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Meeting Information


2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70

MINUTES (as amended by January 9, 2008 meeting)


Members present: Commissioners Alexander Lloyd, José Cuellar, and Sherene Melania

Members absent: None

Staff present: Interim Director of Cultural Affairs Nancy Gonchar, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar

Commissioner Lloyd, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:10 p.m.

  1. Hearing (discussion only) on Street Artists Program Director’s proposal for 2008-09 budget for Street Artists Program.

    Commissioner Lloyd stated that, at today’s hearing, the Street Artists Committee would most likely state a recommendation but would not vote on the budget; the vote would be taken by the Arts Commission’s Executive Committee in January, 2008. The Commissioner thanked the street artists for taking time away from their jobs to come to today’s meeting.

    Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar presented his draft of a budget for 2008-09 and stated that it included all of the major items that had been requested by the Commissioners and various street artists: computer-generated certificates; printing of the Program’s “bluebook” (which will also be available on the Program’s website); police enforcement of the street artist and peddling ordinances during the winter holiday season; and utilization of the already legislated, full complement of thirty-five meetings/studio visits/monitoring assignments of the Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen at a $20 increase in compensation requested by the Advisory Committee. For many years, the Advisory Committee members had been receiving compensation of $80 per meeting/studio visit/monitoring assignment, and the members were now requesting compensation of $100 for each such duty. To support this budget, the street artist fee would have to be raised from the current annual fee of $419.20 to an annual fee of $583.43, representing a 39% increase.

    The Program Director explained that the present fee of $419.20 has been in existence for three years: 2005-06, 2006-07, and the current year 2007-08. Prior to this, for twelve years (1991-2003) the street artist fee had been $350 a year. By 2003, however, the Program’s expenses exceeded its annual fee revenue, and the Arts Commission requested and received from the Board of Supervisors in October, 2003, an ordinance which raised the annual fee in three increments. It started with a 6% increase to $373.60 to cover the fiscal year from October, 2003 to June 30, 2004; then another 6% increase to $393.40 to cover the period of July, 2004 to June 30, 2005; and, finally, a 5% increase from that amount to $419.20 (the present fee) beginning on July 1, 2005. These three increases represented an overall 17% increase over the previous long-standing fee of $350.

    Mr. Lazar went on to explain that the three fee increases had been deliberately made to be gradual in keeping with the Program’s gradual drawing down of its surplus fees revenue—a surplus which had been created from salary savings commencing some fifteen years ago. The Program’s usage of the surplus fees supplemented the fee revenue in order to balance the budget. This procedure was commended by the City Attorney’s office as “fiscally prudent.”

    Finally, as Mr. Lazar had predicted four years ago, the surplus fees savings will be depleted at the close of the current fiscal year. That is why, he stated, there would be a significant fee increase for next year, even without the inclusion of the requested new items: the Program will no longer have the benefit of savings to supplement its annual revenue.

    With regard to the proposed 39% fee increase, the Program Director stated that it was not unusual for the street artist fees to be sharply increased. In 1983, the fee was $80 a year; by 1987, it had increased by 50% to $160 a year. From 1988 to 1991, the fee was $230 a year, representing a 30% increase. In 1991 the fee jumped by 34% to $350 where it remained, as stated previously, for the next twelve years.

    At the request of the Commissioners, Mr. Lazar detailed each of the items of the proposed budget. He stated that the salaries and benefits of the Program’s two staff people represented a 4% increase (a projected increase recommended by the Arts Commission’s chief accountant in annually drafting the budget), and he identified those items which represented the same dollar amounts in the current year’s budget.

    With regard to the increased rate of compensation for the Advisory Committee, a new compensation ordinance would be required. Commissioner Lloyd noted that the new rate would be a 22% increase.

    With regard to the proposed amount for police enforcement during the winter holiday season, Mr. Lazar stated that increased hourly rates for police officers may no longer allow the Street Artists Program to buy a full two weeks of enforcement against illegal vendors.

    To arrive at the new annual fee, the proposed budget was divided among the Program’s current 390 street artists. Mr. Lazar clarified, however, that currently not all street artists pay a full year’s worth of fees. While some do, others pay for two quarterly fees and then drop out of the Program; still others pay for only one quarter and leave the Program; some artists return, some do not. This situation, as always, makes it difficult to calculate a precise revenue.

    Commissioner Lloyd asked that, prior to the Executive Committee’s hearing on the budget, Mr. Lazar provide figures for the budget and the increased fee to reflect a deletion of the amounts for computer-generated certificates, “bluebook” printing, and police enforcement.

