“We are very happy you could join us for the first-ever Los Angeles Beach Scene Festival. We are sure this will be the start of something big!”
Those welcoming words by Mayor Tom Bradley were printed in the program of the city-sponsored celebration, which attracted about 200,000 people to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro early this month.
Four weeks and scores of complaints later, it looks like the only thing big about the Beach Scene has been its fallout.
In an interview last week, Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents San Pedro, said the chances are “9 out of 10" that she will oppose a Beach Scene II at Cabrillo Beach next year. And a spokesman for Bradley said that if Flores opposes another festival, “no way would this be shoved down anyone’s throat.”
Organizers of the outdoor festival--which featured two days of live music, ethnic food, and beer and wine at the harborside beach--have said they would like the event to become an annual celebration of life in Los Angeles, along with the popular downtown Street Scene festival in September.
A spokesman from KIIS-FM, which co-sponsored the event, said the radio station would like to be involved in future Beach Scenes at Cabrillo Beach. City officials said aggressive on-air promotions by KIIS-FM helped attract the crowds, which were three times larger than planners anticipated.
“The station was very pleased with the success of the event,” said Dan Acree, a spokesman for the station. “It appeared that everybody who went had a good time, and there were minimal incidents.”
But residents near Cabrillo Beach want no part of another Beach Scene. Flores said her office has been inundated with phone calls and letters from merchants and homeowners complaining about trash, traffic tie-ups, and rude and rowdy festival-goers trampling through their yards and urinating on sidewalks and bushes.
Last week, the San Pedro-Peninsula Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose making the festival an annual Cabrillo Beach event.
“If you based it on dollars and cents, anytime you get 200,000 people here on the weekend you would probably get more benefits than negatives for business,” said LeRon Gubler, executive director of the chamber. “But the main concern (of the chamber) was the problems that occurred in the neighborhoods adjacent to beach.”
Flores said her office is evaluating the letters and phone calls, and during the next two or three weeks will draft a report that will be sent to Sylvia Cunliffe, general manager of the Department of General Services and chairwoman of the Beach Scene festival. Right now, Flores said, it looks as if she will notify Cunliffe that Cabrillo Beach is off limits for any more Beach Scenes.
“Generally, I don’t see that this was an overall benefit to the community,” Flores said. “I think the beach is too small for what they want to do. I can’t think of any suggestion that would change my mind.”
While the entire City Council and the mayor must consider any proposal to hold another festival at the city-owned beach, Flores said it is customary that local council members get their way in such cases.
John Stodder, Bradley’s press secretary, agreed that the city would not force the festival on an unwilling community groups and council members. “Certainly the mayor would be very responsive to the concerns of the community,” he said.
Flores said that she is not opposed to the idea of a Beach Scene, and said she would go so far as to assist Cunliffe in planning a Beach Scene II if it were held outside San Pedro. “I am sure some of the experience we have gained through this would be useful if they are going to have another one,” she said.
Flores said she would recommend that future festivals be held at a larger beach that has more parking, better access and fewer residents nearby. She also said alcohol should be prohibited.
Cunliffe, who shortly after the festival described it as a success, did not return numerous phone calls last week. In an interview early this month, she said “people want to see it again,” but added that the power to authorize a second Beach Scene does not lie in her office.
“I work for the mayor and City Council, and that is a decision they need to make,” she said.