City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

March 10, 2010

Street Artists Committee - March 10, 2010


Wednesday, March 10, 2010
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70


Memberspresent: Sherene Melania, Chair, John Calloway, Amy Chuang, Astrid Haryati

                Membersabsent: None

Staffpresent: Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel, Street Artists ProgramDirector Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Intern Lyla Conrad


CommissionerMelania, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:07 p.m.


1. Discussion.Street Artists Program Director’s Report.

Movie compensation for adversely affected street artist spaces.
Street Artists Program DirectorHoward Lazar reported that filming of the television series Trauma hadadversely affected some of the street artist spaces on Leavenworth Street andon Beach Street on February 25th and March 2nd, and that,in keeping with the Arts Commission-Film Commission agreement of 1999, Mr.Lazar requested the film company to pay compensation to the Arts Commission.The film company agreed and will be paying $1,500 to the Arts Commission fordistribution among the artists whose spaces were adversely affected.

Hearing of Sunshine Task Force Complaint Committee. Mr. Lazar reportedthat on March 9th he appeared before the Complaint Committee of theSunshine Ordinance Task Force to respond to several complaints against the ArtsCommission submitted by former street artist certificate-holder Paula Datesh.The Complaint Committee unanimously voted to uphold Mr. Lazar’s argument thatMs. Datesh’s complaints did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Sunshine Ordinanceand dismissed the complaints.

Presentation of improved (electronic) system of licensing. Mr. Lazarinstroduced his new assistant Lyla Conrad who was presently fulfilling theStreet Artists Program’s certification duties, the Commission’s database project,and other matters. In reference to previous Street Artists Committee hearingson improving the licensing procedure as well as the appearance of the streetartist certificate, Mr. Lazar asked Ms. Conrad to give a brief presentation onan electronic system which she was developing for the licensing.

Ms. Conrad outlined a streamlined procedure of digitizing the certificatecards. They will be formatted and filled out in Adobe Acrobat Pro, then printedindividually and laminated (using the Program’s current laminator). Theartists’ photos will be scanned and printed in color on the cards. Testing ofthe new procedure will begin the following week. While the Program willcontinue to purchase its annual supply of lamination envelopes, the newprocedure will eliminate the cost of outside printing of the certificates. Thetransition process from the old-style certificate to the new is expected totake up to one year to accommodate the range of artists who renew quarterly andannually throughout the year.

Ms. Conrad further stated that, as per the Program Director’s request, shewould commence investigation of the establishment of online payment for theartists’ convenience. In addition, Ms. Conrad had already entered intodiscussions on producing translations of Program literature in Mandarin,Cantonese, and Spanish. Furthermore, she had entered into discussions onproducing informational videos which could be subtitled or dubbed.

Commissioner Melania congratulated the staff for these developments and stated thather Committee had previously looked into options that had not worked out; shewas pleased that the new system would soon be implemented.

Recreation & Parks Commission RFP for a public market at Justin HermanPlaza. Mr. Lazarreported that the Recreation & Parks Commission had recently taken actioncalling for a “Request For Proposals for the Installation, Operation, andManagement Of Public Markets at Various Locations in San Francisco” – thelocations being the parking lot of Candlestick Park, Civic Center Plaza, andJustin Herman Plaza. Mr. Lazar stated that Justin HermanPlaza was of deep concernto the street artists and staff. In 1972, at the start of the Street ArtistsProgram, it was the first and only location given to the artists by the Board ofSupervisors. Prior to this, in 1971, Mayor Joseph Alioto wrote a statementdeclaring “EmbarcaderoPlaza,” as it was calledat the time, as an area “for full use” by the street artists. At that time, thelocation was in a wasteland area of the city. But the artists “homesteaded” thelocation even before the creation of the adjacent Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Embarcadero Center complex. Through flush times andlean times, the artists have continued to sell at the Plaza. They evensuccessfully accommodated the farmers market during the years of therestoration of the FerryBuilding (where thefarmers are now located) and during the demolition of the Embarcadero Freewayand installation of the F-line and palm trees along the Embarcadero.

Mr. Lazar stated that his files contain three decades’ worth of letters fromgeneral managers and other personnel of Rec-Park annually giving permission tothe street artists to continue using Justin Herman Plaza (subject to Rec-Parkconditions). He stated that the artists have demonstrated a lengthythirty-eight-year history of not only being good neighbors but of developingthe Plaza into a premier destination market place. The artists, he said, weredeeply concerned that Rec-Park’s RFP for a market place would displace them or,in the very least, adversely affect their business.

