City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

January 13, 2010

Street Artists Committee - January 13, 2010


Wednesday, January 13, 2010
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70


Members present: Sherene Melania, Chair, John Calloway, Amy Chuang,

Topher Delaney

Members absent: Astrid Haryati

Staff present: Director of Programs Jill Manton, Director of Finance Kan Htun, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar

Commissioner Melania, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:04 p.m.

1. Action. Discussion and possible motion to approve request by Program Director for amendment of minutes of November 4, 2009 meeting of Street Artists Committee.

Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar stated that Street Artist Michael Addario informed him of an error in the minutes of November 4, 2009 with regard to the votes counted for candidates of the Liaison Committee. Mr. Lazar had erroneously stated that Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan had received 76 votes, whereas she had received 40. He asked that the minutes be amended to reflect the correction.

Commissioner Calloway moved that the minutes of November 4, 2009 be amended to reflect the correct number of votes for Kathleen Hallinan; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Delaney and unanimously approved.

2. Action. Discussion and possible motion to:

(a) approve Street Artists Program budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11 and corresponding proposed Street Artist certificate fee for Fiscal Year 2010-11. As required by Proposition K of November 8, 1983, any certificate fee increases would be limited to those necessary in order to finance the costs of the Arts Commission in administering and enforcing the provisions of the Street Artists Ordinance; and

(b) authorize the Street Artists Program Director to ask the City Attorney’s Office to draft a corresponding fee ordinance for submission to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Director of Programs Jill Manton stated that Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel, who was delayed in flight from Brazil, requested that she speak on his behalf relative to the item. Ms. Manton stated that the Street Artists Ordinance made it clear that the Street Artists Program had to be cost neutral, that it had to pay for itself from the street artist fees, and not from Arts Commission’s administration funds. If the Program’s expenditures increase, the street artists have to cover them. In the past year, for example, the Program utilized an unbalanced amount of City Attorney time allotted to all of the Arts Commission’s programs; therefore, an amount to cover 65 hours of City Attorney time has been built into the budget for next year.

Commissioner Delaney commented that the Program Director’s duties and the amount of staff time had increased significantly by his having to fulfill numerous ongoing requests for public documents in compliance with the Sunshine Ordinance, as well as servicing the requirements of the newly formed Street Artists Liaison Committee. She expressed that, in next year’s budget, the amount being requested for outside temporary clerical assistance may be insufficient.

Program Director Lazar discussed the history of the recent fee increases for the Program, a previous gradual usage of fee savings to shore up the Program’s annual deficits while gradually raising the fees – until the savings were exhausted and the current fee revenue had to entirely cover the expenses. When the City was plunged into the current economic crisis and general fund money for the Arts Commission lessened dramatically, Lazar stated, Director of Cultural Affairs Cancel called upon all of the Commission’s programs – including the Street Artists Program – to pay their just share of the Commission’s administrative costs used by the programs; accordingly, the Street Artists Program’s budget increased by $32,000 for the current year.

Commissioner Delaney questioned the cost of square footage used by the Street Artists Program office, as well as by the entire Arts Commission.

Director of Finance Kan Htun responded with the costs.

Commissioner Melania called for public comment.

Street Artist Michael Addario discussed the provision for City Attorney cost and stated that the Sunshine Ordinance does not require agencies to utilize the City Attorney in fulfilling public records requests. He went on to criticize the Program Director for (allegedly) inserting into the budget salary raises for his assistant and himself, (allegedly) concealing finances, and for (allegedly) deliberately delaying action to prompt the City Controller for an audit of the Program which resulted in the Controller’s refusal to do so. He further told the Commissioners that the budget document itself was not worthy of being voted on since it did not give a breakdown of individual staff salary, pension, medical, and other amounts.

Director of Programs Manton responded that any raises in City budgets were the result of multiple MOU’s between representatives of various unions, the Mayor’s office, and the Board of Supervisors.

