Council puts off outside bids for Summer Concert

Photo Courtesy of Gary Mandell. Summer Concerts have been a big draw for Culver City residents. Gary Mandell has been organizing and producing the events for several years.

Gary Mandell, who has produced one of Culver City’s most popular summer venues for the last 14 years, will continue in that capacity after the City Council voted to 4-0 to forego sending out a request for proposals for the 2015 season.

The council considered a recommendation from the Cultural Affairs Commission to cast a wider net for potential new producers as it plans to move the concert venue moves from City Hall to Parcel B in Town Plaza downtown, but decided to wait until the development is completed before considering outside bids to produce the music series. The downtown site has been in the works for 15 years and earlier this year the city received a green light from the state Department of Finance to move ahead with a trio of projects, including the Parcel B.

A mixed-use development with retail, commercial and restaurant space will be built at the site.

Cultural Affairs Commission Chair Marla Koosed said the idea behind looking at different producers next year could be beneficial for the concerts as well as the community.  “I think the intent of the commission has been to have an RFP process, quite simply.  There hasn’t been a RFP process for a bit,” Koosed told the council. “It is something the at the commission wanted to be involved in regarding in terms of really influencing the quality and variety of the music being offered to the community and different producers have different takes [on quality and variety].”

“We’re hopeful that the [request for proposals] will result in a number of proposals,” added Assistant City Manager Martin Cole.

Mandell, who will be paid $17,000 for his work this year, did not attend the meeting.

Hiring Mandell, the proprietor of Boulevard Music on Sepulveda Boulevard, to produce the summer music fest has been the subject of intense debate among certain members of the council. For the last several years, city officials have either considered hiring another producer or running the festival through the Cultural Affairs Department.

During the time that Mandell has been in charge of the music series, the concerts have grown exponentially in numbers and popularity even as the number of concerts has decreased from 12 to six.

Councilman Clarke said he had been working with Mandell on some of his concerns about how the concert series has been run and funded. He said he wasn’t sure what Mandell’s plans were after this year.

“I don’t have a clear understanding of if he wants to continue to do this or not,” Clarke said.

Councilman Jeffery Cooper, who did not attend the council meeting, has been a fan of Mandell’s over the years but would like to have cast a wider net for other potential vendors. “I would have liked to se what other musical acts are out there,” he said. “I think that we could use a little more musical diversity [in the concerts.”

Mandell, reached after the meeting, said diversity in musical acts is in the eye of the beholder. “Every show this year has somebody different,” he countered.

The producer said he was not angry that city officials had considered putting concert contract out for bid.   “All I ask is that [the solicitation criteria] is the same for me that it is for other vendors,” Mandell said.

While the number of concerts has diminished to six, Mandell said it doesn’t make it easier on him to produce them.

“It’s almost as difficult to put on a six week show as it is a 10-week show.”

Part of the reason is the city has required Mandell to engage in other activities? soliciting sponsors and even some maintenance work- that he has not had to do in the past.

“For 2015, I’d like to sit down and talk about where they city would like to go [with the concert series],” he said.

The concert series kick off July 10.