    Commissioner Melania ascertained that the cost for printing the “bluebook” was based on 1,000 copies. The Commissioners discussed that, rather than pay for this expenditure, the “bluebook,” which will be presently available online, could be photocopied by request and the requestor charged a fee to cover the cost. Interim Director of Cultural Affairs Nancy Gonchar stated that copies of the book could be placed in the City’s libraries. Mr. Lazar stated that the previous 1998 edition had been so placed in the main branch of the public library and the law library, and that he had furnished—and the Program collected payment for—copies to other cities requesting advice on running a street artists licensing program.

    Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.

    Street Artist Edward Steneck stated that the large street artist turnout at today’s meeting was very unusual and that the artists were present because of their concern about the Program’s costs. He said that most of the artists felt that the proposed rate of fee increase was “way out of line.” While many members of the public have the impression that street artists make a good deal of money, “that’s not the truth”; some just get by “while others do well, etcetera, etcetera.” He went on to say that there were a number of items in the proposed budget that the artists could live without: for example, the costs of the printing of the “bluebook” and the police enforcement. He said he did not “have a lot of faith in the way” the police “work; I’ve been on the street for many, many years” observing that, when the police were hired, the Program was taken advantage of—“I don’t feel that they earned the ten thousand dollars that we had to pay them. Half the time we never saw them; they would make a few busts, they’d pick up a few tables full of scarves and so forth … but really I don’t think they do their job.” Mr. Steneck also stated that the artists could live without the cost of computer-generated licenses; while it would someday be “great,” he did not feel the Program could afford it at the present time. “Those three items I just mentioned,” he said, “would save us twenty-five thousand dollars. And something else that would save us a lot of money: I think that the secretary that we have … who works up in the office, I think we ought to find a way to live without her” salary “plus ... benefits.”

    Street Artist Michael Addario submitted a nine-page report he prepared which was entitled “The San Francisco Street Artists Program; Proposed Budget and Recommendations for Fiscal 2008-2009”. He explained that “San Francisco street artists are, in fact, disadvantaged business enterprises and, in addition, must design, fabricate, and sell only their original art. Our program should not be confused with street fairs or, for that matter, retail businesses, for in both cases they do not have the restrictions that are applied to our program.” In contrast with retail stores, he said, “we do not have access to permanent shelters, water, sewage” and electrical facilities “and are restricted … from acquiring multiple” selling “locations. We can’t have employees or salespersons.” Also in contrast with retail stores and art fairs, “with our present lottery system there is the possibility of driving hours to our lottery” and then “pull a high number and not have any viable space” in which “to sell.” Also, because the Street Artists Program is a City program, the artists “must abide by costly City regulations that most fairs or small businesses could ill afford.” Furthermore, “working street artists sacrifice paid holidays, vacations,” sick pay days, medical and dental coverage, “pension, paid breaks, and any idea of seniority or security.”

    Mr. Addario went on to state that “while the City of San Francisco, the Art Commission, and the Port make a multitude of restrictions for the street artists to sell their work,” these agencies “refuse to enforce those identical rules against the unlicensed vendors who set up in the most lucrative spots in the city.” Mr. Addario also cited the Port’s encroachment policy and Street Performer Program which “may affect” the street artists’ “legal spaces on Port property” and “these developments could possibly bring more members to an already summer-packed Justin Herman Plaza.”

    Commissioner Lloyd asked Mr. Addario to concentrate his remarks on the proposed budget.

    Mr. Addario stated that “it was recently learned that there is a non-funded liability for the San Francisco Street Artists Program: staff accrued vacation time and sick pays to the amount of eighty-three hundred dollars as of October 31, 2007.” This amount, he said, was not included in the proposed budget, and that, if one of the staff members were to leave the Program, the Program would have to pay for the member’s accrued time.

    Referring to budget figures he drafted, Mr. Addario stated that the Program was running a deficit of 20%. Referring to a chart he created, entitled “How Membership Loss Relates to Proposed Fees,” he stated that, as the fee goes up, the membership goes down. “All indications are that the San Francisco Street Artists Program is in serious financial jeopardy. Presently, and for a number of years, the … program is expending more resources than it recovers in revenue. … Major modification to the program will be needed immediately to become financially solvent and satisfy the program’s survival, goals, and aspirations.”

