The trial of a 4-year-old lawsuit involving Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa was suspended indefinitely Tuesday to give the facility's owners more time to explore ways to reduce noise levels during concerts.
The Orange County Fair Board, a state agency that owns the land where the amphitheater is situated, and Ned West Inc., the firm that operates the open-air concert bowl on a 40-year lease with the state, have been studying several proposals to muffle concert noise, including building a dome-like cover, erecting a sound wall that would reflect the noise back into the bowl or requiring performers to lower the volume during performances.
Their attorneys sought a continuance so they could have more time to secure financing for the construction, which officials estimate could cost from $150,000 for the wall to $8 million for a dome.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard J. Beacom delayed the trial for a week on July 9 and ordered Ned West to study ways to reduce the noise. Attorneys returned to court this week and said they needed more time to study the options.
Richard Spix, attorney for Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa, the citizens group that brought the suit against Ned West in 1984, argued Tuesday that the 6-week-old trial should resume. He said the delay will force neighborhood residents to endure the noise even longer.
"This is a problem from the plaintiff's point of view," Spix told the court. "It is basically giving us another season of experiments. The defendants are experimenting at the expense of the residents and that should not be allowed."
Attorneys for the Fair Board and Ned West did not comment.
Beacom, however, said all sides would benefit from the delay. He commended the Fair Board and Ned West for their efforts to reduce the noise without a mandate from the court.
"Considering . . . the fact there is yet to be a finding of liability in that the defendants are willing to undertake substantial and expensive measures to extenuate the noise problem, I think the delay is justified," Beacom said.
"I'm not going to take a meat ax to a $10- to $20-million facility or do something that would put it out of business without doing something . . . to see if the problem could be solved," the judge said.
Beacom ordered attorneys back for a status conference on Aug. 19. He predicted that, if the two sides do not agree to a settlement, the trial will resume in late September.