Concert stakeouts strike sour note

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Chairs and other items are seen piled up at before the second to last concert of the summer concert series.

The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce’s free Summer Concert series may be a victim of its own success. There may also be some changes to how and when the chamber allows people to enter the concert area at the city’s public facility, Eisenhower Park, next to the Seal Beach Pier.

For the past couple of years, concertgoers have staked out their spot on the park’s lawn by placing blankets, chairs and other items on the grass.

Some spaces for the free public event were being claimed on the Wednesday concert days as early as 5 a.m.

This past concert season, the park’s concert area could be completely filled by 8 a.m. Some concertgoers decided not to risk their property being left unattended on the site and instead claimed their concert space by staking out the area with yellow police line tape.

Some visitors to the park said they did not approve of the practice. One was Brian Warner, a member of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce Board.

Warner said he noticed that some people who claimed the largest spaces would show up for the 6 p.m. concerts and there would be only two people in a spot that could comfortably fit double that number or more concert fans.

Others said they did not think it was right for the public park to be unusable on Wednesdays by anyone other than the people who had staked out their concert area and left their property unattended in the park for the entire day.

The issue appeared to hit a flash point before the second to last concert of this year’s series. On that Wednesday someone who was never identified, either alone or with help from others, took about a third of the chairs and blankets and piled them up in the middle of the concert area.

The action was reported to the police and it was not repeated before the last concert of the season.

It may have helped that chamber members kept a vigil from a rooftop overlooking the park on that Wednesday to protect the concert fans’ property on the site.

Seal Beach City Council-woman Ellery Deaton, in her e-mail newsletter to her constituents, addressed the issue:

“While many residents have told me how much they enjoy the concerts as they help bring our neighbors together and enhance our small town, there have been many complaints about concert goers staking out large areas of seating very early in the morning leaving nothing for their neighbors who arrive later,” Deaton said in the e-mail. “By the end of the concert year people were using orange cones and yellow caution tape to reserve large areas of the grass. So the Chamber has asked that no blankets or cones or tape be used to mark off seating so all residents can enjoy the concert.”

Nat Ferguson, the newly elected president of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, who was one of the chamber members who was seen keeping a diligent watch from the rooftops over the park the last concert day, said he had no response to Deaton’s comments on the issue of fans staking out spots on the concert area.

Deaton also addressed the related issue of outside vendors at the concerts.

“Recently the City Council heard from several merchants and residents regarding vendor booths at the Chamber-sponsored summer concerts,” Deaton said. “I do not support bringing outside vendors into Seal Beach at any time to compete with our local merchants. The Chamber secures a special event permit from the city each year in order to provide the concerts to our residents. The permit requires that all vendors secure a city of Seal Beach business license.

“The city manager and I have been working with the Chamber on these issues.  I will continue to share your thoughts as we look at all our community events for the coming year including the Concert Series in the park.”

Ferguson said the chamber would address the issue.

“The Chamber will be seeking better participation from local merchants and restaurants at the 2012 Summer Concert Series,” he said. “While Chamber members are offered preferred pricing on vendor spaces, the vision for 2012 is to create a ‘Taste of Seal Beach’ bringing together several Main Street eateries for concert attendees to enjoy.

“Our hope is that, similar to advertising, local restaurants will see the value in participating and connecting with the public in a well attended and festive venue.”

Concert stakeouts strike sour note