    Mr. Addario told the Commissioners that they had “a fiduciary responsibility to take control of these overlooked and runaway costs” and to “restructure” the program’s “costly and underperforming … office.” He added that the 39% fee increase was “equivalent to a regressive tax on working artists who do not enjoy nearly the same income or benefits as program office staff.” Among some eighteen recommendations listed in his report, Mr. Addario verbalized two: (1) Downsize the Program’s staff—he said he was concurring with Street Artist Edward Steneck—which “would save approximately eighty thousand dollars in salary and benefits”; and (2) the Commission should explore the possibility of “transferring the Program to 501(c)(3) status and … canvassing for in-kind donations and City art grants.”

    Street Artist Rui Ling Chang stated that it was “hard to make money on the street” and that the fee increase issue “means a lot.”

    Street Artist Wgi Zhong Ma stated that he agreed with what Street Artist Edward Steneck said.

    Street Artist Yvonne Sik Kum Kwok stated that the proposed fee was “too high.”

    Street Artist Gat Wah Lee Chen stated that she has been a street artist for over twenty years, that the price of the present fee was “very high” and that she opposed the cost of the new fee.

    Street Artist Stella Wu stated that she agreed with what had already been stated by her fellow artists.

    Street Artist Rina Lin stated that “we don’t make much money” to support the proposed fee increase.

    Street Artist Perrie Harrison stated that the proposed 39% increase was “ridiculous.” She said that she creates crochet items, and, when it rains, she cannot work; “like last Saturday, I made zero. During the rainy season … to April, that sometimes can be a long stretch” in which she “can’t make any money and still have to pay” the present fee which “is still hard to come up with that kind of money if you’re not making any money.”

    Street Artist William Clark submitted a videotape labeled “Board of Supervisors Finance & Audits Committee 9/17/03” and stated that at the hearing recorded by the tape he presented evidence that $40,000 in interest should have accrued to the Street Artists Program’s special fund on the fees surplus during the period of 1991 to 1997 but that the interest had not been received by the fund. “We were requesting at that time that that interest be transferred from the general fund to our fund.” Urging the Commissioners to view the tape, Mr. Clark stated that Supervisor Peskin asked the Controller and the City Attorney to verify that the amount of interest was not received by the Street Artists Program’s fund. The representatives of those two offices who were present “didn’t know anything about it, and then” Program Director Lazar was asked if it was true that the Program’s fund had never received the transfer of interest, but “Howard misunderstood the question that” was asked of him, “and he thought that they were asking him if he knew whether or not they had actually spent the money, and he said ‘I don’t know’ … So what I’m asking for you to do—I’m not questioning your budget at all—but I would like you to ask Howard, when you go back in front of the committee, to make that committee aware that he misunderstood that question, and that in fact there was forty thousand dollars that was transferred out, that we should get back …” Mr. Clark added that, at the present time, he calculated an additional $25,000 was owed the Program as interest on the previously mentioned interest. “If you add that sixty-five thousand dollars onto the amount of revenue you bring in from this year’s fee—the old fee—there would be no need to raise the fee for next year.”

    He asked that the Commissioners direct Mr. Lazar to request Supervisor Peskin to look into the matter of the interest, and that “we should at least try to get the City to return it to us.”

    Street Artist Robert Clark stated that he was “opposed to any fee increase at this time because of the sixty-five thousand dollars that the City does have of our money from the interest” from 1991-97. He went on to say that the video his brother submitted showed that when he, Robert, was at the Finance Committee meeting, he told Supervisor Peskin about the $40,000, “and Supervisor Peskin made it very clear that if it was correct … and that they did inadvertently take our forty thousand dollars interest, that there was no doubt that they would return it to us.” Supervisor Peskin, he said, consulted with the City Attorney and the Controller at the meeting, but “they, for whatever reason, said they didn’t know anything about it. And Howard misunderstood the question, and therefore Peskin asked the Controller to look into this.” Since that time, Mr. Clark asserted, “the Controller hasn’t looked into it.”

    Mr. Clark said that he would not argue with what the Arts Commissioners wanted for the Street Artists Program budget, but “I am requesting that Howard ask the Finance Committee to put the money back; because if he doesn’t do it, I’m going to do it anyway.” He urged the Commissioners to refrain from making “any decisions on what our budget should be”and urged the Commissioners of both the Street Artists Committee and the Executive Committee to view the videotape of the Finance Committee meeting “to see what the Supervisors said they would do” for the street artists “if we’re correct. … If we can get that money back, then at least for one year you don’t have to put this pressure on these people. They’re scared; they think their lives are going to be affected.”

