Street_Artists_Committee2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
STREET ARTISTS COMMITTEE
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
Members present: Commissioners Alexander Lloyd, Chair, John Calloway,
Lorraine Garcia-Nakata, Sherene Melania
Members absent: Topher Delaney
Staff present: Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Program Assistant Evelyn Russell
Commissioner Lloyd, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:07 p.m.
1. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve issuance or renewal of certificate.
Michael Hanley – Certificate #5735. Alleged violation: Improper, hazardous conduct of business: (1) Intimidating and bullying a street artist (August 21, 2008); (2) Smoking in Justin Herman Plaza, a non-smoking area (November 15 and December 23, 2008); (3) Disrupting other artists’ businesses by setting up a tent which blocked customers’ view of other artists’ displays (November 15, 2008); (4) Verbally antagonizing and confronting other artists in a hostile manner (November 15, 2008); (5) Selling without a valid Board of Equalization Seller’s Permit (ongoing); (6) Selling without a valid San Francisco Business Tax Registration (ongoing).
At the request of street artist Sureyya Ozsoy, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar read aloud a March 3, 2009 letter from Ms. Ozsoy formally withdrawing her complaint against Mr. Hanley regarding his alleged intimidation and bullying of her on August 21, 2008 (item (1) of the above alleged violation of improper, hazardous conduct of business). In deference to Ms. Ozsoy’s request, Mr. Lazar stated his withdrawal of the charge.
The Commissioners acknowledged the withdrawal of Ms. Ozsoy’s complaint and went on to hear the other charges against Mr. Hanley regarding alleged incidents of November 15 and December 23, 2008 at Justin Herman Plaza.
Mr. Lazar clarified the existence of ad hoc “rules,” adopted exclusively by street artists, regarding the usage of tents and umbrellas at the artists’ displays at Justin Herman Plaza. He stressed that the Arts Commission has no power of enforcement over an artist’s non-adherence to such voluntary ad hoc “rules,” but it does have the authority to suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew, the certificate of an artist who is found to have conducted business in an improper, hazardous or disorderly manner. While complainants were charging Mr. Hanley for refusal—hostile refusal—to remove his tent which allegedly blocked customers’ view of other artists’ displays, the staff’s charge against him, however, was for his alleged improper, hazardous conduct of business.
In response to a question by Commissioner Lloyd, Mr. Lazar stated that this was the first time that Mr. Hanley has appeared before the Street Artists Committee to respond to charges against him.
The Program Director referred the Commissioners to the letters he had forwarded to them which had been written by street artists for and against Mr. Hanley, as well as a letter he himself had written to Mr. Hanley summarizing the Program Director’s two-month investigation of the matter and the reasons for the charges levied against Hanley.
Commissioner Lloyd acknowledged having received these documents and stated that the Commissioners were prepared to hear the case and to attempt to reach a fair decision.
The Program Director stated that Mr. Hanley would be deprived of the opportunity to cross-examine complainants who failed to appear to testify and therefore requested that the Commissioners, in fairness to Mr. Hanley, not consider as evidence the letters written by such persons.
While the Program Director had received and forwarded to the Commissioners letters from seven street artists complaining about the alleged November 15th incident involving Michael Hanley, only three of the street artists who had written appeared and testified against Mr. Hanley: Susan Koenig, Oscar Bevilacqua, and Michael Addario. However, six artists appeared and testified to the incident on Mr. Hanley’s behalf: Allen Frost, William Cassou, Michael Johnson, John Thomey, Madeline Marrow, and Michael Hanley himself. Four of these six—Allen Frost, William Cassou, Michael Johnson, and Michael Hanley—had previously submitted supportive letters to the Program Director who, in turn, had forwarded them to the Commissioners.
