Burbank residents who live near the Starlight Amphitheatre met Sunday to plan opposition to the City Council’s efforts to turn the outdoor theater into a forum for large concerts featuring well-known musical groups.
The residents, who gathered in Stough Park, said they will fight the council’s recent decision to allow a Santa Monica-based concert promotion and booking firm to try to turn the troubled amphitheater into a major commercial venue. Instead, they said, the forum should be used for community and civic events.
“Is the city so hard up for money that it has to turn this into a commercial venture?” asked Lyn Vogt, who lives near the amphitheater. “It is sheer greed. The council thinks the city has to be into money-making facilities. I don’t know where the council got this idea, but we don’t need this.”
The amphitheater is in the Verdugo Mountains in northeast Burbank and can only be reached by driving through residential neighborhoods. The neighbors said regular popular music concerts in the amphitheater would cause traffic, noise and parking problems and bring vandalism, litter, drugs and violence to the area.
These fears, they said, are based on their experiences after several concerts staged at the Starlight last year.
Randy Hooper, who lives on one of the four residential streets that reach the Starlight, said that after one reggae concert he found “eggs on our house, broken bottles on the lawn and people yelling and screaming way after midnight.” Others complained about heavy traffic after the concerts and confrontations with drunk concert-goers.
For the last three years, the Starlight has been managed by Tim Pinch, who was directed to turn the facility into a profitable one by attracting famous entertainers. Pinch, however, was fired in January, after a season in which he presented only five shows in the amphitheater.
Two weeks ago, the City Council tentatively authorized the negotiation of an agreement with World Entertainment Services that would allow the agency to schedule concerts for the amphitheater 355 nights a year. The firm also is seeking a liquor license that would allow it to sell alcohol during the events.
Neighbors, however, say they have had enough and plan to pack a City Council meeting Tuesday night. They said they will ask the council not to sign the proposed agreement with World Entertainment Services. They added that they have collected more than 400 signatures on a petition asking that the city drop its efforts to turn the amphitheater into a major commercial enterprise.
Gene Walsh, an opposition organizer who lives on the main street leading to the amphitheater, said neighbors should have gotten involved earlier to prevent city officials from developing the plan this far.
“Frankly, we didn’t think they would possibly try to expand the concerts here after all the trouble we had,” he said. “We are late, but we are acting.”
Walsh pointed out that there are already many venues for major musical groups in the Los Angeles area, including the nearby Universal Amphitheatre. The Starlight should be kept to showcase entertainment from the local community, he said.