    Street Artist Chik Suen stated that he agreed with the comments put forth by Street Artist Edward Steneck.

    Street Artist Cheryl Chen stated that she would like to see the street artist fee raised each year by an agreed-upon uniform percentage, rather than having to experience sudden sharp increases.

    Street Artist Fernando Hechavarria stated that he agreed with the comments made by Edward Steneck.

    Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan thanked the Commissioners and the Program Director for their work. She stated that she has held her street artist license since 1974 and that she was of a “second family generation: my mother started me in” the Street Artists Program. She went on to say that she felt the Program was “really completely beautiful and unique in the entire world and, on the one hand, think the dollar a day or a dollar-sixty is extremely good for us for what we get and for the location which is the most expensive real estate in all the world. On the other hand, I also understand that there is real discussion that should go into” the increase, “so I also feel for the artists.” In contrast with the present cost and the proposed next year’s cost of her license, Ms. Hallinan stated that she was invited to participate in a crafts fair in December that was “two hundred dollars a day. I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m just going to pay a dollar fifty’ because I really can’t afford to give away two hundred dollars of my artwork; to me, that’s so huge …”

    Ms. Hallinan went on to say that the proposed fee could be a hardship because “a lot of times our income is really low compared to” the artists’ business of the 1970’s. She asked the Commissioners to pay “serious attention” to the issue of the $40,000 interest in relation to the Program’s budget, that what the Clark brothers “said is really worth looking into.”

    Ms. Hallinan described the Program as “a really incredible program under Howard’s stewardship,” the guidance and efforts of the Commissioners, and the artists’ hard work on a daily basis. While the Program “is a good deal, it is also a program of struggling artists who come out every day … and have no health insurance, have no paid week, and have to make” their craft “freshly every day by hand.”

    After the end of public comment, Commissioner Cuellar asked the Program Director whether a motion could be made to look into the matter of the $40,000 interest or what steps would be necessary to ascertain the status of the amount and its potential for the Arts Commission to have access to it.

    Mr. Lazar responded that it was his understanding that, firstly, it would be necessary to verify with the Controller the amount of interest for the years 1991-97; then, he surmised, it would probably be up to the Arts Commission to vote to pursue the issue at the Board of Supervisors. At any rate, he would have to seek guidance from the City Attorney’s office.

    Commissioner Lloyd affirmed that his Committee wanted to verify the status of the interest and the appropriate process involved in pursuing the money. However, the Commissioner felt that, while the Program’s receiving the interest might reduce the certificate fee for one year, it was no panacea in solving the budget problem. Nevertheless, he asked the Program Director to look into the matter of the interest.

    Commissioner Lloyd went on to state that, given his assessment of the opposition to raising the fee at all, he wanted to see a new budget proposal that removed as much of the new items as possible in order to keep the fee down. While it would be advantageous for the Program to have the new items, the fee increase at this time should be minimal. The Commissioner asked that the following be removed from the proposed budget: the printing of the “bluebook” (if there is a necessity for a hardcopy, he said, a charge could be made on a per-copy printing basis); the police enforcement; and the computer-generated certificates. The proposed $20 increase in compensation for the Advisory Committee, however, should remain, since the Advisory Committee had not received an increase in many years.

    For the long term, the Commissioner stated that he would like to see a proposal that would include a charitable institution associated with the Street Artists Program, as a “Friends of the Street Artists Program,” or some local businesses that would support the Program.

    Commissioner Melania commented that, if the “bluebook” could not be printed, it should at least be accessible online in order to avoid the possibility of a street artist claiming he/she did not know the rules because they couldn’t find the “bluebook.”

    Commissioner Lloyd agreed with this and added that, for people who do not have access to the Internet, it might make sense to establish a procedure to print out the book for individuals and charge them for the cost.

    Commissioner Cuellar stated that worthy of consideration might be a pre-established fee increase percentage year by year, anticipating the needs of the Program, in order to avoid long stretches of no fee increase and sudden dramatic increases.

    Program Director Lazar stated that the Program is governed by an ordinance passed by the voters which prohibits increasing the fee beyond that which is necessary to cover the Program’s expenses. Furthermore, while a surplus is always advantageous to augment the fee revenue if necessary, the Program is not entitled to deliberately create a surplus. He went on to say that the Program’s expenses have not always been consistent. With respect to a proposed gradual fee increase, the last three increases were gradual and were provided as such by the current fee ordinance. These gradual increases were based on consistent expenses for the past few years. The currently proposed dramatic increase was due primarily to the inclusion of new significant items in the budget.