Speaking against Mr. Hanley, Street Artist Susan Koenig acknowledged having written and submitted two letters regarding the November 15th incident. She described the area, known by the artists as “the island,” in which Mr. Hanley had set up his tent as an area which has the potential to block a customer’s view of artists’ displays behind the area. When she asked Mr. Hanley politely to remove the tent, she stated, he immediately became very hostile toward her and refused to take down his tent because, he said, everyone else was allowed to put up tents with walls. She informed street artist Gary Freed (ad hoc “market manager”) of Mr. Hanley’s refusal and then returned to her booth. From that vantage point, she later viewed Mr. Freed speaking to Hanley; she could not hear what Freed said but could hear Hanley who was raising his voice and was behaving emotionally. Mr. Freed, she said, left and returned a half hour later with some other artists. Still in her booth, she viewed Freed and Michael Addario request Hanley to take down his tent. She also stated that street artist Hal Wahlborg later spoke with Hanley who again refused to remove the tent. She added that Hanley could have selected a different location in the Plaza in which to sell.
Ms. Koenig stated that there are over a hundred artists who sell at the Plaza on Saturdays and who are obliged to be considerate of each other; in contrast, Mr. Hanley provoked the situation. She stated that, in the course of the incident, there were no customers at Hanley’s booth.
Addressing one of her other charges against him, Ms. Koenig stated that she witnessed Mr. Hanley smoking a cigarette at his booth on November 15th and also on December 23rd near the Plaza toilets. There exists, she said, a “No Smoking” sign at the Plaza, and there is the potential for her handmade felted hats to absorb the smell of smoke.
Street Artist Oscar Bevilacqua stated that, on the day of the incident, he requested Mr. Hanley to remove his tent. Hanley refused and informed him that he had a medical condition which necessitated him selling under a tent and that he had informed Gary Freed of this also. Subsequently, four or five other artists requested Hanley to dismantle the tent, and he finally did so.
In response to questions by Commissioners Calloway and Melania, Program Director Lazar explained that the “prohibition” of canopies or tents with walls in the area in which Mr. Hanley had placed his tent was an ad hoc agreement among the artists of Justin Herman Plaza. He further commented that the police have traditionally allowed street artists, as a matter of personal protection and protection of merchandise, to use umbrellas so long as no signage or merchandise is attached to the umbrellas.
Street Artist Michael Addario stated that the prohibition of canopies and panels was “the law.” On November 15th, he said, after Oscar Bevilacqua informed him that Mr. Hanley had a canopy up in the prohibited area, he volunteered to approach Hanley with Gary Freed. Mr. Freed said that he had instructed Hanley, when he was signing in for his space, to not place a canopy there, but Hanley did not comply. Mr. Addario stressed that Hanley was told not to do it and that he admitted in his letter (to the Program Director) that he was told not to do it.
Mr. Addario went on to state that he did not wish to give the impression that this was one isolated incident of complaint against Mr. Hanley. He said this was one of eight or nine complaints against, and warnings issued to, Hanley. Mr. Addario accused Program Director Lazar of not prosecuting the case properly by failing to mention the other complaints and warnings. He asked that the Commissioners not look at the present complaint as “frivolous,” because it was not.
Mr. Addario stated that Gary Freed and he spoke with Hanley, that he, Mr. Addario, asked him if he could help take down the tent, that Hanley refused and said he was waiting for his wife Norma to return, that he was holding onto his canopy at the time, that it was ten o’clock in the morning and that there were no customers present. At that point Hanley informed Freed and Addario that he had a medical condition which would not allow him to be in direct sunlight, and that once the sun would be blocked by the building, he would take down the canopy. Freed and Addario left.
Mr. Addario stated that this could have been the conclusion of the incident were it not for Hanley then charging Addario and the other artists with disrupting his business. It was at this point that the artists lodged their complaints. Therefore, he said, it was Hanley who was the one who initiated the whole affair.
Mr. Addario stated that he intended to speak, under public comment, about other incidents of “abuse, hostile, harassing behavior that Mike Hanley has done to other street artists.” Mr. Addario went on to complain that the other artists and he were forfeiting their income by having to speak at the hearing.
Commissioner Calloway clarified to Mr. Addario that Addario’s reference to the artists’ prohibition of canopies and panels as being “a law” was, in fact, not a law.
