Let’s Make a Sweeter Deal

City Squandering Income Potential from West Beach Music Fest

The West Beach Music and Arts Festival
Shannon Kelley

Looking at the West Beach Music Festival from a perspective that has not yet been voiced, and bearing in mind that the law requires that all revenue taken in by various city agencies in the waterfront and tidelands area (everything on the ocean side of Cabrillo Blvd) must be spent in the Waterfront area, the real disaster of last year’s West Beach Music Festival was that the city was paid exactly $5,610 by Twiin Productions for their exclusive occupation and private for-profit use of West Beach for 10 days, to the exclusion of the public.

For that paltry sum, they were given the opportunity to use the public beach as their private concert club for two and a half days. And with such a negligible venue cost, they should have made a large profit. If they could not figure out how to make a profit selling alcohol, food, and souvenirs to a captive audience of more than 25,000 people who’d already paid them for a ticket to get in, there is something wrong with their business model.

Perhaps the city sets the fees for the private use of public beachfront so cheaply with the expectation that such events will bring tourist dollars to waterfront businessmen like Tony Romasanta. In the case of last year’s festival, that approach seemed to backfire. Clearly, the Parks and Recreation Department underestimated the impact of the event, and the promoters were unprepared and incompetent to deal with most of the problems that arose.

(Around the same time last year, a significant chunk of the Parks and Rec budget—for beach lifeguards and visitor center restroom cleaning—was foisted off on the Waterfront Department as part of the city’s annual budget manipulations. Not being clever enough to find any other way to meet the need for the increased revenue to pay for these services, the Waterfront Department simply raised slip fees an additional two percent—on top of the “normal” two percent annual increase—to pay for lifeguard and restroom cleaners who have absolutely nothing to do with berthing a boat in a Santa Barbara harbor slip.)

The real disaster of the 2010 West Beach Festival is that when Parks and Rec’s Nancy Rapp initially denied the permit, Twiin was reported to have offered a $100,000 “facility fee” to sweeten the deal and secure approval. In these times of budget deficits and cuts to many programs enjoyed by locals, no city agency should be thumbing its nose at an offer like that, no matter who it comes from.

As the negotiations now stand, the city will charge only $7,046 for the use of Chase Palm Park, though Twiin has offered to pay an additional $4 per ticket “venue surcharge” that would amount to $52,000 if both days sell out.

Twiin appears to me to be inexperienced, perhaps underfunded, and unlikely to satisfy Ms. Rapp’s conditions. Ms. Rapp, on the other hand, is no doubt concerned that any repeat of last year’s complaints will be blamed on her department. Some of her conditions for the event now contemplated at Chase Palm Park appear to be unrealistic and overly oppressive and almost certain to doom the event, probably costing those of us who pay for all the services (and debt service) of the Waterfront Department the opportunity to have the beach lifeguards and restroom cleaners actually paid for by people using the beach and the restrooms rather than by boat owners.

All in all, a typical example of the inability of local business and local government to get anything done for the benefit of the community – witness La Entrada, Fess Parker’s Waterfront Hole (it was supposed to be a Waterfront Hotel), El Encanto, the Miramar, the polarizing “street improvements,” etc. In times like these, $52,000 of extra revenue to the waterfront area is a windfall that should not be squandered. The parties to this potential debacle ought to immediately bring in a competent high-level mediator and put this event together in a way that will address all legitimate concerns and make money for Twiin and the waterfront.

On the question of venue, although it’s probably too late to change now, I don’t see why the far end of Ledbetter Beach would not be a more appropriate location for the event – no motels nearby, the largest waterfront parking lot is there for staging and parking shuttle purposes, additional parking might be obtained from SBCC, there are fewer private residences to be involuntarily subjected to the noise than at West Beach, the harbor merchants and Shoreline Café certainly wouldn’t mind a couple thousand extra potential patrons wandering the area, and the entire event would be less visible and disruptive to the tourists and locals using the rest of the Waterfront.

Ms. Rapp says it won’t work because of sound complaints and density. Why won’t there be the same sound complaints and density issues at Chase Palm Park?

David Turpin is a Santa Barbara attorney and boat owner with an interest in matters pertaining to the Santa Barbara Waterfront.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.