Mr. Lazar referred the Commissioners to a recent letter sent by Arts CommissionDirector of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel to Rec-Park General Manager PhilipGinsburg. The letter acknowledged the possibility of an adjacent market placedrawing more pedestrians to the area which could be economically advantageousto the artists, so long as the new market did not displace the artists. Theletter, therefore, urged modification of the Justin HermanPlaza description in theRFP to ensure that there would be no threat to the street artists.

Mr. Lazar stated that Rec-Park’s RFP failed to provide a demarcation betweenthe street artists’ area and the area for a proposed market place; furthermore,it did not even mention the artists at all or their existing market place inJustin Herman Plaza.

In response to a question by Commissioner Haryati, Mr. Lazar stated that duringthe previous month he had been contacted by Rec-Park staff for backgroundhistory on the street artists at the Plaza. He met with Lev Kushner and NicoleAvril, informed them of the artists’ history, and showed them the threedecades’ worth of Rec-Park letters annually giving the artists permission touse the Plaza. Mr. Lazar informed them also that an adverse affect on thestreet artists at the Plaza could be devastating because the Plaza was not justan area for them; it was their most premier area – even during thecurrent difficult economy.

Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel stated that, after Mr. Lazar hadconveyed to the Rec-Park personnel his (Cancel’s) and Lazar’s concern over thenature of the impending RFP, he was led to believe that the Plaza was not goingto be part of the RFP process. When it went forward with the inclusion of thePlaza, and Lazar and he were not further consulted, it was then time to takeformal action and he sent his letter to the Rec-Park general manager.

Mr. Cancel went on to say that the Arts Commission intends to fully press thepoint with Rec-Park, as well as with anyone else in City hierarchy, that theCommission would not favor displacement of the long-standing tradition of theartists at JustinHerman Plaza.

Commissioner Melania acknowledged the thirty-eight-year history of the artistsat the Plaza and stated that, although the artists have other spaces, the Plazawas really the heart of the Program, and her Commission would do everything itcould to protect it for the artists.

Commissioner Calloway stated that it might be necessary to approach the Commissionersof Rec-Park on this issue.

In response to a question by Commissioner Calloway, Director Cancel clarifiedthat Mr. Lazar and he had not been alerted by Rec-Park staff that the RFP wasbeing taken to their Commission for approval and had never been informed thatthe matter was on Rec-Park’s agenda.

Before calling for public comment on the issue, Commissioner Melania returnedto the agenda and requested Director Cancel to give his report on the City’sbudget impact on the Street Artists Program.

2.Discussion. Report by Director of CulturalAffairs Luis R. Cancel:

a) City’s budget impact on Street Artists Program.

Director Cancel reported that on the previous Friday the City formally gave anotice to over 17,000 employees that, in sixty days, their positions with theCity for a 40-hour work week would be terminated. If nothing else happensbetween now and May 8th, the City will lose the 17,000 employees.All of the positions at the Arts Commission were given notices of terminationwhich includes the position of the Street Artists Program Director as well asthe currently vacant position of the certification clerk. The strategy of theMayor’s office is that, over the next thirty days, the City intends to offerthe majority of the 17,000 individuals a position of a work week consisting ofthirty-seven and a half hours.

Mr. Cancel went on to say that, leading up to the termination notice, therewere many meetings of the Mayor and department heads, during which he, Mr.Cancel, argued for an exemption of the Arts Commission from the masstermination because most of the Commission’s staff are not generalfund-supported but are funded by various categories of funds, in particular theStreet Artists Program whose expenses are met by the revenue it generates. Theargument, however, was rejected in order to negate the Civil Service procedureof individuals “bumping” each other by job seniority. The strategy will be toultimately allow the Department of Human Resources to restructure staffingthroughout the City. The Mayor can rescind the termination notice between nowand May 8th.

Mr. Cancel also reported that Ms. Lyla Conrad has been doing a significant jobin helping Mr. Lazar obtain all of the artists’ information into digital formatand ultimately allowing artists to pay for their certificates online so thatthey do not have to lose time by coming to the office. Such efficiencies arebeing planned for fruition over the next six months.

Commissioner Melania called for public comment on items 1 and 2.

