Culver City officials may ban or restrict youth dances at city-owned Veterans Memorial Auditorium in response to fears of possible youth gang activity and complaints from neighbors about late-night noise.
A dance scheduled last Dec. 12 was canceled after Santa Monica police told the city that members of rival youth gangs planned to fight during the dance, said Kenneth D. Good, auditorium manager. The city has banned dances temporarily until the study of problems related to the dances is completed, Good said.
Alex Padilla, gang coordinator for Santa Monica police, said that he told Good and Culver City police about a tip he received from a Santa Monica gang member that members of Santa Monica, Culver City and Venice youth gangs intended to fight at the dance.
Last month, Mayor Paul A. Netzel asked city staff to investigate residents' complaints about noise and loitering that occurred after the more than 20 dances held last year at the auditorium. Netzel asked that the staff report back with a proposal for action by the City Council.
Good said that he will meet with Chief Administrative Officer H. Dale Jones, Police Chief Ted Cooke and Human Services Director Syd Kronenthal about the problems at the auditorium. Officials may decide not to book dances for about a year and then bring them back on a selective basis, Good said.
The dances are organized by private promoters and are attended mostly by students from Los Angeles-area high schools, Good said. Typically, the dances feature a disc jockey who plays records between about 9 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. in the building's main auditorium.
The 600 to 1,000 youths who attend the dances are usually between the ages of 16 and 21 years old and pay $6 to $8 for admission. Proceeds from the dances amount to about $10,000 a year.
Problems occur after the dances end when some youths congregate in the auditorium parking lot or in the park behind the auditorium, Good said. Promoters are required to hire security guards to clear youths from the parking lot, but the guards are unable to disperse all of them, Good said.
No gang fights or other gang activity have been reported during events at the auditorium, officials said.
Mary N. Johnson, who lives on Wagner Street, a block from the auditorium, said the young people often shout or turn up their car stereos after the dances. Police have arrived with loudspeakers to ask youths to leave, she said.
"The biggest problem is after the dances are over. The police are always called," Johnson said. "It continues all night unless it is broken up."
Good said that most of the youths at the dances behave themselves.
"About 85% to 90% of the kids are there to have a good time, and there's another 10% to 15% who want to flout the rules," Good said.