Mr. Addario responded that the artists’ use of Justin Herman Plaza represented “a gray area” because the Plaza was approved by the Board of Supervisors but not approved by the Recreation andPark Department. The prohibition against canopies and tents in a certain location of the Plaza, he said, was similar to the artists’ adoption of ten feet by ten feet as the size for the artists’ spaces at the Plaza, “which is technically not legal” but is used in this “gray area.”
Commissioners Calloway and Garcia-Nakata affirmed, for the record, that Mr. Addario’s usage of the term “the law” in reference to the artists’ prohibition of canopies and tents meant, in truth, a verbal agreement among the artists.
Speaking in support of Mr. Hanley, Street Artist Allen Frost stated that he had been a San Francisco street artist at the start of the Street Artists Program (1972) when the only area which was designated for the artists was Justin Herman Plaza. With regard to the incident of November 15th, he witnessed most of the event. He saw Gary Freed initially speak to Mr. Hanley about the tent and Hanley explain that he had to take medicine which required him to stay out of direct sunlight. He saw Freed begrudgingly say to him, “Okay, as long as you take it down when the shade comes.” Half an hour or forty-five minutes later “a whole crew of people came over, and they were intimidating. If they had come on me, I would have acted the same way because they were aggressive and intimidating”; their approach to Hanley was as if they were saying to him, “We are here to see that you take that down.”
Mr. Frost went on to say that Michael Addario “has a vendetta” and told Frost many times that “Mike Hanley does not belong in the Program, and he’ll see to it that he’s out of it.”
In response to questions from Commissioner Lloyd, Mr. Frost stated that Hanley took down the tent when the area became shaded, and that his tent had been up only until 11:00 a.m.
Mr. Frost added that there was also another Plaza section, called the “Third Row,” which is similar to Hanley’s location; yet the artists in that area are never forced to take down their tents when they block the view of the other two rows. Therefore, the artists’ “rule,” he said, was unfair.
Addressing the charge against Mr. Hanley of smoking, Mr. Frost stated that Hanley was being singled out as an example, while there are many artists who smoke and walk around the Plaza every day.
Street Artist William Cassou stated that, on the day of the incident, he was a neighbor to Mr. Hanley’s location. Hanley had come to him to ask if it would be all right if he put up his tent because he had a medical condition which necessitated his being in shade. Mr. Cassou said that he did not mind. He saw that Hanley “did not look too good, that something was bothering him.”
Mr. Cassou went on to state that Hanley’s was not the only canopy that was up on “the island” that day; the other one belonged to an elderly Asian artist named Frank who also wanted to be out of the sun for health reasons. Frank took down his canopy at the same time that Hanley took his down. Hanley and Frank, he said, were handling the situation well; “it was just a question of authority, that people didn’t like them stepping over their authority.”
Mr. Cassou asked many artists if they ever voted on the “rule” prohibiting canopies and tents in the area, and he was told that there had never been a vote, that it was only an agreement made by those artists who had been present in earlier days.
Street Artist Michael Johnson stated that he was working about twenty-five feet away from Mr. Hanley’s location. By 9:30 a.m., seeing that Hanley had his canopy set up, Mr. Johnson informed him that he was not permitted to have his canopy in that location. He and Hanley discussed the issue—Mr. Johnson stated that “at no time was it really a strong conversation” nor a heated one—and Hanley told him about his medical issue. He also told Johnson that there were so many people who break the rules regarding display size, etc., “and he felt that he was being singled out” by Gary Freed, who was the manager of the group, because Freed would not speak to those people about their breaking of the rules. This, he said, engendered many problems like the Hanley incident because Freed would “pick and choose who he would go after about certain things.”
Mr. Johnson went on to say that, prior to the incident, there was a similar issue of a photographer named Bo who set up panels in the same area; even though Mr. Johnson asked Gary Freed to speak to Bo about it, Freed refrained from doing so.
