Rock off: Billy T. & The Fam playing jazz music in Ocean View Park, but change is coming. Courtesy photo

Ever since COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019, in Wuhan, China, the world has not been the same. (Nor, some critics might say, has my sense of humor.) Odd as it sounds, COVID even affected Ocean View Park on Barnard Way across from the beach.

Because everyone was so cooped up at home, a need to be safely outside was filled by jazz music in the park performed by Billy T. & The Fam. It was very popular but, being amplified, it was also very loud. The park abuts the South tower of the Shores and the Sea Colonies I and II. So, for the next two years, as many as four hours or more every Sunday, Billy and the boys blasted away. (And for one of those years, they did so on Saturday, too!)

Because of the many Billy T fans and the understandable dismay of many residents, the battle lines were soon drawn. To the residents, the noise was so deafening one could only watch TV, if at all, with a combination of subtitles and earplugs. 

I live in the Shores’ North Tower but I have many friends in the South Tower and the Sea Colonies. Many are elderly. Talking on the phone was impossible as the music drowned out the sound of the phone ringing. So I visited in person and, listening sympathetically, wound up feeling like Oprah. (But without commercials.)

I also chatted with Billy T. & The Fam about a compromise, like fewer hours, perhaps, but that was like pouring gas on a fire. Their reaction to my being a journalist made me feel like Geraldo Rivera who, on his 1988 daytime TV show, had his nose broken by a flying chair. (I got the uneasy feeling mine might get broken by a saxophone.)

For the residents, being denied four hours or more of the peace and quiet we should all be entitled to was near torturous. For one resourceful tenant, the only “quiet area” to read a book or magazine was sitting on the toilet with the lid down and the bathroom door shut — not exactly conditions book clubs might recommend. (Billy T. viewed restrictions as violations of their liberty, freedom of assembly, speech, and significantly cut into their donations.)

After numerous ineffective columns, I reluctantly moved to other subjects but I couldn’t forget my friends’ suffering from the constant cacophony. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a rumor the City Council was working tirelessly on a possible solution. In it, acoustic music at Ocean View Park would be fine but amplified would be, and forgive my technical term, a no-no.

Bingo! The City Council unanimously passed a noise ordinance which went into effect on Oct. 15! (The “No Amplification” signs in the park went up on the 13th.) 

My hope is that Billy T. & The Fam will relocate to another park. (I’d say “Central Park” but I’m trying to make nice.) Almost across the street from Ocean View is the beautiful Barnard Way Linear Park south of Hollister Avenue that abuts Perry’s Pizza. 

At this park, they could play their amplified music to their hearts’ content, facing the ocean rather than people’s living rooms. And during the breaks in the music, they could nosh on some pizza! Actually, with the stress seemingly over (fingers crossed) they seem like decent guys.

To me, there are many heroes in this tale, primarily residents who suffered rejection after rejection, but never gave up. I hope they aren’t embarrassed by my unsolicited admiration. With their permission, the list includes Ellen Kaye, Robin Sherry, Beverly Haas, Peter Hemar and Kay Devonshire, who took the time to write 56 very detailed updates of each concert, including the length and a description of the mind numbing noise. 

Thanks also goes to the Santa Monica Police Department, which came out so many times displaying remarkable patience. And the same appreciation goes to Councilmember Phil Brock who always returns my phone calls and emails, which I say is very gratifying. (For me, that is; for him, it may be a pain in the butt.)

City Manager David White was also extremely helpful but the grand prize goes to our city attorney, Doug Sloan, who diligently researched, vetted and ultimately wrote the ordinance. 

(They say you can’t fight City Hall, but on this occasion, City Hall fought for us.)

Lastly, I want to thank the mellow saxophone player who never gave an inkling of wanting to break my nose, although if he happens to read this column, I certainly hope he doesn’t change his mind.

Jack is at: jackdailypress@aol.com. Visit youtube.com/watch?v=Ua9lSPFI1T0 to listen to BillyT & The Fam jazz. Just imagine it that loud in your living room for five hours.