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Street Artists on Promenade Facing New Noise Rules

July 14, 1995|SUSAN STEINBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Street performers on Third Street Promenade were put on notice to tone it down Tuesday as the Santa Monica City Council requested stricter noise rules for them and for businesses that blare music outdoors.

In an effort to reduce noise on the popular pedestrian mall, the council ordered city staff to draft an ordinance restricting the use of amplified sound and suggested that amplification be banned in the busy evening hours.

The council will take up the issue again July 25.

Since the city first began to regulate street performers a year and a half ago, noise complaints have risen as more performers flocked to the area during the summers, city officials said.

This year the Third Street Promenade is busier than ever. More than 100 performers with city permits vie for space along the sidewalks.

On summer weekends, the pedestrian-oriented street is packed with tens of thousands of visitors, police said.

City staffers say they expect applications for performance permits to jump 50% during the current summer quarter.

The problem is further exacerbated by businesses that play stereos outdoors or turn up the volume of music in patio dining areas to attract customers.

On weekend walks down the Promenade, "I feel like I'm being assaulted, harassed by a cacophony of sounds," Councilman Robert Holbrook said.

But longtime street performer Randy Brook objected to the proposed restrictions.

He said he needs to amplify his singing act to be heard above the other street performers.

The problem, Brook said, is not amplification but volume.

Bagpipes and drums on the street create more noise than his amplified guitar, he said.

Police said, however, that it would be too difficult to take decibel readings on all the street performers, and a restriction on amplifiers would be easier to enforce.

The aim of the proposed ordinance is not to dissuade street performers from playing on the Third Street Promenade, council members and city officials assured Brook and other artists Tuesday.

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