After his discussion with Mr. Hanley, Mr. Johnson later saw a group of roughly seven artists—Michael Addario, Gary Freed, Erin Cowan, Oscar Bevilacqua, and others—have an interaction with Hanley. He himself approached to get a closer view: “I wouldn’t call it particularly antagonistic, but still Mike was adamant” that he would not take down the tent. When Johnson returned to his display, he could still see the interaction but not hear it because “it wasn’t that loud.” Eventually, Hanley took down the tent.
Mr. Johnson said the prohibition against tents and canopies in that location is not a law, that it was a “gentleman’s agreement” voted on by the group, even though he himself did not vote for it because he felt it was prejudicial against certain people who, like himself, require panels to show their work. Furthermore, he said, it did not matter if a canopy on “the island” blocked the view of other artists’ displays behind it because customers freely walk around the perimeter and see all the artists.
Mr. Johnson added that, because the tent prohibition was not a legally binding rule, he did not feel that the issue of Hanley’s tent was within the purview of the Arts Commission. An artist’s interaction with others, however, an artist acting in a hostile manner, was definitely within the Commission’s purview—but Mr. Johnson was set up near Hanley and did not see Hanley acting in a hostile manner.
Street Artist John Thomey stated that, in space Number 9, he had a direct view of what transpired between Mr. Hanley and the group of six to eight artists: “They approached Mike as a large group” which would “set anybody on the defensive. Mike didn’t seem like he was getting aggressive like he could have in this situation.” Mr. Thomey perceived the group of artists as “people in the attack mode, trying to gang up on Mike.” He added that Hanley took down his tent within five minutes after the direct sunlight disappeared, and that he only had the tent up for a short period of time.
Street Artist Madeline Marrow stated that on the day of the incident Mr. Hanley required shade because he had been taking tetracycline, and that he took down his tent as soon as the direct sunlight disappeared.
At the conclusion of witness testimony, Commissioner Lloyd called on Michael Hanley.
Mr. Hanley, addressing the charges against him of allegedly selling without valid Seller’s Permit and Business Tax Registration, produced current documents of a Seller’s Permit from the California Board of Equalization and Business Tax Registration from the San Francisco Tax Collector. He stated that while his previous Seller’s Permit had been listed under the name of “Cindy Greaney,” a former family unit member with his wife Norma, it was he, Michael Hanley, who regularly sent the State sales tax money his wife and he collected; and representatives of the Board of Equalization actually told him that it did not matter whose name the Seller’s Permit was under, that the permit was inclusive so long as the sales tax due was sent to the State. He also received the same clarification from the office of the San Francisco Tax Collector.
With regard to the November 15th incident, Mr. Hanley stated that, whenever he sold in the same location prior to that day, he would never put up his canopy; he put it up on the 15th because he was on the last day of a seven-day period of taking an antibiotic which required him to be out of direct sunlight. He dismantled the canopy as soon as the direct sunlight disappeared.
But prior to dismantling it, he said, he was aggressively approached by the group of artists who were acting like “a posse.” He said that he was told: “We’re here to make sure your canopy comes down.” The reason why Gary Freed and Michael Addario left him, he said, was because he threatened to call the police on them.
Mr. Hanley went on to say that the group of artists disrupted his business, that prejudice against him fueled the canopy issue, that Susan Koenig actually screamed at him, and that the artists’ complaint was a personal attack on him from Michael Addario. This was evidenced by the fact that, when Gary Freed initially discussed the canopy issue with him, their discussion concluded with Freed telling him, “Okay, so long as you take it down”; but Freed later altered his demeanor by returning “with a group hostile to me.”
With regard to the “rule” about tents and canopies, Mr. Hanley stated that the artists’ vote was conducted in only one day, rather than over a protracted period of time as is usually done to ensure a wide participation of artists. On the day of the vote, he himself was not present.
Mr. Lazar informed the Commissioners that, pertinent to the present hearing, he had issued a written warning to Mr. Hanley on February 9, 2007, for his allegedly intimidating and bullying two street artists.
Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.