    Mr. Lazar went on to state that the biggest item of the budget has always been its salaries and benefits and can be predicted annually by increasing them by 4%, as recommended by the Commission’s Chief Accountant. Similarly, the Program’s budget for supplies has remained consistent through the years.

    Commissioner Cuellar stated that, in addition to basing a consistent increase on salaries and benefits, it might be possible to project the increase to include other items as well. For example, a 6% increase per year might make it possible to project a budget in keeping with the revenue.

    Mr. Lazar responded that, while such a course could be worked out, he felt that many artists were still failing to understand that the reason for the projected dramatic jump in the fee, even without the budget’s inclusion of new items, was the fact that the Program will next year no longer have a surplus to offset its costs. The annual fee revenue will have to entirely support the budget.

    Commissioner Lloyd affirmed that if the budget deleted the costs of the computer-generated permits, the printing of the “bluebook,” and police enforcement—which would represent a savings of $25,000—the balance of the costs would yield a fee of approximately $500, substantially less than the previously projected $583.

    Mr. Lazar clarified that, if the Program three years ago (when the three-tiered increase commenced) had not had the benefit of its surplus, the artists “would be paying five hundred and something by now, this present year.” The projected significant fee increase “comes as such a shock because” the Program previously “had the luxury of a surplus savings” to draw from. Nevertheless, following Commissioner Cuellar’s advice, it would be possible to work with the Commission’s Chief Accountant to arrive at a percentage formula for the subsequent five years. This, in fact, was done three years ago when the Program Director consulted with the City Attorney in arriving at the subsequent formula of 6%, 6%, and 5% fee increases, respectively.

    Commissioner Lloyd, addressing the artists, stated that, while he understood that they did not necessarily want more competition, every new artist added to the Program will help the fee to go down.

    Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan interjected that the Program did not have the spaces to accommodate a substantial increase of artists.

    To this, Commissioner Lloyd stated that the Commissioners and staff will work to obtain more spaces. In so doing, he invited the artists to find other artists who would be interested in joining the Program; and that would be one way to reduce the fee.

    Commissioner Cuellar questioned whether there was a finite number of artists which the Program could reasonably serve. Presently, as was stated by Street Artist Michael Addario, some artists may drive for three hours to get to their lottery only to receive a poor space and make little money. The more artists who are in the Program, the more it will be probable that artists will be coming from afar and not able to make much money. Therefore, something to think about would be the ideal number of artists and the ideal number of spaces; given these, the Commissioner questioned: What kind of projection of fee increases should be prepared to pay on a regular basis to maintain the Program?

    Program Director Lazar stated that the Program has maintained roughly 400 artists for the past seven or eight years. Thirty years ago there were about 1,000 artists in the Program. Of the current approximate 370 spaces, the question has to be asked: How many are workable and good? While the number of spaces could be matched with the number of artists, the problem would not necessarily be solved since not all the spaces were viable. Furthermore, many spaces have been shown to “go through a metamorphosis of viability: during one decade they’re up on top, the next decade they’re way down. It’s a fluctuating thing; it’s business.”

    The Program Director went on to clarify that the Arts Commission was prohibited from establishing a limitation of the number of artists it certifies. While the Program has lost spaces through the years, it has also gained spaces. On the day following this meeting, in fact, seventy-one choice winter holiday spaces would be added to the Downtown Lottery, and this will be the twenty-sixth year that the Arts Commission has obtained such spaces for a crucial selling season on behalf of the artists.

    Commissioner Lloyd recommended that, while he appreciated the inclusion of new items which reflected what the artists and the Commissioners had previously discussed, a budget should now be proposed, however, with as minimal a fee increase as possible, because “it doesn’t take a genius to hear what” the artists “are saying, and we’re all here to help these people.” He asked the Program Director to prepare a revised budget that would delete the higher-cost new items, amounting to $25,000. The Interim Director of the Arts Commission, Nancy Gonchar, suggested that they could also reduce the number of Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen Examiners' meetings to which Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar agreed.  Commissioner Lloyd concurred and stated that it could be included in the reduced budget proposal to be presented at the Arts Commission's Executive Committee meeting in January.
    Commissioner Lloyd affirmed that there would be no Street Artists Committee meeting scheduled for December.

  2. Hearing and possible motion to approve proposal to eliminate 10-day renewal policy to allow for renewal of more than 10 working days after a certificate’s expiration date (continued from 10/10/07 meeting).