Program Director Lazar clarified that, as an employee of the Arts Commission, he had no authority over the City’s Controller in the Controller’s decision to do or not do an audit of the Street Artists Program or in other matters of the Controller. He had formally written to the Controller for an audit and had subsequently forwarded to the Commissioners and to Mr. Addario the Controller’s written refusal to do an audit on the Program. As for requiring the services of the City Attorney in fulfilling public records requests or other Sunshine Ordinance matters, it was imperative that the City Attorney review all documents, prior to their disclosure, for possible breach of confidentiality or for other reasons.

At the request of Commissioner Melania, Mr. Lazar presented the proposed budget for 2010-11, line item by line item. The budget, he said, would not have required a raise in the artists’ fees were it not for the ongoing requests received for public documents resulting in an inordinate amount of staff time spent in research and production of documents. Because of this, the costs of City Attorney time and temporary clerical assistance were added to the budget, resulting in a 7.69% increase in the artists’ fee. Currently, the artists pay $616.64 a year for a street artist certificate, or $154.16 for a three-month certificate, or $1.69 per day. The present rate would have remained for next year, he said, were it not for the additional necessary costs which would increase the annual fee to $664.08, the quarterly fee to $166.02, the daily rate to $1.82.

Mr. Lazar added that Director of Cultural Affairs Cancel himself had stated in no less than three public meetings throughout the past year that, unless there would b a decrease in the amount of public records requests, the Street Artists Program would seek an increase in the artists’ fees to cover the additional costs of City Attorney time and clerical assistance.

Mr. Lazar further stated his understanding that, according to the Sunshine Ordinance, he was duty-bound to make it a priority to fulfill public records requests in a timely manner, even at the detriment to his other duties of administering and enforcing the Street Artists Ordinance (an ordinance passed by the voters of San Francisco). In the recent hearing of Michael Addario vs. Arts Commission, attended by Mr. Lazar, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force found the Arts Commission in violation of the Sunshine Ordinance by not furnishing documents on time. Mr. Lazar was now expected to return to the Compliance Committee of the Sunshine Task Force in order to tell the Committee what steps the Arts Commission would be taking to ensure that future documents requests would be fulfilled on time. Mr. Lazar wanted to be able to inform the Compliance Committee that the Arts Commission would be corrrecting the problem by obtaining the necessary assistance in fulfilling such requests, and that this assistance would be covered by an increase in the street artist fees.

For further evidence of the necessity to obtain assistance, Mr. Lazar referred the Commissioners to the following two documents: (1) the current San Francisco Arts Commission Three-Year Strategic Plan, “Draft version 01”, whose page 19 recommended the addition of a part-time temporary employee to assist in researching files for “immediate disclosure requests”; and (2) the Voter’s Handbook of the November, 1999 election relative to Proposition “G”, Sunshine Ordinance Amendment, containing the “Controller’s statement on ‘G’ ” which forecast the costs of additional City staffing required to implement “G”.

Mr. Lazar went on to detail the amount of time he has spent in fulfilling public records requests. During the previous year and a half, he responded to no less than 20 requests and prepared for and spoke at Sunshine Ordinance Task Force hearings, all of which cost the street artists 178 hours of his time or $5,601.55 of their Program’s budget. This, he said, “robbed” the Program of 178 hours that could have been used by the Program Director in obtaining more selling spaces for the artists, monitoring the artists’ booths, and prosecuting street artist violations. Furthermore, because of his having to devote 178 hours to the Sunshine requests, there was currently a backlog of 43 street artist violation cases awaiting his investigation and possible action/prosecution.

Mr. Lazar further reported that, during the previous year (2008-09), the City Attorney spent 65 hours in advising the Street Artists Program.

Commissioner Delaney stated that her concern was that the proposed budget for 208 hours of temporary clerical assistance was not sufficient, that perhaps it should be doubled.

In response to questions by Ms. Manton, Mr. Lazar stated that in the past year and a half of his fulfilling 20 requests for public documents, 19 requests had been sent by, or had involved, the same individual.

Mr. Addario stated that he was the individual who had submitted the requests.

Commissioners Delaney, Melania, and Calloway expressed that the possibility of increasing the amount of hours for outside temp assistance was commensurate with the expected continuance of public records requests. Commissioner Calloway expressed frustration over seeing the public’s right to access documents driving up the costs of furnishing documents.

