The Manhattan Beach City Council moved the Charlie Saikley Six Man Volleyball Tournament, a 50-year-old Manhattan Beach tradition, to Tuesday and Wednesday for 2012, instead of its usual Saturday and Sunday, at its Tuesday night meeting.
As part of the International Surf Festival, the tournament has grown from a friendly neighborhood event into a party scene in which some 65,000 people come to downtown Manhattan Beach, with an abundance of those just coming for the party and not the volleyball action on the beach.
On Tuesday, Council tackled the issues that have plagued the tournament the last three to four years as attendance has grown from about 15,000 in 2006 to 65,000 in 2010. The increase in visitors to the city's downtown area [the tournament is held on the sand just south of the Manhattan Beach Pier] has created a troubled scene for residents, city officials and the Manhattan Beach Police Department, which has enlisted all of its force and been aided by hired security staff to control the scene and keep people safe from harm.
Tuesday night, Police Chief Eve Irvine described the conditions of the 2011 event, and the increased number of arrests, and the many arrests that could have been made. Fifty-seven MB police officers and 54 private security personnel had been deployed, but it was not enough, she said. “Sunday was manageable [party-goers tend to come just for Saturday], but not Saturday,“ she told council and the audience.
Players, managers and some residents agreed that the tournament was out of hand, but pleaded with council to find a solution so it could be saved. Other neighbors, especially residents of 10th Street were more strident in their plea that something be done to stop the drunkenness, obscene behavior, damaged property, and fear of a real catastrophe.
In addition to moving the summer tournament to two weekdays, council decided to form an ad hoc committee, consisting of two council members and other interested parties, to study future planning for the event.
Council member David Lesser was the solo vote for a one-year moratorium.
All council members claimed to have a history of enjoying the tournament and not wanting to give up on it. Council member Any Howorth said, “It’s our town’s homecoming. Players and avid supporters who have moved away come back for the Six Man. Players now working plan their vacations around it.”
Council considered a variety of solutions recommended by city staff: restricting short-term property rentals and requiring party permits; creating a city council sub-committee for further study; moving the tournament to mid-week during the Surf Festival; moving it to mid-week outside of the festival; moving it to outside the summer season; taking a one-year moratorium, and canceling it all together.
All five council members agreed that band aids such as limiting short-term rentals and requiring permits for parties would be cumbersome and hard to enforce.
They also thought that moving the tournament to outside the summer season would conflict with college and school attendance for players and younger viewers.
In 2010, the city imposed stricter rules on tournament participants to stem the partying atmosphere, assigning each team one 10X10 pop-up tent with fencing around the tents to eliminate spectators from entering team areas, eliminating home furniture, structures, car batteries, gas generators and amplified sound on the beach, requiring a team representative to be in a tent at all times, requiring wrist bands for players, and requiring team mangers to attend a pre-event planning meeting.
Bicycle fencing was installed around the tournament to control access. Players and tournament-goers cooperated and in 2010 and 2011 the scene on the beach was more alcohol free and orderly than it had been in recent years.
However, to deal with the new rules, party-goers, who largely aren't interested in the volleyball competition, in 2010 and 2011 moved from the tournament and beach area to The Strand and walk streets, spreading out from the downtown area.
In addition, large homes on The Strand and nearby were rented out on a short-term basis for parties. Crowds spilled out onto the streets and neighboring yards, using them as bathrooms. Some downtown businesses opted to close for the day or had to close early because partyers had clogged their bathroom facilities and plumbing was running over.
In 2010 and 2011, the funding of the Six Man became an issue due to the extra costs associated with an increased police presence and the hiring of security personnel. Tournament entry fees were increased to offset the new additional costs, which translated into fewer team entries and not enough money generated from team registration fess to cover all tournament costs, prompting a reported $20,428 deficit for the 2011 tournament and a greater deficit for 2010, which the city then covered.
Manhattan Beach resident Charlie Saikley started the tournament in 1961 and over time it has changed from a friendly neighborhood event where families came to watch the world’s top volleyball players to a Saturday of partying for out-of-town visitors who rent homes near the beach for their parties, visit the downtown bars and restaurants, and drink alcohol in public.
The International Surf Festival is a non-profit event, supported by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the L.A. County Department of Beaches & Harbors, and the cities of Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, including chambers of commerce. Activities include surfing, body surfing, soccer, dory races, pier to pier swim and paddleboard races, a beach run race, and the L.A. County Lifeguard Championships. Those events have been set for Friday-Sunday, Aug. 3-5, 2012.