SANTA MONICA — Katrina is not a happy clown.
Accustomed to having free run of the Third Street Promenade, Katrina will soon be tethered in a performance zone, with a $120 license affixed to her baggy clown suit. She will only be able to work the movie lines with the forbearance of the enforcers of a new law aimed at imposing order on the chaotic street-performer scene at the Promenade.
"This is not good for me," Katrina, whose civilian name is Kathryn Mara, told the Santa Monica City Council Tuesday night. "What is wrong with . . . me being in front of the theaters?"
What is wrong, as it has often been at the Promenade, is that there's too much of a good thing. Street performers block store entrances, clog pedestrian passageways and toot their horns in the ears of captive outdoor diners.
Teasers owner Tony Palermo, who is president of the Promenade restaurant association, said he gets comments from customers that say, "I didn't come here to hear a saxophone six feet from my table."
But neither Palermo, nor anyone else involved, wants to completely discourage street performers who, everyone agrees, play a critical role in the Promenade's festive environment.
After countless meetings, more than a year of study and guided tours of the area for council members, a plan was developed to license the performers and limit them to a rotating schedule in large performance zones in the middle of each block. (The zones are quite large--at least half of each block.)
Performers must stay 100 feet away from each other and 20 feet away from businesses, (prompting Katrina's lament about movie lines.) Noise must be kept within prescribed decibel levels determined after a consultant surveyed the area.
Violating these or other guidelines could result in fines of up to $250. Three-time offenders will have their $120-a-year license yanked. The guidelines will be enforced by the Police Department and by employees of the Bayside District Corp., the agency that runs the Promenade.
The council passed the guidelines unanimously, a departure from the impassioned debate two years ago when the first guidelines were passed amid concern about the free-speech rights to perform in public.
The constitutionality of licensing the performers came up again Tuesday, as law professor Richard Solomon, the attorney for the performers, warned the council members that they were making a "fatal mistake."
"Their form of communication is protected by the First Amendment," Solomon said.
Mayor Judy Abdo, one of those who has, in the past, balked at regulating performers, said she had expected to do so again, but found the new guidelines acceptable.
"This looks like a pragmatic ordinance geared to our Promenade," Abdo said.
The plight of the wandering clown Katrina drew sympathy from Councilman Paul Rosenstein. He was assured by the director of the Bayside District that there was leeway in enforcing the guidelines. So Katrina might not have to worry about being a scofflaw after all.