Santa Monica Arts Commissioner Calls for End to Popular Summer Pier Concerts

Save Ferris performs at the Santa Monica Pier as part of the 2016 Twilight Concert Series.

Santa Monica Arts Commissioner Phil Brock is calling for an end to the popular summer concerts on the Pier.

In a column that ran Friday afternoon in the Santa Monica Mirror, the former Recreation and Parks Commissioner and two-time City Council candidate, said, “Unfortunately, the Twilight Dance Concerts are now a security burden to our city. They must be canceled and reimagined. Above all let’s remember that while we share our Pier with the world it must retain its local flavor.”

Brock includes a lengthy list of wishes in the column, entitled “Our 2017 Wishlist,” that is written on behalf of Santa Monica Architects, aka “SMArt.” (Editor’s Note: While Brock has called for cancellation of the concerts, the Arts Commission has taken no position on the matter as it has yet to be discussed there.)

2016 file photo of Phil Brock with Residocracy’s petitions to put no-growth Measure LV on the local ballot.

Every year for the last 32 years, the Pier has hosted a series of 10 concerts in the summer, a tradition that started in order to revitalize the historic landmark after a series of storms severely damaged it.

Santa Monica Pier Corporation Executive Director Jay Farrand says that cancelling the popular summer concerts is not currently on the table.

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“There is no threat to this 32-year community tradition that I see,” Farrand said of the annual concerts. “Every year we work with the city to smooth out logistics and keep costs under control. We are in the midst of the same discussions this year.”

A financial analysis of the annual concerts presented to members of the Pier Corporation Board and obtained by Santa Monica Next reveals that the costs of running the concert have increased disproportionately faster than the size of the actual event.

In 2013, according to the analysis, public safety costs for the concerts ran about $50,000 for the summer, which broke down to $40,000 for police personnel and $10,000 for fire personnel.

Only three years later, those costs had ballooned to nearly $1 million for the summer, broken down to $800,000 for police and $150,000 fire.

In that same time, however, the concerts only saw about a 25 percent increase in attendance and no increase in public safety incidents.

While the concerts are staffed in anticipation of about 30,000 attendees, according to the analysis, the actual number of people who attend the concerts more consistently ranges between about 8,000 to 10,000.

The idea of ending the summer concerts did not sit well with at least one of the original activist involved in saving the Pier after the storms that damaged it.

“The success of the Pier concerts in revitalizing this beloved Santa Monica landmark is not a reason to cancel them. It is the opposite, in fact,” said Ernie Powell, who chaired the Pier Restoration and Development Task Force, which was convened following the a series of storms in 1983 that had severely damaged the Pier.

The idea of the annual summer Pier concerts came out of the many meetings that task force had with local residents and business owners in the area.

Powell, who had been involved since 1973 in the effort of both protecting the Pier as well as making sure that the Santa Monica Pier is accessible to both local residents and the general public, said, “We should do everything in our power to assure that this 32-year long tradition is continued for future generations so that they can enjoy the Santa Monica Pier as we have for so many years.”

In 2014, city officials brought several proposals before the City Council designed to scale down the events, including one proposal to eliminate well-known acts from the Pier concert lineups.

Another proposal, which the Council eventually did adopt, was to eliminate a screen that had allowed people on the beach to view the concert.

The Pier Corporation Board will discuss the Pier concerts at its next meeting on Wednesday, January 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the aquarium on the Pier.