Street Artist Luis Santoro stated that Michael Hanley is “a bully,” and that he (Mr. Santoro) had submitted a complaint against Hanley to the Program Director but had not been able to find a witness to support the complaint. Instead, Alan Frost had stepped in to support Hanley. Mr. Santoro also had to call the police about Hanley’s dog. Hanley, being a bully, did not deserve to be in the Street Artists Program, Mr. Santoro said.
Street Artist Dikran Knoble stated that he was assaulted by Michael Hanley at the Plaza, and that Hanley “laid me on my back.” He was then told, he said, that the incident was not within the jurisdiction of the Arts Commission.
Street Artist Michael Addario read aloud a list of warnings and their dates that were issued to Michael Hanley and said that this contributed to a preponderance of evidence against Hanley. He went on to say that Hanley has never offered any apology for his behavior. He asked that the Commissioners put a stop to any further harassment by Hanley by revoking his certificate.
Street Artist Leah Mazor stated that if an artist’s alleged blocking of the view of another artist’s display is the issue, the Commissioners will be hearing many complaints by artists against each other. She saw no difference between Hanley’s having a canopy and a row of three or four artists’ umbrellas. She went on to say that a street artist named Bo has set up panels on “the island” on Saturdays and Sundays, and she has never seen Michael Addario approach or “attack” him on the matter. With regard to the complaint against Hanley’s smoking, Ms. Mazor stated that there was not a “No Smoking” sign at the Plaza.
Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan stated that she likes to see a group of artists, rather than an individual, confront a problematic street artist, because then there are witnesses.
Street Artist Virginia Travers questioned why Mr. Hanley chose the particular location when he knew he had a medical condition, especially since he had the entire Plaza area from which to choose. She also stated that there was an incident in which Hanley pushed Dikran Knoble.
Street Artist James Ruark stated that he has never seen Michael Hanley do anything but tend to his business. When Mr. Ruark heard about the incident of the canopy, he asked Gary Freed for details, but Freed replied that Hanley did not deserve to be at the Plaza. Ruark countered with a comment that Hanley is a wounded Vietnam veteran who deserves to be at the Plaza.
Street Artist Kye Rorie stated that he was selling as a street artist long before this was done by anyone else present at the hearing and has, therefore, witnessed much of the Program’s history. He commended Program Director Lazar for his thoroughness and fairness in handling street artist complaints. Observing that there was a multiplicity of incidents, Mr. Rorie advised the Commissioners that they should not “let people rough other people up; you can’t be nice guys all the time … and let things continue.”
Upon the conclusion of public comment, the Commissioners discussed the case. An equal amount of testimony for and against the defendant was assessed. The Commissioners urged Program Director Lazar to work with the artists in drafting guidelines for Justin Herman Plaza.
Commissioner Lloyd moved that a finding be made of no violation, that the charges against Michael Hanley be dismissed, and that his certificate be renewed; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Melania and unanimously approved.
2. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve authorization of Program Director to request Board of Supervisors for permanent designation of nine (9) street artist selling spaces for weekend usage on the north side of Market Street at the intersection of Steuart Street.
Program Director Lazar explained that, in Resolution No. 359-08, approved by the Mayor on August 7, 2008, the Board of Supervisors designated for six months street artist weekend usage of nine temporary selling spaces on Market Street, north side, at Steuart Street, and exempted the spaces from the regulations of Police Code Section 2405 relating to display size and bus zone. Furthermore, the resolution provided for future review of the spaces by the Board. Now that the six months had elapsed, Mr. Lazar, on behalf of the artists, was asking for authorization to request the Board to designate the nine spaces on a permanent basis.
Commissioner Garcia-Nakata moved that the Program Director be authorized to request the Board of Supervisors for permanent designation of the nine street artist selling spaces provided in Resolution No. 359-08 for weekend usage on the north side of Market Street at the intersection of Steuart Street; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Melania and unanimously approved.
