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They're Girding for Summer Crush : Recreation: Larger crowds are expected at the beaches this summer, but officials say they're ready, despite the recent Cinco de Mayo disturbance.

May 19, 1991|JULIO MORAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Monica officials said the city is prepared to handle without problem the hordes of visitors that flock to its beaches each summer, notwithstanding the disturbance at a Cinco de Mayo celebration on the pier two weeks ago.

An even larger number of people than previous years are expected to visit Santa Monica this summer--which gets its unofficial start next weekend for Memorial Day--because of the sudden success of the Third Street Promenade and its vast selection of movie theaters, restaurants, nightclubs and bars.

City officials are unconcerned, however, saying the summer crowds will not be as big or as concentrated as those for specific celebrations like Cinco de Mayo.

"We don't draw that kind of sheer numbers on any summer weekend," said Elaine Mutchnik, operations manager for the Pier Restoration Corp., the nonprofit agency that manages the pier. "Also, the crowds we do get are spread out."

Crowd estimates for the May 5 celebration have varied from 30,000 to 125,000, but whatever the actual number, everyone agreed that the pier was filled to capacity.

"It was a mob scene," Councilman Herb Katz said. "There were too many people on the pier."

Last week, Katz sought to get council approval to immediately conduct a review of pier policies to avoid similar problems in the future. However, the council decided to postpone any action until after the summer because arrangements already have been made for events on the pier.

Katz said he is seeking to limit the number of people allowed onto the pier, and wants a traffic plan developed to avoid jams like the one on Cinco de Mayo that had surface streets clogged and traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway backed up for miles.

He also wants to review the appropriateness of allowing the sale of beer in special beer gardens set up for such events.

One step already taken is the cancellation of a formal Cinco de Mayo celebration next year to allow for the planning of a more culturally oriented program in 1993.

Mutchnik said the one-year hiatus is also in response to this year's Cinco de Mayo celebration, which drew larger-than-expected crowds and became unruly an hour before its scheduled closing.

Five people were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after some people in the crowd became angry when the entertainment stopped an hour ahead of schedule.

A remote speaker went dead, and people began pushing toward the stage. When organizers told the crowd that the show had ended and asked people to go home, some people began throwing objects at the stage.

In 1987, disturbances at Fourth of July celebrations at the pier forced the city to move its fireworks display show from evenings to early mornings. The pre-dawn celebration has been marked by few problems.

Mutchnik said events scheduled for the pier this summer are not expected to draw large crowds. She said less-known acts were intentionally booked for this year's Twilight Dance series of concerts on the pier to avoid large crowds.

This will be the first summer in which most of the establishments at the Promenade will be open. There is already some concern by residents that there are too many places on the Promenade that serve alcohol, and there have been some disturbances.

In preparation for the anticipated crowds this summer, the number of police officers assigned to patrol the Promenade weekend nights has been increased from four to six. Up until about two months ago, only two officers patrolled the area.

Thomas H. Carroll, executive director of the Bayside District Corp., the nonprofit group that manages the Promenade, said the sale of alcohol will be closely monitored, particularly at outdoor dining areas.

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