    Program Director Lazar reported that, at the last hearing on the matter, he had been asked to obtain a projection of the effect on the Program’s fee revenue if the 10-day policy were eliminated. He discussed the matter at length with the Arts Commission’s Chief Accountant whose opinion was that the elimination of the policy would not be a good idea, that it was important to maintain a deadline for renewals in order to keep an assured amount of revenue.

    In response to a question by Commissioner Melania, Mr. Lazar clarified the Arts Commission’s authority in waiving its policy of re-screening the wares of former certificate-holders seeking new certificates and approving, at full Commission meetings, issuance of new certificates for such artists without re-screening.

    The Program Director went on to say that, at the last hearing, the Committee heard an argument that, if a former certificate-holder has to wait a month for full Commission approval, there would be a loss of revenue from this individual in the interim, and that, instead of undergoing this, it would be easier for the Program to collect the fee immediately and license the artist. While that may be true, the Program Director stated that, if the 10-day policy were eliminated, the Committee should consider the relatively small number of former certificate-holders (usually three or four, possibly eight during the winter holiday season) whose fee revenue could be collected right away, in relation to the majority of artists whose fee revenue, without being governed by deadline, would probably no longer be collected on a timely basis. Mr. Lazar, in agreement with the Commission’s Chief Accountant, recommended that the 10-day policy not be eliminated.

    Street Artist William Clark, who had proposed eliminating the policy, stated that artists who fail to renew abide by the policy and walk away from the Program, thus making for a loss of revenue while they wait for either a re-screening or full Commission approval for a new certificate. Mr. Clark went on to say that “this is pure conjecture on the part of people who are saying that we’re going to lose all these people” who pay in accord with the policy deadline “because everybody’s going to take a vacation and go off and not come in to the Program … What we’re saying is that the people who want to work in the Program are going to come here and pay for their time period” while artists who “don’t want to work, even under the present situation … are going to take a month off or two months off or three months off … and then come in and ask for a waiver.” He went on to say that the raising of the fee at this time will make it more difficult for artists to pay in a timely fashion. He suggested that the Commissioners consider extending the policy to thirty days “to give people that additional time” to raise the money. This would avoid their having to go through the re-screening process, “to come in here and humiliate themselves in front of you guys … telling you ‘Well, I’m broke, I don’t have money…’ ” Mr. Clark did not foresee a major loss of revenue by extending the length of time of the policy.

    Street Artist Robert Clark stated that, at the last hearing, he had raised the question of why the policy was initiated, what the need had been for it. He also alluded to the present policy allotted for new street artists to pay for their certificates within fifteen days of their screening. He stated that the reason the policies were initiated “in the first place was to knock people out of the Program.”

    The reason for this, he said, was that at the time there was a group of artists “who wanted to monopolize spaces; they went to the Arts Commission and they said ‘Hey look, we got two thousand people in the Program, we don’t have enough spaces, we’ve got to get rid of some people. … Well, we can’t get rid of people unless we have a procedure that says after this date, you’re no longer in the Program.’ … Well, back then, this Committee was illegally limiting the numbers, and what happened is they created the 10-day rule” to eliminate artists from the Program. He went on to say that also at that time new artists were not permitted into the Program “until somebody drops out.”

    Mr. Clark submitted a copy of an official Arts Commission document entitled "1991-92 WORK PLANS: STREET ARTISTS PROGRAM" which states the document is an "OUTLINE OF PROGRAM DIRECTOR'S PLANS FOR 1991-92".  Mr. Clark pointed out Item E to the Committee members which states that one of the goals of the Program Director for 1991-92 is to "Lower number of artists in Program from 572 to 500". He went on to state that “while we were trying to get more people into the Program, this Commission was knocking people out of the Program.” He asserted that if the fees were now getting to be “so high, it’s not because of the street artists; it’s because this Commission had a policy to knock the numbers down.”

    Street Artist Michael Addario stated that elimination of the renewal grace period would be “financial suicide if people could pick and choose what month they want to work; especially with our costs now, people would just work during the wintertime or during the summer … and just come back next year.” Therefore, he felt that elimination of the policy would hurt the Program financially and would “then shift the burden” of shouldering the Program’s expenses “on everybody who works” throughout the year.

    Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan stated that “sometimes when the Clark brothers have come up with” an idea there would be “a whole bunch of people in opposition, and later on everybody loved it.” She asked the Commissioners to give the elimination of the renewal period an opportunity—a “test period”—to see what effect it would have on the Program’s revenue.

