Last month's riot following the U.S. Open of Surfing still lingers in the minds of residents and city officials, but an upcoming event expected to draw scores of electronic dance music fans has some just as concerned.
Wet Electric is set to take place from noon to 9 p.m. Sept. 14, with some 10,000 revelers over the age of 21 expected to occupy Huntington State Beach at Brookhurst Street and Pacific Coast Highway.
The one-day event, the first of its kind in Huntington Beach, is set to have giant inflatable water slides, a zip line, sand sculptures, a music stage with disc jockeys and a fully stocked bar, said Steve Thacher, president of Premiere Media Group, the parent company of the promotion group staging the event, Activated Events.
Mayor Connie Boardman and fellow city officials have expressed concern about Wet Electric.
"It's a huge, alcohol-fueled party that ends at 9 p.m.," she said. "I'm concerned that people might not be done partying and may look for other places."
She said she's frustrated because the city has little control over activities on a state beach.
Kevin Pearsall, a peace officer with California State Parks, said the city has "no legal authority in anything that's done on state property."
City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the city is still determining how much say, if any, it has regarding the event.
Thacher said Activated has organized nine Wet Electric events since 2010 without any major incidents. The participating cities have included Irvine, Fresno, and Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz.
Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said officers made four arrests in the two years the event was held at the now-closed Wild Rivers water park.
Planning for the Huntington event started in mid-2012, Thacher said, but
McGrath said the city was unaware until the U.S. Open was underway in July.
"We just didn't have the manpower to do anything about it," she said, explaining that the city was occupied with the surfing event. "If you had told me six months ago you were going to put 10,000 people drinking alcohol on the state beach, the city would have been equally concerned."
McGrath said the city was told by state park officials that the promoter was supposed to contact Huntington Beach regarding the event.
Thacher said precautions are being taken.
About 100 security guards will work Wet Electric, he said.
"Rather than reacting to something that happened, we would rather have a strong plan going into it to ensure that nothing does happen," he said.
About 16 state park peace officers will be present, Pearsall said, adding that the California Highway Patrol is available to provide backup since it is also a state agency.
"The promoters are now very fully aware that they must have their complete and total A-game for this event," Pearsall said. "The event is going to happen. It is going to be very strategically monitored and watched from the state park and the promoters."
The event will take up a piece of state beach about 400-by-200 yards and be enclosed by "riot-proof fencing," Pearsall said.
And because tickets are needed to enter the area, Thacher said, the "bad apples" may be deterred.
General admission is $65.
"People are coming out to have a fun day on the beach at the water park," he said. "Our crowd really is not there to cause problems or to riot or to fight. They're there for the music, the atmosphere, the scene, the fun, for the water slides and rides. But with that said, it's always great to have a nice police or security presence to keep in the back of their minds."
Thacher also said that the event typically draws a more mature crowd, with an average age of 27.
Pearsall said Wet Electric is a large event, but it isn't any different from other big events, like Doheny Days and the Doheny Blues Festival, that state park peace officers help organize.
"Because of the publicity that they have gotten, there has been so much increased security precautions to this event now," Pearsall said.