java man jam.jpg

Andy Hill and Renee Safier performing at the first Java Man Jam in Hermosa Beach in November 2019. The Hermosa Harmony Project hosted its fist Java Man Jam in November 2019, where local musicians gathered for a live show outside the popular coffee shop, in its initial effort to foster live music in the city. (photo Adam Malovani)

Hermosa Beach City Council approved live music at commercial establishments at its Tuesday, April 27 meeting.

The temporary urgency ordinance allows live and recorded music outdoors or indoors with windows and doors open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Even though Los Angeles County announced earlier this month that live entertainment is allowed outdoors in its less restrictive Orange Tier, Hermosa Beach's Municipal Code did not allow live music and entertainment outdoors unless it was part of a special event permit. Also, the municipal code does not allow pre-recorded ambient music for outdoor dining, according to Senior Planner Christy Teague.

"Expanded outdoor dining and retail have added a sense of vibrancy to Hermosa Beach commercial districts during the COVID-19 pandemic that's impacted businesses," Teague said at Tuesday's meeting. "We have heard a desire to provide opportunities to offer music in pre-recorded or live format to create a more pleasant business experience than the surrounding sounds of traffic and construction."

City Manager Suja Lowenthal said she looks at the downtown and the city's public space as a "public living room."

"The purpose of the program before us is to be able to provide our businesses with an ability to create an ambience in our public living room," Lowenthal said.

"But through this crisis, we've recognized that our residents have suffered, our businesses have suffered," Lowenthal added. "But some of the greatest joys that we've been able to witness in our community have had have taken place in the public space."

The city received around 70 email comments of unanimous support, many of them musicians, and more residents spoke in favor of allowing live outdoor music.

"Everybody wants this to happen," said musician Russ Gilbert. "The businesses want it. Musicians want it. I think the average citizens want it."

"I know that this pandemic has brought us loneliness, emotional suffering, anxiety to many, many people," said business owner Ed Hart. "So from my perspective, music really is a powerful medicine."

Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jessica Accamando said there are many musicians and businesses "eager and ready to help us make sure this effort is successful."

"Music is a part of Hermosa's history," said Accamando, in reference to the city's jazz and punk history. "It's one of the things that really defines us and makes us different from our neighboring communities. It's one of our proud points."

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There is not a specific time when the temporary urgency ordinance might end, but the city is looking at it as a pilot program, an opportunity to explore a longer term program after COVID-19.

"We hope this program doesn't end until a long term program is instituted," Accamando said.

While Mayor Justin Massey voted in favor, he said he had concerns about the "dramatic changes to the way business is conducted downtown" and potential drain of police resources as the area grows more lively.

"Ultimately, it's going to be the responsibility of the people who implement this program to make sure that it's a success for all the stakeholders," Massey said.

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Lowenthall said the city wants to give the businesses the opportunity to provide music that "doesn't interfere with other people's enjoyment of the outdoor space."

"If there is programming that we need to terminate, because it might not be following the rules, or it might create too much of a disturbance, especially extending beyond the time frame that we've recommended, we have the ability to terminate that arrangement," Lowenthal said.

Councilmember Stacey Armato said outdoor music will be a positive step forward for the community.

"We need to acknowledge that people will be complaining, it will happen, businesses will complain, that will happen," Armato said. "But I get the sense that we are all willing to work together on this to manage those ... give each other a little bit of grace and and work through any issues that may pop up."

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