and loss of public parking.

According to city staff, Pier businesses support a moratorium on events as the lot is needed for employee parking. Recent event closures forced employees to park in the south beach lots.

“Business owners expressed concern for the safety of employees who work late and had to walk a distance to their cars,” said the report. “These events occurred during Spring Break, which covers several weeks before and after Easter and is a very busy time for the Pier and beach. The SMPLA has requested that, at a minimum, no events be permitted during the six-week Spring Break period.”

Events also decrease revenues for the lot. Parking can cost between $12 and $14 per space but many spaces turnover throughout the day creating multiple fees. The price for renting the lot is a flat $15 per space per day.

“Using the spaces for events, particularly on busy weekends, results in a net revenue loss for the Beach Fund,” said the report.

The conclusion of  The Clean Beaches Project will add approximately 100 new spaces in the 1550 lot but the additional capacity is will merely offset the growing demand for the lot. Staff said any excess capacity in the beach lot would be better used to facilitate closures of the Pier Deck parking rather than events on the beach.

“As the Pier moves forward with its initiative to engage the local community with more cultural and educational programming, the additional parking in the 1550 lot will help to offset the loss of parking on the Pier when the Pier parking lot is used as an event space,” said the report.

In addition two upcoming construction projects will have potentially negative impacts on the beach lot creating further hurdles for events.

While no new events will be permitted, The Independent Spirit Awards will continue to use the space per their existing contract through 2020.

editor@smdp.com