Street Artist Michael Addario stated that he represented the Liaison Committee, that its members were opposed to any increase in the fees, and that he had recommendations to give now.

Commissioner Melania responded that she had ascertained from Mr. Addario earlier in the meeting that it was his own point of view he would be sharing and not necessarily the viewpoints of his fellow members. Therefore, he would be heard in order of the speakers’ cards she had received from other artists requesting to be heard. The Commissioner called for public comment.

Street Artist Linda Pedersen stated that, after being in the Street Artists Program for many years, she was now living on her Social Security check, and that any increase in the street artist certificate fee would be a hardship for her. In lieu of raising the certificate fee, she suggested that an increase in the present $20 application fee be considered, and/or that newcomers to the Program pay a higher fee for their first quarter than that paid by current certificate-holders, and/or that seniors in the Program receive a discount of their fees.

Street Artist Edward Steneck described the current difficult economy, the worst Christmas selling season he ever experienced, and the medical and other expenses faced by street artists. Expressing a wish that Mr. Addario had already received all the information he had requested, Mr. Steneck said that there should no longer be a need for the Program to bear City Attorney and temp-help expenses, and that the Program Director should now have time to resume his investigations of violation cases.

Street Artist Lynn Sunday stated that she has been a street artist since 1976, that she receives no service for the fees she pays, that the Program does not protect her from having to compete with other artists and vendors for public dollars, and that the Program does not protect her from the behavior of artists who have emotional problems. She went on to say that while she is one of the fortunate artists who do not have to worry about paying their rent, she and her street artist husband have frequently experienced zero-income days. She called the current buying public “the new frugality.”

Street Artist Susan Pete expressed her displeasure in seeing the possibility of a fee increase. The emphasis of the Program, she said, should be in obtaining more selling spaces for the artists; but if Mr. Lazar is unable to spend time in this direction because of his having to fulfill public records requests, the person submitting the requests should cease doing so. Ms. Pete added that, instead of increasing the certificate fee, the Commissioners should consider increasing the application fee – perhaps, to $100 - for new artists.

Street Artist Bill Clark expressed opposition to a fee increase, for three reasons: (1) an attempt should be made to address the Board of Supervisors to return to the Street Artists Program approximately $200,000 in street artist fees the general fund had collected during the early years of the Program; (2) consideration should be given to reducing the number of requested City attorney hours; and (3) consideration should be given to increasing the amount of the application fee.

Street Artist Bob Clark stated that he was no longer in the Street Artists Program because of the costs of previous fee increases. He echoed his brother Bill Clark’s statement about the $200,000 that had been retained by the general fund rather than returned to the Program; if the Program were now to receive this money with interest, the street artist fee could be reduced.

Street Artist Michael Addario stated that written public records requests could be abated and the Sunshine Ordinance satisfied if he and other artists could visit Program Director Lazar at his office on a weekly basis to see documents. He opposed a fee increase. He presented computer-generated “pie” charts showing the Program’s expenditures, a chart comparing San Francisco’s street artist fees with the fees of street artist programs of other California cities and out-of-state cities, and photos of street artists and their displays. He argued that 72% of the street artist fees were paying for the salaries and benefits of the Program’s two employees, that San Francisco’s street artist fee was triple that of Oakland’s, and that the majority of the Program’s spaces for street artists were a mere 3 feet by 4 feet in size.

Mr. Addario presented two alternative proposals to a fee increase: “Plan A”: Cut the staff in half, making it a one-person staff, reduce licensing time by generating certificates by computer, make all street artist certificates annual certificates only, increase the Advisory Committee’s assignments from the present 35 assignments to 70 assignments, and lower the fee to $414; or “Plan B”: Reduce the staff to one person in the office; double the Advisory Committee assignments, use the savings to fund broadcast meetings, seminars, survey materials, pamphlets on the Program, and reduce the fee to $587.

Commissioner Melania closed public comment.

Commissioner Delaney expressed support of the idea of increasing the Advisory Committee’s assignments and reducing the fee, as well as possibly increasing the application fee and providing discounts for seniors in the Program.

