To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

Meeting Information


2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70


Members present: Commissioners Jose Cuellar, P. J. Johnston

Members absent: Commissioner Alexander Lloyd

Staff present: Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Program Associate Evelyn Russell

Chairing the meeting, Commissioner Johnston called the meeting to order at 3:11 p.m.

  1. Street Artists Program Director’s Report

    Unlicensed vendors on Port property. Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar reported that, in keeping with a March 5, 2007, Arts Commission resolution, Director of Cultural Affairs Richard Newirth wrote to Port Executive Director Monique Moyer to abate the selling activities of unlicensed vendors on Port property—particularly unlicensed spray paint vendors—and to meet with Program Director Lazar to formulate a proposal to replace the unlicensed vendors with designated locations for licensed street artists. In response, Ms. Susan Reynolds of the Port replied that the Port was enhancing its enforcement against the unlicensed vendors and was also developing a program to license street performers. Her letter did not mention street artists (i.e., the people licensed by the Arts Commission who make arts and crafts); instead, it encouraged the Arts Commission staff to participate in support of the proposed performers’ licensing program through the Port Commission meeting process.

    In reference to the Port’s enhanced enforcement against illegal vendors, Mr. Lazar stated that he received an in-depth report by street artist Michael Addario with photographs showing a continuation of illegal vendors, particularly spray paint vendors, onJefferson Street between Boudin’s Bakery/Restaurant and the Pier 39 shopping/amusement complex. Mr. Lazar forwarded the report and photos to Ms. Reynolds with a cover letter, again requesting a meeting to discuss replacing the illegal vendors with a strict program of licensed street artists who face the ongoing possibility of “Arts Commission’s denial of renewal of their permits should they violate the street artist ordinance in any way.” No reply has yet been received.

    Commissioner Johnston reported that, after the full Arts Commission meeting which approved the resolution to the Port, he encountered Mr. Robert G. Davis, Executive Director of the Entertainment Commission, who told Commissioner Johnston that he would be contacting the Arts Commission with regard to plans for the street performers.

    In view of this, Commissioner Johnston proposed that the three agencies (Entertainment Commission, Arts Commission, and the Port) meet to discuss not only the street performers but also new spaces for street artists on Port property. He wanted to see the Port understand that it would be more practical to have licensed street artists taking up space on the Port’s sidewalk than to leave it vacant for unlicensed vendors. Otherwise, it would not be likely that police officers, due to available staffing, would ever be able to have a round-the-clock presence to eliminate the illegal vending on Port property.

    Street Artist Michael Addario stated that he attended the last meeting of the Port Commission, and the Arts Commission’s resolution was not mentioned at all in the Port’s receipt of communications, nor discussed at the meeting. Mr. Addario submitted to the Street Artists Committee photographs of current unlicensed vendors on Jefferson Street which he took during three recent evenings. He maintained that the unlicensed vendors were also “bringing in a bad element of people doing Three-Card Monte” which, in one known instance, resulted in violence.

    Mr. Addario further stated that the Port published a vehicular parking survey which blamed the street artists for creating parking problems, citing artists who sell their wares on the 100 and 300 blocks of Jefferson Street. Mr. Addario stated that there are no street artist spaces on the 100 block and that it appeared that the Port’s report was encompassing the licensed street artists with the unlicensed vendors.

    Commissioner Johnston noted that Mr. Addario’s photos showed not only unlicensed vendors but street performers. The Commissioner requested Program Director Lazar to try to organize a meeting with Mr. Davis and the Port to see if street artists would be included in the Port’s plans for street performers. If more support is required, Commissioner Johnston, as President of the Arts Commission, offered to send a letter to the President of the Port Commission.

  2. Hearing and possible motion to approve issuance or renewal of certificate

    Frank Dong—Certificate # 7194 expired July 21, 2006.
    Alleged violation: Selling without a valid (current) certificate (violation of Section 7(a) of Street Artist Ordinance, Proposition “L” of November, 1975 election).

    Program Director Lazar stated that he had received a telephone report alleging that street artist Frank Dong had been selling on various occasions since the expiration of his certificate. He allegedly had been selling at Justin Herman Plaza and on Beach Street. A further report alleged that he had attempted to obtain a space through the artists’ lottery on February 19, 2007, Presidents’ Day, but was denied when a lottery helper verified that Mr. Dong’s certificate had expired eight months previously.

    The Program Director commented that the repeated selling without a valid certificate was a serious violation of the street artist ordinance, especially in view of the fact that many artists saw to it that their certificates were renewed—and their licensing program supported—even during financially lean seasons.

    The Program Director called two witnesses to testify.

