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Santa Monica’s popular summer concert series will be bumped to fall 2018

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The series will return with fewer events and stepped-up efforts to reduce massive crowds

Courtesy of MSO PR

Santa Monica’s summertime Twilight Concert Series will, at least for 2018, be a fall event. The Santa Monica City Council approved a motion Tuesday to move the 2018 season to the fall (after Labor Day) in an effort to reduce the ever-growing crowds that the event draws.

The 2018 season will feature “a re-imagined, cultural-oriented series” of no more than six events—a reduction from the previous year’s eight shows, says a statement from the city.

“The Twilight Concert Series is without a doubt one of the most admired events in Santa Monica, but we need to re-imagine it to ensure the safety of those attending,” says Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer.

He noted that the council still supports the concert series, but only “if the Pier Corporation is able to reduce crowd size.”

The council directed the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, which manages the pier, to work with city staffers to implement a battery of adjustments to the series aimed at controlling unchecked attendance at the events, which has long been a source of worry for city officials.

“Even the downsized series [during 2017] attracted large audiences that compromised public safety, impacted residents and businesses on, and adjacent to the Pier and strained City resources, costing in excess of $1 million, nearly $400,000 over the amount Council budgeted,” and a 25 percent increase over the previous year’s costs, a city staff report says.

Controlling crowds has been a sticky issue for event organizers. The pier has a capacity of less than 4,500 people, but what often ends up happening is that once the pier fills up and is closed to new entrants, many overflow attendees just take to the beach, where, because of stage positioning and the sound system, they can still hear and see the concert.

For the first concert of the 2017 season, for example, it’s estimated that between 25,000 and 35,000 people showed up, “overtax[ing] the entire oceanfront,” says the report.

“We can have safe, inclusive, diverse events on the Pier, but we can’t do it when it spills out over the beach at night,” said City Manager Rick Cole.

To halt the beach takeover by concert-goers, city officials asked the pier corporation to make several changes to the way the concert is set up, including making the stage harder to see from the beach, repositioning speakers away from the sand, changing the day of the week on which concerts are held, and using a no-fee ticketing system to get a better idea of how many people are planning to show up for the event.

The city’s also put a hard cap on how much it’s willing to spend on security and public safety spending for the series—$400,000 total for all 2018 events—and reserving “the authority to suspend the series if this allocation is exhausted prior to the conclusion of the series of events.”

The Santa Monica Pier Corporation acknowledged earlier this year that something had to be done to reduce crowd size, but they hoped to have one summertime event followed by the rest of the series in the fall.

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