Musicians will have to play by a new set of rules if they want to use sound amplification equipment at Lytton Plaza in Palo Alto.
Acting on a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, the city council voted 7-1 Monday night to restrict usage of the technology at the popular downtown destination.
Amplified sound will be allowed predominately on a first-come, first-serve basis from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Daren Anderson, manager of the city's open space, parks and golf division, told the city council that several electrical outlets were added to the plaza when it was renovated in 2009. They were installed for city events, but musicians started plugging in around the clock.
In addition, they were used by others to power portable stereos, stoves, heaters and other household electronic items.
Spurred by complaints related to the outlets, the new rules were developed by a Parks and Recreation Commission subcommittee that met with musicians, members of the business community and youth advocates. Anderson said the restrictions were tested out with no problems.
"We did our best to reach a compromise that will give us a plaza that's safe and enjoyable and clean for as many uses as possible," he said.
Most of the council members agreed with him.
"I think this is an appropriate compromise," Council Member Larry Klein said. "I really like the spirit in which this was conducted."
But the city council slightly tweaked the restrictions recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Permits, which would be available to musicians who want to reserve an outlet or play outside of the specified times, will be priced to recover the costs associated with their issuance, but not more than $200.
Council members also agreed to push back the start of the weekday hours from 5 to 6 p.m.
"This is a business district," Council Member Sid Espinosa said. "This is not just some area in town that does not have people working during these certain hours, and I think that later hour does make sense given today's work world."
The new rules also received the blessing of Susan Webb, who has coordinated jam sessions at the plaza for the past three years.
"We have been living under the trial period for many months now and it's good," Webb told the city council. "It's helping me to have the power get shut off at 11 o'clock at night. It means I don't have to wrangle in those testy musicians that want to play until 3 o'clock in the morning."
Council Member Karen Holman, however, wanted to ban the use of amplified sound at the plaza altogether.
"I hear our community getting louder and louder," said Holman, who cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I'm a supporter of music and the arts and free speech and all of that. But I just don't know. From my personal perspective, I'm not really sure that all of that's dependent on amplification."
The penalty for violating the new rules will be $250, or the cost of issuing and processing a citation, according to a report by Anderson.
Vice Mayor Greg Scharff was absent from the Monday night's meeting.