3. Street Artists Program Director’s report.
Passing of street artists. Mr. Lazar reported on the recent passing of Joong Kim who had been certified by the Arts Commission as a street artist for four and a half years from June 24, 2004 to December 26, 2008. Mr. Kim’s arts and crafts were beadcraft and calligraphy.
Mr. Lazar reported on the recent passing of Willie Cheng who had been certified by the Arts Commission as a street artist for twenty-nine years, from September 20, 1979 to October 7, 2008. Mr. Cheng’s art and craft was beadcraft.
Radio feature story on Street Artists Program. Mr. Lazar reported that he had been approached by Ms. Hana Baba, co-host of KALW Public Radio’s “Crosscurrents” show, to do a feature on the Arts Commission’s Street Artists Program. While he was being interviewed, he urged her to visit the street artists to obtain various viewpoints of their Program. The show, aired during prime time on Thursday, February 26th, included interviews with street artists Joanne Fitzsimmons and Ron Menninga at Justin Herman Plaza.
Proposal for street artists to sell in vacant storefronts. Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel had asked Mr. Lazar to inform street artists that the City is looking for a way to help facilitate usage of empty storefronts—notably, in the Tenderloin and the North Beach areas—and to see if street artists would be interested in participating in this. It would be free space in which to exhibit and sell their wares. Mr. Lazar stated that he was in the process of requesting the Lottery Committee members and other artists to announce this at the lotteries and to have interested artists contact him.
Call for election of members to street artist “Steering Committee.” Mr. Lazar requested that the next (May) agenda of the Street Artist Committee include a possible motion to have an election among the street artists for members to serve on the artists’ ad hoc “Steering Committee.”
“In-house” electronic production of certificates. Mr. Lazar reported that Program Assistant Evelyn Russell developed a significant cost-saving process of producing street artist certificates by her desktop computer. Without the introduction of a costly new electronic system (as had been discussed in a previous Street Artists Committee hearing), Ms. Russell, using Adobe, is able to enter into her computer and print onto certificate card stock all required street artist information (name, arts/crafts, expiration date, artist’s photo); she is then able to laminate the cards through the Program’s laminating machine (as the Program has been doing since 1977). The only additional costs to the Program would be for ink cartridges and perforated card stock. If the artists’ photos were to be printed in color, Mr. Lazar estimated that the cost of the color ink cartridges would exceed by over $1,000 next year’s $862 budget for materials and supplies; whereas, if the photos were printed in black and white, the entire production of the cards would fall within the budget.
Mr. Lazar showed to the Committee samples of cards which Ms. Russell had produced. The Commissioners expressed enthusiasm over the samples and complimented Ms. Russell on the quality of her work. Commissioner Lloyd requested Mr. Lazar to implement the new process for next year’s budget and, in keeping with budgetary restrictions, to issue black-and-white certificates.
4. Continuation of items.
Commissioner Lloyd stated that the following items would be continued to the Committee’s next agenda in May: (a) Hearing and possible motion to approve policy of receiving application and certificate fee payments in the form of checks or money orders only (no cash); (b) Hearing and possible motion to reduce wasteful usage of lottery supplies by rescinding procedure which allows street artists to enter into the space-assignment lotteries the names of street artists not present at the lotteries; (c) Hearing and possible motion to authorize Program Director to select and make honorarium payment to qualified street artists for assisting Program Director in painting markings of spaces in street artist selling areas; and (d) street artist Steering Committee’s report.
5. Public Comment/New Business.
Street Artist Michael Addario requested that each Commissioner of the Street Artists Committee receive a hardcopy of the Program’s “bluebook” handbook of rules and procedures. He then read aloud a list of guidelines and penalties adopted by the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. He criticized the Commissioners for citing a lack of evidence and refraining to take action on cases submitted to them by street artists.
Mr. Addario asked for a hearing to consider downsizing the Program’s staff by moving the Program’s licensing duties to a City Hall agency.
There being neither further new business nor public comment,
Commissioner Lloyd adjourned the meeting at 5:15 p.m.
Street Artists Program Director
March 30, 2009