    Street Artist Virginia Travers stated that she had witnessed Mr. Dong selling during August, 2006, at Justin Herman Plaza; she did not know at the time that his certificate had expired. Knowledge of this was not readily available because he would not enter the lottery, where certificates are verified, but would show up and take a leftover space later in the day. Ms. Travers went on to say that early in March, 2007, she was set up on Beach Street when Mr. Dong arrived in the afternoon to sell next to her. While they conversed about vacations and other subjects, a Lottery Committee worker informed her that Mr. Dong’s certificate had expired the previous July. Ms. Travers then asked Mr. Dong if his certificate was expired, and he replied in the affirmative. She suggested that he go to the Program office to renew it. He packed up his display and left.

    Ms. Travers commented that, in her opinion, Mr. Dong wrongfully sold during the eight months of his certificate’s expiration, and that “it undermines the integrity of the other street artists who do pay for their licenses on time …We are really blessed to have this Program; no matter how broke I am, I always make sure that I pay my license on time, only because I feel it’s such a minimum amount for me in order to survive.”  She further stated that she did not believe that, for Mr. Dong, this was a hardship case, for he has retirement income and owns his home. Because of his long-time participation in the Program, she said, “he knows he has to pay his license on time.” She said that the rules of the Program were “minimal”: “you make what you sell; you sell what you make; and you pay your license on time.”

    The Commissioners verified that Mr. Dong had been a street artist for over twenty-six years.

    Street Artist Robert Chan stated that on February 19, 2007, Presidents’ Day, he was a Lottery Committee helper checking street artist certificates. Mr. Dong showed him his certificate, whereupon Mr. Chan informed him that it had expired and refused to allow him to sign up for a space.

    The Committee requested Street Artist Frank Dong to reply to the statements of the witnesses and to give his version of what had happened.

    Mr. Dong stated that he appreciated the good intentions of his fellow street artists who reminded him to renew his certificate, that he had a very poor memory, and that, in the present circumstance, there must be a good reason for him to learn the lesson. Otherwise, if he had avoided this hearing, “the same thing would continuously happen the rest of my life as long as I belong to the Street Artists Program.” He said that he would make great effort to remember to renew from now on.

    Mr. Dong went on to say that on weekends he would appear on the street at 2:00 p.m. because in the morning he is a spiritual practitioner at San Francisco Center for Meditation from 4:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. As he had not participated in the street artists’ morning lottery very often (which would have required him to show his certificate), he had forgotten that his certificate had expired.

    Commissioner Johnston asked him whether, during the previous winter holiday season, he sold at various times during the week.

    Mr. Dong replied that on weekends he sold in the afternoons.

    Commissioner Johnston stated that while he considered Mr. Dong a sincere person, he also appreciated the testimony of the other artists that the integrity of the Program had to be protected. Furthermore, the Program was self-funded, relying on the consistent payments of its certificate-holders. If the Street Artists Committee was to grant Mr. Dong a new certificate, the Commissioner wanted to see the Committee calendar a motion to renew or not renew Mr. Dong’s certificate a year hence (April, 2008). If Mr. Dong were to renew on his own initiative, the Program Director could report this and the matter could be tabled.

    Mr. Dong stated that he would be “very happy to pay whatever I owe … I have no intention to try to save a dollar.”

    Program Director Lazar stated that he had explored this possibility with the City Attorney’s office and had been advised that the Arts Commission had no authority to require an artist to pay for a period of time in which the artist’s certificate had lapsed; instead, the Commission could grant a new certificate and suspend it for a period of time, or defer the suspension for a meaningful period of time. However, in light of Mr. Dong’s statement of voluntarily contributing what he felt he owed, the Program Director pointed to the street artist fund ordinance (Ordinance 151-99) which established the street artist fund as a special fund and provided for the Street Artists Program to accept “all donations of money and other gifts” as well as “any grants, gifts and bequests from private sources” to “be deposited into” the Program’s “special fund.”

    Commissioner Cuellar asked whether it would be possible for a forgetful artist to pay for three years’ worth of a certificate.

    Mr. Lazar replied that, while he did not know of a provision that would limit an artist to paying for one renewal period at a time, he would have to consult with the City Attorney on this.

    Commissioner Cuellar pointed out that the Program does not have the resources necessary to notify the artists of the dates to renew their certificates, that it was the artists’ responsibility to remind themselves.

    Program Associate Evelyn Russell commented that a street artist’s certificate contains a red-lined box around the certificate’s expiration date, and that the artist is required to display the certificate at all times while selling. Furthermore, the Program gives each artist two certificate cards—one to keep on the display and one to be carried on the person. Therefore, there is ample opportunity for an artist to know when the certificate expires.

    Ms. Russell went on to state that she was creating a list of current certificate-holders to be updated monthly and given to the Lottery Committee.

    Commissioner Johnston stated that he did not want to set a precedent for “inviting” artists to shirk their responsibility for paying for their certificates.

    Commissioner Cuellar ascertained from the Program Director that, in the future, if the Committee were to hear a case of nefarious intent to dodge a certificate renewal, the Committee would have the authority to withhold issuing the certificate, or to issue the certificate subject to a suspension period which could be deferred to a meaningful time of the year.