    Upon the close of public comment, Commissioner Lloyd called for a motion to approve eliminating the 10-day policy. No motion was forthcoming.

  3. Street Artists Program Director’s Report.

    Hearings at Board of Appeals.
    Program Director Lazar reported on the recent hearings in which he had participated at the Board of Appeals relative to the appeals filed by Manuel Loli and Paula Datesh of the Arts Commission’s actions on their certification. Mr. Lazar thanked street artists Susan Pete, Michael Addario, Kathleen Hallinan, and Edward Steneck for testifying at the hearings.

    With regard to Paula Datesh’s hearing, the Board of Appeals found that there was inadequate evidence to support the Arts Commission’s denial, unanimously overruled the Commission, and ordered the Commission to issue Ms. Datesh a three-month street artist certificate which shall be subject to renewal under the Program’s rules—that is, subject to Ms. Datesh’s abiding by the rules. Mr. Lazar further reported that the Board of Appeals commissioners made it clear to Ms. Datesh “that there will be no third chance.” The Board’s chair directed her to not telephone people at home nor “arrive at their desk side at their work.” She promised she would not; and he said to Ms. Datesh, “Consider this a gift.” She promised to “obey all the rules” and to not get into conflicts with anyone.

    With regard to Manuel Loli’s hearing, the Program Director stated that he had presented “irrefutable evidence” of Mr. Loli’s violations, his yearlong history of hearings with the Street Artists Committee, as well as the findings from the visit to his studio conducted by the Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen Examiners. Mr. Lazar said the Board of Appeals commissioners were “very courteous” but “they just couldn’t find it in their hearts to just say ‘no forever’, as they put it, to this man, so that he could not get a license.” Mr. Lazar stated that three street artists testified as to how difficult it is, as well as time-consuming, to make their own work, and to the injustice of having “to compete with someone who is selling” items “he doesn’t make.” Nevertheless, the Board unanimously voted to continue the matter to January and directed Mr. Loli to submit additional documents to verify that he understands the Program’s rules and that he will abide by them. Mr. Loli told the Board that he now understood the rule that anything new he creates must be screened by the Arts Commission. Mr. Lazar commented that, while the Street Artists Committee commissioners had repeated that rule to Mr. Loli in two separate hearings, “he resisted you,” but, “for some reason, he’s not resisting” the Board of Appeals “commissioners.”

    Mr. Lazar related that he asked the Board of Appeals the following question: If the Board ultimately votes to give Mr. Loli a license and he is later observed selling something he doesn’t make and/or something he does make but fails to get screened, would the Arts Commission and the Board of Appeals have to go through the same hearing procedures again? The answer was affirmative.

    In the Loli appeal, Mr. Lazar assessed that the Arts Commission did obtain, however, a minor victory: the appellant was not permitted to sell from September to January, which effectively prohibits him from selling during the winter holiday season.

  4. New business.

    Street Artist Cheryl Chen stated that it wasn’t fair to the street artists that the Board of Appeals ordered issuance of permits to Paula Datesh and Manuel Loli who sell some things they do not make.

    Ms. Chen also asked if it was true that the security people working for the Union Square Business Improvement District were photographing the artists’ displays as part of reports submitted to Mr. Lazar. Commissioner Lloyd responded that, under “New business,” he would not take questions, but only comments from the public. Program Director Lazar invited Ms. Chen to telephone him the next day and he would discuss the matter with her.

    Street Artist Michael Addario urged everyone to view the videotape of the Board of Appeals hearings of Paula Datesh and Manuel Loli. “Howard,” he said, “did an excellent presentation,” but “it was unfortunately a devastating defeat.” While four street artists testified, if more artists had attended, he thought the Arts Commission might have prevailed. “Manuel Loli,” he stated, “used the race card again” in appealing to the Board; “he made us sound like we were racist against him and … the only reason why we were there.” He went on to say that many artists had been notified of the hearings in person and by e-mail, but no more than four had shown up. He also said that it would also have been helpful if the Arts Commissioners had written a brief on how they had been harassed by Ms. Datesh. As for Ms. Datesh’s promise to not harass anyone,” he said, “she has, since the meeting, sent an e-mail to my sister-in-law”; Mr. Addario, therefore, predicted that her harassing behavior will continue.

    Mr. Addario described the commissioners of the Board of Appeals as “ignorant of our whole Program; they didn’t even know that our commissioners are appointed by the Mayor … They dismissed all of our complaints.” While, he stated, “we did as much as we could,” the Board acted as “if it was a nullifying jury.”