Commissioner Melania stated that such discounts would honor the time spent in the Program by seniors.

Commissioner Calloway acknowledged that the Street Artists Program had to continue as a cost-neutral program, with the possibility of raising the fee. He acknowledged also that it had been a difficult economic year not just for street artists but for all persons in the arts. He favored the idea of having a discount for seniors, and felt that the idea should be explored by the Liaison Committee.

Commissioner Chuang expressed agreement with Commissioner Calloway’s remarks.

Commissioner Melania supported the ideas of increasing the application fee and having a senior discount, but these, she said, should be considered for the following year. For the present, her Committee needed to address the issue of increasing the fee to cover the costs of City Attorney time and staff assistance generated by the ongoing public records requests. The Commissioner said that she was sad to see that this was the reason for a fee increase and expressed hope that the public records demands would decrease.

Commissioner Delaney stated that she felt Mr. Addario’s presentation offered a positive option for the Program, and that would be to have an outside temporary employee, or perhaps two who are “computer wizards”, replace the present full-time employee occupying the position of Program Assistant. She felt that Program Director Lazar could evaluate the temp’s level of service and, if necessary, replace that person with another. This would allow room in the budget to produce publications and other materials for the street artists. She questioned the reason for San Francisco’s fee being higher than those of other cities.

Mr. Lazar responded that San Francisco offers more business to the street artists than do the other cities that Mr. Addario had cited. San Francisco is rated as the number one tourist destination of the world (Conde Nast surveys) and has one of the strongest tourist economies in the world. San Francisco provides the climate for year-round outdoor sales. San Francisco allows street artists in almost all of its major business areas, while other cities do not. Furthermore, what Mr. Addario’s charts were not showing was the relatively low San Francisco annual street artist fee compared with the egregiously high weekend fees of most street fairs and the percentage of artists’ sales taken by the fairs’ promoters. Mr. Lazar stated that many street artists have told him that they entered the Program because they could no longer afford the entry fees and sales commissions of the street fairs.

Commissioner Calloway stated that, while he knew what it was like to run a department understaffed, he felt it was punitive to raise the fee for all street artists because of the actions of one artist. He wanted to consider other ways to cover the additional costs. Furthermore, he wanted to understand the legal ramifications, if any, if the present Program Assistant were let go.

Mr. Lazar stated that the Program Assistant issue was separate from the one at hand – the ongoing public records requests - and he questioned whether replacing the current full-time Program Assistant with one or two temporary employees would cause the high number of public records requests to abate. If it did not, he would still have to hire a temporary employee – a third employee – to assist him in responding to the public records demands and the investigations of violations.

Commissioner Melania called for a motion. No motion was forthcoming.

3. Discussion. Street Artists Liaison Committee’s report.

Street Artists Liaison Committee Chairman Michael Addario reported on the first official meeting of his Committee which was attended by Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel and Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar. The major discussion of the meeting was about the problem of enforcement and an overriding concern over street artist sales of unlicensed merchandise.

Mr. Addario expressed disappointment over the Liaison Committee’s by laws having been changed before the first meeting. He went on to state that his Committee was looking into having volunteers help the Program Director in the office, as well as the Program having computerized annual licenses, which would reduce office time for artists seeking renewals.

Mr. Addario stated that he had heard of many reports from the artists about the office staff being rude and belligerant to them and the staff denying them access to the building’s bathrooms. He said that this happens repeatedly, and he wanted the problem resolved. He concluded by saying that if the Program’s staff were downsized, there would be many things that could be done with the Program, and the artists could improve their business.

4. New Business/Public Comment.

Street Artist Bill Clark asked for clarification of the status of the Arts Commission’s request for street artist spaces on Hayes Street and the reason for both the Director of Cultural Affairs and the Program Director deciding, without Arts Commission authorization, to not continue pursuing the matter before the Board of Supervisors.

At the request of the Commissioners, Program Director Lazar recounted the history of the matter which included the refusal of the Hayes Street Merchants to negotiate an allowance for any street artist spaces in their vicinity.

There being no further new business or public comment, Commissioner Melania adjourned the meeting at 5:21 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director

January 27, 2010