Over the objections of some residents who said that the Third Street Promenade is becoming an uncontrollable party center, the Santa Monica City Council this week approved a 393-seat amphitheater in the city's budding night-life district that would be a venue for live music.
The amphitheater, which could open in a year in the basement of a building at 3rd Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, plans to serve food and drink amid live jazz, blues and folk music performances, developer Robert D. Resnick said. Under council-imposed conditions, it has to serve food during all operating hours, and it has to exclude minors after 10 p.m., except when they are accompanied by someone 21 or older.
Several community activists were concerned that the Promenade has too many liquor-dispensing establishments, too many people and too little parking. Many who addressed the council Tuesday night compared the Promenade to nearby Westwood Village, site of a Friday-night riot last month.
Shane Talbot, chairman of the Santa Monica Police Officer's Assn., said he wants Santa Monica Boulevard between 2nd and 4th streets shut down on weekend nights to accommodate pedestrians in the area, just as many Westwood Village streets are blocked off on weekends.
Merritt Coleman, a Santa Monica Neighborhood Coalition member, filed an appeal last month to force the council to reconsider Planning Commission approval of the amphitheater. He said the coalition is so opposed to the 2-year-old Promenade's night-life development that its members were thinking of adopting the name "Not Yet Westwood."
Citing 19 liquor vendors within a 500-foot radius of the proposed amphitheater, the scheduled opening of several more liquor-serving restaurants in the coming months, and the fact that some Promenade restaurants have evolved into hangouts where patrons tend to be drinking more than eating, several council members said they were indeed concerned.
Councilmen Ken Genser and Kelly Olsen were the dissenters in the council's 5-2 vote approving the amphitheater. "Place after place (at the Promenade) are turning into giant bars," Genser said.
Councilman Dennis Zane defended the amphitheater as an appropriate business for an area intended to develop into Santa Monica's premier night scene. "Music venues were thought of as ways to get a diversity of age and a diversity of ethnicity (at the Promenade)," Zane said.
"The Specific Plan for the Third Street area calls for nighttime activities," City Planner Paul Berlant said. "For the most part, (the Promenade has become) what the city has asked for."