    On another matter, Mr. Addario stated that the Port’s Street Performers Program has commenced, “and it looks the same way as it did before: there are still unlicensed vendors in the areas” in which the licensed street artists would like to sell; in addition, there were spray-paint artists. The photos taken by Mr. Addario of these various unlicensed persons on Port property were used, Mr. Addario stated, as an issue raised by Manuel Loli at his Board of Appeals hearing that Mr. Addario “was going against people of color.”

    Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan stated that the Clark brothers brought to her attention that, with respect to the Manuel Loli hearing, the Board of Appeals made a decision to overturn a finding by Arts Commissioners which had been based on evidence; “so, in fact,” she stated, “they took your evidence, based on two years and thousands of dollars for translators, etcetera … and they threw that evidence out and, in fact, based their decision upon compassion, sympathy …It was startling to see that you had done the work, investigated, paid for translators, spent two years, come to the conclusion that these pipes of Loli were not just something he didn’t quite understand he couldn’t do; but they threw out all of your evidence and time and proof and decided, based on sympathy and compassion, that he had not understood the rules” even though “he was caught apparently red-handed with obvious” items he had not made.

    Commissioner Lloyd stated that if Mr. Loli or Ms. Datesh were to come before the Arts Commission again on charges of violation and there would be an appeal, he, Commissioner Lloyd, and the other Arts Commissioners would speak at the Board of Appeals.

    Commissioner Cuellar requested that, whenever a street artist appeals the decision of the Arts Commission, the minutes of his hearings with the Commission should be sent to the Board of Appeals “so that they have a full record of our deliberation.”

    Program Director Lazar stated that he had intended to do so, but the Board limits a department’s brief to twelve pages, and the brief on Manuel Loli’s violations, hearings, photographic evidence, and findings had been so extensive that no room had been available for an attachment of the minutes of his hearings.

    Commissioner Cuellar thanked Mr. Lazar and the artists for “doing an excellent job” at the hearing. He further stated that he felt the Board of Appeals “misrepresented and misunderstood the case.” He pledged to attend if Mr. Loli again makes it necessary.

    Street Artist Edward Steneck asked that the Arts Commissioners write to the Police Commission or Department to have police officers “please go out there and enforce the law; because they don’t do it.” He asked why the street artists, through their Program, should have to pay the Police Department to enforce the law against unlicensed vendors. The Police Department was already paid, he said, “through property taxes I pay, through lots of other taxes that we all pay; and for them to decide that they’re not going to” enforce the peddling law “unless we give them ten grand every Christmas, is ridiculous.” He exemplified the problem by alluding to an unlicensed vendor who sets up at the cable car turnaround at California and Market Streets every weekend: “a whole display of scarves, wallets” and other merchandise set up “alongside the” licensed “street artists.” This vendor, he said, is like others who set up illegally throughout the city and who “don’t pay thousands of dollars a year to the California State Board of Equalization, like my wife and I pay; they don’t pay the twenty-five dollars to the City for the Business Tax … They probably don’t pay any income tax, don’t even report it, and the police won’t do anything about it unless we pay them. … It’s disgusting.”

    On another matter, the Program’s budget, Mr. Steneck stated that, while most of the revenue goes to salaries, he was not going “to suggest that Howard work an hour less than he’s already working or get paid a dime less, but I don’t think we need a full-time secretary; there’s no reason in the world why somebody has to sit up there to answer a telephone five days a week.” Instead, he said, the Program could have the typical electronic answering service with directives to callers to “press one, press two, press three” to receive answers to their questions. He further suggested the hiring of a temporary worker for office assistance.

    Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan expressed her wish that the present three Arts Commissioners remain on the Street Artists Committee, that they had spent a great deal of time learning about the artists and their Program. In contrast, she stated, the commissioners of the Board of Appeals had asked Mr. Lazar why a street artist could not easily write on a piece of paper what he or she wants to make and then just make and sell it. She said, “Howard said, ‘Well, everybody in the stores would be out there, you have to be certified’; well, they said ‘Why?’ They also said to Howard, ‘What’s the difference between a peddler’s program and a street artists program?’ So you three people really work hard, and I hope we don’t lose you.”

    Commissioner Lloyd thanked the artists for their interest and participation.

There being neither further new business nor public comment, Commissioner Lloyd adjourned the meeting at 4:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director

February 11, 2008