Santa Monica City Council was set to discuss new regulations regarding public assemblies, targeted residential protests, and noise on Tuesday, but Councilmember Phil Brock said the proposed ordinance was not what he sought to enact before he asked to pull the item from the agenda this week.

The public assembly item stemmed from a series of recurring protests at the Santa Monica residence of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in Fall 2020.

“These protests, which went on for several weeks, involved nightly, hours-long uses of amplified sound in a residential neighborhood that appeared intended to and did unreasonably harass and disturb the privacy and tranquility of residents,” a staff report for the item reads. In response, staff proposed an ordinance that would implement “content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions” in a package of amendments that sought to balance the First Amendment rights of those who wish to engage in expressive activity through public events and assemblies, while also upholding residential privacy and tranquility.

“I have absolutely nothing against protests. And people should march; people should have placards and if people want to use their voices to express themselves on a street corner or in front of a house, they should be allowed to. But, as we’ve seen, both, at a protest in front of Assemblymember Bloom’s house and Supervisor Kuehl’s house, it can sometimes go too far,” Brock said back in December when he asked for staff to return with an item that would quell locals’ concerns.

However, shortly before the item was to be discussed on Tuesday, Brock asked for it to be pulled from the agenda during a passionate speech where he claimed this is the third time since he was sworn in to office last December that he’s failed to see staff and councilmembers communicate with each other on matters of mutual interest.

“I’m astounded, frankly, that a small adjustment to the residential noise ordinance that I requested in December along with Councilmember Parra as a result of requests from Sunset Park residents, who could not have peace and tranquility in their purely residential neighborhood, morphed into an overarching anti-protest ordinance revision that affects the entire city,” Brock said during the meeting. “I resent that my specific, targeted method of helping our families in their homes at night became a ploy to change the rules of noise protests and the implements that protesters might utilize in the whole city. While those revisions may be necessary in light of the events of the past year, both here and around the nation, it was improper to add this to the narrowly crafted item that Councilmember Parra and I introduced on December 15.”

In an interview Friday, the councilmember explained he was merely attempting to give the police an ability to control the kind of demonstrations that were seen in the strictly residential neighborhood of Kuehl last year.

“People who live in Sunset Park, even little kids, were afraid that demonstrators would come and break the windows of their house.

Grandparents were disturbed and, remember, this was during COVID when people were home for 24 hours a day,” Brock said. “So, that was the reason why we proposed it, but city staff came back with an entire anti-protest ordinance because there is concern that there will be further protests this Spring after the decision of the (officer) who killed George Floyd.”

Brock said during Tuesday’s meeting, “it would have seemed to me that the items… should have been discussed with the makers. I don’t appreciate, nor do others, being left out to dry in front of our residents, and the general public.”

City Attorney George Cardona said the item could be pulled but Council could not give staff any further direction because the discussion had not been agendized.

“Since this was an item I had pushed for, our city staff should have come back and said we’d like to add these things. Is that okay with you?’ And I would have said, when I read it as written. I would have voted against it,” Brock said after the decision to pull the vote. “I wasn’t trying to be harsh on staff. I just want to be transparent.”

Brennon@smdp.com