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Hansen: Musical cliff facing Laguna Beach

If you don't like cows, don't live near a dairy farm.

July 25, 2013|By David Hansen

At least we don't have cows.

There is a classic tale of urbanites moving to the country, only to find that the bucolic farmland actually has cows.

Cows that stink.

So they complain to the local magistrate, demanding that the cows not stink.

And so it goes.

In a similar ill-wind story, the Laguna Beach Planning Commission is bracing for a showdown with The Cliff restaurant on one side and at least one unhappy neighbor on the other. A hearing for this week was delayed but will be rescheduled.

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By way of background, The Cliff has been having nightly music concerts — made up mostly of small, acoustic sets — for more than a year. Occasionally, on the weekends, it will bring in a larger act, such as a reggae or rock band.

The concert series, called "Music Matters" and organized by Rick Conkey, has been successful at attracting a variety of local musicians, such as Jason Feddy, Nick Hernandez, Sasha Evans, Ken Garcia and many others.

In addition to the concert series, The Cliff has been playing music during weddings and receptions for more than 30 years at its scenic, waterfront location.

According to the restaurant, it has tried to be a good neighbor by monitoring noise levels and not allowing large bands.

But not everyone agrees.

Due to a quirky, downtown zoning landscape, there are a few residential neighbors — not many, but some.

Remaining anonymous in city documents, the complaints seem to come primarily from one person who lives in a small apartment north of the restaurant.

"It looks like there's one complainer," Conkey said. "And the person complains almost on a daily basis when there's music."

As a result of the complaints, the city opened its file on the restaurant and found that technically, it was not adhering to its permit. While it is allowed to have music with its operations, it was not originally permitted to have "amplified" music during the week.

The city also asked the police to research the history of the complaints over the past five years. Since 2007, there have been 26 noise complaints, more than half occurring during the past two years.

On one night of this year, May 31, there were three complaints within 15 minutes. That night was the charity concert, "Blue Water Green Earth" benefit, which featured six hours of music with well-known artists from bands like the Wallflowers, Foo Fighters, Blind Melon and Pink.

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