    Street Artist Virginia Travers stated that her membership permit for the Screen Actors Guild lists an expiration date, and that she would not be permitted to work as an actor unless she paid her dues on time.

    Commissioner Johnston moved that Frank Dong be found in violation of the street artists ordinance by selling without a certificate, that a new certificate be issued to Mr. Dong, and that the Program Director accept Mr. Dong’s offer to donate money to the street artist fund to cover the period of time in which he offered his items for sale without a valid certificate; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Cuellar and unanimously approved.

    Street Artist Michael Addario commented that a problem could arise for the fiscal health of the Program if artists were allowed to purchase certificates three years in advance, thereby avoiding fee increases in the interim.

  3. Hearing and possible motion to approve amendment to Arts Commission Street Artists Lottery Rule V by providing for day and time of lottery to select members of Lottery Committee and by providing for street artist volunteers to help run such lottery (hearing requested by street artists)

    The Commissioners acknowledged that the Program Director had received a petition from street artists requesting that 9:20 a.m. on Sunday be the specified time and day for the lottery to select members of the Lottery Committee.

    Program Director Lazar stated that, until December, 1995, the Lottery Committee had always been elected by the street artists. But the Arts Commission began to receive complaints about favoritism. On December 4, 1995, the full Arts Commission approved a proposal from street artists Bill and Bob Clark to eliminate the election of Lottery Committee members and to provide for their selection by lot. While the new procedure was implemented, however, no provisions were made for designating a specific day or time to run the lottery. Arbitrarily, since 1996, the artists themselves chose to run the member-selection lottery on a Saturday at 9:00 a.m. The problem which has arisen is that this occurs at the same time of the major Wharf lottery which, by some reports, prevents a close monitoring of the member-selection lottery.

    The Program Director also stated that he had received a proposal from other artists to maintain the member-selection lottery on Saturday but have it start earlier than the Wharf lottery, at 8:45 a.m.

    Commissioner Johnston asked Mr. Lazar for his opinion of whether there was a general consensus for either proposal.

    Mr. Lazar responded that there was no general consensus; in fact, he discovered that some names appeared on both petitions.

    Commissioner Johnston asked for public comment.

    Street Artist Tina Jamison, who authored the first petition, in favor of a Sunday member-selection lottery, stated that the lottery to select Lottery Committee members should be changed to Sunday because (a) Saturday is the busiest day; (b) many Lottery Committee members are not available on Saturday because they are selling at Justin Herman Plaza and therefore are not present to oversee the member-selection lottery; and (c) on Sunday artists are more relaxed and would be inclined to observe the workings of the lottery.

    Street Artist Jimmy Sha, who authored the second petition, in favor of a Saturday member-selection lottery, stated that he is a Lottery Committee member who has made sure that a sign-up sheet for Lottery Committee candidates is placed at the Wharf lottery ten days prior to the member-selection lottery. He went on to say that it was not true that people were not present on Saturdays to monitor the member-selection lottery; there were always at least ten people monitoring it. He showed the Commissioners plastic poker chips on which, he said, candidates’ names are written. The chips are put in a small bag which is shaken; the chips are drawn at random and recorded. He suggested that the member-selection lottery be kept on Saturday but held earlier than the Wharf lottery.

    Street Artist Catherine Zhang stated that Lottery Committee member Brian Hopper asked her to observe Mr. Sha running the member-selection lottery. She demonstrated with the chips and bag how he placed the chips in the bag and drew them out, allegedly favoring certain people.

    Program Director Lazar stated that Ms. Zhang had previously come to his office and made this complaint against Mr. Sha, whereupon Mr. Lazar had asked her for the names of witnesses and received none.

    Commissioner Johnston refused to hear the matter as it was not on the agenda.

    Street Artist Susan Pete stated she had been on the Lottery Committee for five years and had never seen chips used for selection of members. The selection, she said, had been done with names placed on regular lottery slips.

    Commissioner Johnston stated that he did not feel comfortable voting for the issue—especially because it gave rise to procedural controversy—without seeing support from more artists. While Sunday seemed more logical to him, he did not see a major consensus for it. He wanted to see future consideration based on a larger petition of artists and more artists in attendance to speak on the issue. He also wanted to see the Program Director meet with both factions and submit a recommendation to the Commissioners.

    Street Artist Edward Steneck stated that there are more artists present on Saturday than on Sunday; therefore, there are more people to observe the procedure.

    Commissioner Cuellar, as well, favored receiving more information. He asked whether any of the artists present would object to the members’ lottery being held prior to the Wharf lottery.

    Ms. Jamison responded that she had no objection to its being held on Saturday before 9:00 a.m.

    Mr. Lazar stated that he was available to meet with all artists who were interested in producing a unified proposal.

    Commissioner Johnston moved to continue the item; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Cuellar and unanimously approved.

Seeing that there was no new business nor public comment, Commissioner Johnston adjourned the meeting at 4:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director

April 27, 2007