A group of San Diego police officers descended on a Pacific Beach apartment complex shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, 2011.
Reggae-rock band Sunny Rude was playing to about 17 people, according to bassist Dan Millican. “We started about 9:30 and played until about 10:07.” That’s when he said seven or eight cops entered the three-story, horseshoe-shaped Pacific Beach complex on Felspar near Cass Street. Sunny Rude was playing outside, in a common area of the gated complex.
“The first thing they did was started unplugging our equipment,” said Millican. “We were given no warnings. They just busted in and started taking pictures.”
There were no arrests, but the police weren’t done with Sunny Rude. All four members — Millican, drummer Kevin Sokol, guitarist Piers Windebank, and singer Eric Trogisch — were given a “nuisance noise” citation, saying they each had to pay the city a $1000 fine and split the cost of $2845 in administrative fees that the city incurred to process the noise complaints. “We didn’t get paid anything to play that night. If we lose this, that means we’ll have to pay almost $7000 to play about 35 minutes of music.”
None of the members of Sunny Rude live at the apartment building. Millican says that two residents of the complex who accepted responsibility as party hosts agreed to pay their $1000 fines.
The complaint packet received by Sunny Rude includes photos of the offending band equipment and Halloween decorations. It stated that this apartment complex was a “chronic Halloween party house” and that it was responsible for 28 police “calls for service” in 2011.
The band members and their attorney planned to contest the fines at an April 24 administrative appeals hearing.
“This is pretty ridiculous since we never got any warning. We were never told to stop [until police showed up]. We had nothing to do with those other problems they may have had before.”
Millican says what happens at the hearing could have a big impact on the future of live music in San Diego.
“If we lose this case and musicians face an automatic $1000 fine, you can say goodbye to outside house parties in P.B. or O.B.”
Millican maintains that his band was not that much louder than the ambient drone for P.B. at that time on a Saturday. “If you walked around, we were not that much louder than the noise you would hear coming from other random house parties or from the bars nearby.”
The complaint packets received by the Sunny Rude members list code compliance officer Lynette Norman and administrative assistant Theresa Almazan as City of San Diego employees involved with the citation or the administrative hearing. Calls to them were not returned.
Sunny Rude next plays April 29 at RT’s Longboard Grill.