Every once in a while I write an article that I know ahead of time is going to upset some people; I am relatively confident there will be those that are not going to like this article. I am okay with that and apologize ahead of time if you don’t approve of my thoughts.
A couple months ago, at a Torrance City Council meeting, there was a topic of discussion regarding a free “summer” concert series that runs from January through October on Saturday evenings from 6:00-9:00 PM at the courtyard on Cabrillo by El Prado. Since the event is sponsored by BFD Buffalo Fire Department and The Depot restaurants and the owner, Chef Shafer, is known for his support of local charities it was pretty open and shut as to whether or not the City of Torrance would grant Shafer the permit he requested to hold these concerts.
When it came time for public comments there was one gentleman that lives somewhere in the courtyard complex and he came complaining about the noise. Naturally, Shafer had the deck stacked against the guy as he had customers come in and talk about how much they enjoyed the concerts. What I found odd was the one young lady that said she lived a couple blocks away and could hear the music, but wished it was louder so she could hear it better.
The gentleman that was complaining said he measured the noise levels but he was fighting a lost cause and the permit was issued as requested. Now, before someone mentions that Shafer modified his proposal by only requesting Saturday evenings instead of his original request for a few nights a week, let it be known that I used to be a professional negotiator and it was apparent to me that this was a preplanned move to make it look like there was some kind of compromise made.
Prior to hearing the noise complaint I really could not care less about the concerts but there was something about the guy’s story that stuck out to me. Prior to being a settlement negotiator I worked for GTE-California, with a portion of that time spent working at the GTE central switching office in Rolling Hills. To say that GTE treated these customers with kid gloves would be an understatement; anyone that has lived on the west side of LA for more than 25 years will probably recall the terrible public relations problems GTE had. I remember that there was a resident of the condominium complex that abutted the central office and he kept complaining about all the noise that was coming from the building.
Now, if he had complained 10 years earlier it would have been odd but a little more understandable since the office was pretty load with the clicking and clacking of two floors of selector switches, but by the time I moved to that office it was fully electronic and all you could hear was the faint clicking of relays in a fraction of the area … and it was a huge cement structure. No one could figure out where all this noise was coming from.
To make a long story a little shorter, we discovered that the problem was the air conditioning unit on the top of our building. The funny thing is, when we were standing by the unit, you could barely hear it. The noise was definitely amplified at his unit due to echoes between the units in the condo complex. When I thought about the guy complaining about the noise level in his apartment from the live concerts, it was not hard for me to believe.
Earlier in the week Shafer happened to make a Facebook post that mentioned someone else did not appreciate the music from these free concerts; I decided that I would have to go to one of these concerts and see what all the fuss was about. These photos, sans sound, are from my visit there Saturday evening.
It may be difficult to believe, but I used to be one of those that said “if it is too loud you are too old” and I have the hearing today to prove it; so that there is no mistake, I am a dyed in the wool rock and roller. Since the official hours were 6:00-9:00 we waited until a little after 7:00 to arrive so there was time to dial things in. We parked a level down in the underground parking and even though our car is pretty soundproof you could still hear the music. I just attributed it to the concrete parking structure, but it was readily apparent that this was only going to get louder.
We went up to watch the 5-piece band play for their audience of five. I enjoyed the style of music and agree, it really is better when it is loud. While the music did not seem overly loud in front of the stage I decided to walk around the immediate area. I went up some stairs to an area that I don’t know are for apartments or businesses but I could tell it was pretty loud and if I was forced to listen to the music three hours a week I might be upset too.
We walked down to Tortilla Cantina which was packed; probably because they had the UFC fights on. The place was very loud. I happened to be standing by the door so I listened to see if I could hear the band inside the Cantina; I could not. However, as soon as I stuck my head on the outside of the door the band over-powered the sound of 100 patrons watching a fight. It surprised me so much that I pointed it out to Tanya.
About an hour and a half after our first look at the band we returned; it was on the way to the car. I noticed that the audience had almost tripled to 14; I also noticed that I no longer recognized songs I should have. If I lived there I might tolerate music that I like, but music I don’t like would be a real drag.
This was the second time in recent weeks I have gone to downtown Torrance hoping and expecting to see brisk business being done. The last time was Small Business Saturday and neither had even a small crowd of customers. Tortilla Cantina was packed but other shops I looked in I saw cooks standing at the door waiting for someone to come in. I don’t know that these concerts are bringing in the numbers justified to inconvenience the neighbors. Just my thoughts.