After general introductions, the proposed ordinance was explained by Council aide, Norman Kulla, and then time was given for public comment. Rosendahl has made it known that he really does want the input and approval of the community before any ordinance is passed. If he stays true to his word we are all going to have to wait a little longer because after this meeting the public comment was pretty clear.
It was started by an intense few minutes of drumming from a well known artist that set the beat for what was to follow. It went something like this: NO NO NO NO NO. Not going to work. Unfair. What? And some more no’s.
Many speakers (mainly residents who live along the OFW) were concerned with the noise regulations and it was very clear that that is an issue that is going to be very difficult to rectify. The boardwalk is itself an extremely noisy place and trying to find that decibel balance is proving to be a hard task. Many speakers felt that the noise regulations were not going to work and in fact as one speaker pointed out – actually scientifically impossible. Residents openly complained about the fact that the noise is so bad and is only going to get worse; but after reading the proposed ordinance one wonders how the city could possible think that by putting ALL performers in one zone – the “P-zone” – is going to make the noise better for residents close to the Ocean Front Walk… HUH?
Some speakers were in favor of a few things the new ordinance would offer, in particular the screening process that a vendor would have to undergo in order to participate in the “I-zone.”
The ordinance divides the available space on the boardwalk into two areas. One would be the “P-zone, and the other the “I-zone.” P-zones would be the areas designated for performance, and the vending of items such as newspapers, bumper stickers and books created by the vendor. The P zone will be made between 17th and Paloma Avenue, and only offer 120 spaces, most of which will be about 10 feet by 8 feet. 10 unassigned spaces will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis and 5 spaces would be reserved for large acts by allowing spaces of 20 feet by 8 feet. 2 of the 10 unallocated spaces are for the distribution of free food. I-zones would be for expressive items created by the vendor, such as compact discs, paintings and sculptures, or those that are inextricably intertwined with the vendor’s message. I-zone will allow for a maximum of 100 spaces. 25 of the spaces would be located in Windward Plaza, these spaces would be 6 feet by 6 feet. Another 75 spaces that are 6 feet by 8 feet will be found between Paloma Ave and Navy Court. According to the ordinance, “P” people will be allowed to use spaces in the I-zone but I people not in the P-zone. What??
There are also other differences between the zones that might bother some vendors. For example the permit system. P-zone vendors need to show a full permit but only during the peak season, I-zone vendors need one all year round.
Noise, ah yes, the noise problem – this will be regulated by restricting amplified noise to certain areas and banning it between sunset and 9am. Noise will not be allowed to exceed 75 decibels, measured from a distance of 75 feet, or 96 decibels, measure from a distance of one foot. There was no mention of what was to be done about the background noise which is sometimes louder than even an amplified guitar.
Without a doubt many artists will find this ordinance in bad taste as the city tries to separate and segregate artists and performers. There will be some who will enjoy the benefits, and of course there will be the ones who will try to break the rules, and there will always be residents who will continue to complain. That is the nature of the beast, I mean the boardwalk. More lawsuits will probably follow and in the meantime rampant commercial vending will continue. I really hope that the city and the people can come together and really make something that can work.. Something that is fair, constitutionally intact, and preserves one of the last free spaces in this world for artists and free speech to shine.
Read the full ordinance at www.freevenice.org.