Street Artist Michael Addario, Chair of the Street Artists Liaison Committee,expressed concerns over his Committee not having been notified as to how thenew digital licensing system would be established, as well as its format, itscost, and the name of the
program which will be used.

Mr. Addario further asked whether the staff change will negate any fee increasefor next year.

Street Artist Joanne Fitzsimmons expressed concern over the Rec-Park’s RFP duedate of March 26th and the possibility of a new market at the Plazaoccuring 120 days afterward. She urged the Arts Commissioners to support theartists.

Director Cancel responded that the artists should communicate their concerns atthe next meeting of the Recreation & Parks Commission.

Street Artist Jeff Potter asked the Arts Commissioners to take a strong standon behalf of the artists at JustinHerman Plaza.

Commissioner Melania stated that she would do everything she could to advocatefor the artists on this issue.

Commissioner Calloway expressed concern over the effect on the artists byadjacent vendors selling items they do not create – how they would affect theappearance, the quality, and the welfare of the artists at the Plaza.

Commissioner Haryati stated that the intent of the RFP needed to be clarified.She surmised that the department was looking to develop the entire Plaza. Therecould be opportunity for musical performances and cultural expression whichcould help the artists at the Plaza. She wanted to see the artists as the keyrole in activating the Plaza.

Director Cancel referred to his letter to Rec-Park in which he concurred thatactivating the Plaza could increase pedestrian traffic which might help theartists’ sales. In activating the Plaza, however, it was imperative that respectbe given to the existing area of the street artists. This needed to bevigorously communicated to Rec-Park.

Street Artist Joanne Fitzpatrick stated that the possible increase of pedestrianand vehicular traffic needed to be considered by the RFP.

3. Discussion. Street Artists Liaison Committee’sReport.

Street Artist MichaelAddario, Chair of the Liaison Committee, expressed a disclaimer about “phony”e-mails being sent out on Facebook pages using his name. He stated his one andonly e-mail address and said that any other address associated with his name wasfraudulent. He believed that there was a former street artist who was sendingout the fraudulent e-mails, and he spoke with the District District Attorneyabout it.

He asked that the Commissioners consider having the Program save money byallowing the office to be open only on certain days for licensing rather thanhaving it open daily. He also suggested that the office be moved to City Hallwhere, he said, the artists would not have to pay rent. Furthermore, if thatwere done, the Program’s meetings could be broadcast on SFGOV-TV. This would helpthe hearing-impaired artists in the Program.

With regard to Rec-Park’s RFP, he learned about the matter from a reporter atthe Plaza who inquired about a proposed public market for the Plaza. Mr.Addario researched the matter and found that two public meetings had been held byRec-Park on the subject: for the first one, the item had been on the ConsentCalendar portion of Rec-Park’s agenda, but it had been pulled off Consent and questionedby the commissioners – particularly about what was intended to be sold. Mr. Addariostated that he spoke with Rec-Park’s Lev Kushner who, Addario said, still didnot understand why the artists were so upset by the RFP. It appeared that Rec-Park,for the present time, was not taking away spaces from the artists. But theartists, he said, were still concerned over the issue of competition. Fifteenartists met with Rec-Park staff and conveyed a request for postponement of thescheduled May commencement of a new public market. Mr. Addario said he would forwardthe RFP to the Commissioners and asked that they support the artists.

Commissioner Calloway again stated that Rec-Park’s intent had to be clarified,as well as what the new market would look like, how it would affect theartists, and whether there would be a set of standards for the new vendors differentfrom those of the Arts Commission’s artists.

Street Artist Alice Blandy stated that the biggest question was how a new marketwould affect the artists economically. The artists, already having a difficulttime due to the economy, could not afford the competition of other vendors:unless they are musicians, she said, “We don’t want them there.”

Commissioner Melania endorsed the idea of musicians to enhance the Plaza andattract customers to the artists.

Commissioner Calloway stated that, while he supported the artists, he did notwant to give the impression that the Plaza belonged only to them.

Commissioner Melania commended the letter sent by Director Cancel because itadvocated for the Program. She stressed the major factor that there is athirty-eight-year history of the artists’ presence at the Plaza and that thereis an established Street Artists Program which deserves the respect it is duefrom
the City.

There being no new business or further public comment, Commissioner Melaniaadjourned the meeting at 3:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:


Howard Lazar

Street Artists Program Director



March 23, 2010