City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

May 12, 2010

Street Artists Committee - May 12, 2010


Wednesday, May 12, 2010
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70


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

Members absent: None

Staff present: Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Intern Lyla Conrad

Other present: David Chan of Safety Awareness For Everyone, acting as Cantonese interpreter for Jennifer Chen hearing

Commissioner Melania, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m.

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

Movie compensation for adversely affected street artist spaces. Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar reported that filming of the television series Trauma had again adversely affected street artist spaces and that, in keeping with the Arts Commission-Film Commission agreement of 1999, Mr. Lazar requested the film company to pay the Arts Commission compensation. The film company agreed and paid $750 to the Arts Commission for distribution among the artists whose spaces were adversely affected.

Advice to City of Glendale. Personnel of the City of Glendale contacted the Program Director, lauded the management of San Francisco’s Street Artists Program, and sought the Program Director’s advice on establishing a similar program for Glendale. Mr. Lazar reported that, in addition to Glendale, he had, through the years, responded with advice to the cities of Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Clearwater and Miami Beach, Florida; Toronto, Canada; Santa Monica and Venice, California; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Digitized licenses, street artist membership lists, and upcoming online payment system. At Mr. Lazar’s request, Program Intern Lyla Conrad reported on the system she had established for digital production of the artists’ certificate cards; she showed the Commissioners samples of the new cards. She further reported on the system she had updated for producing street artist licensee membership lists now being generated weekly (not monthly) for the convenience of the artists running the daily lottery space-assignment procedures. Ms. Conrad also reported on the progress of establishing an upcoming online payment system for the artists’ convenience in renewing their certificates.

Costs of fulfilling public records requests and defending Arts Commission at Sunshine Ordinance Task Force hearings. Mr. Lazar reported on the volume of ongoing requests the Program is receiving for copies of public records, his presentation of the Arts Commission’s defense against charges at hearings conducted by the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, and his Program’s costs in his salaried time in fulfilling such requests and in attending such hearings. He reported that the total cost - paid by the street artist certificate fees - for the previous year (fiscal year 2008-09) was $2,482, representing 75.50 hours; in contrast, the cost for the current year (2009-10), as of May 12th, was more than double the amount: $5,070, representing 148.20 hours.

Market Street Focus Group. The Mayor’s Office required Mr. Lazar’s participation in a discussion facilitated by Commissioner Astrid Haryati at the office of SPUR. The purpose of the discussion, entitled a “Market Street Focus Group with Stakeholders,” was “to identify a list of immediate activation and improvement, not long term solutions” for revitalizing – or activating – the culturally and economically arid stretch of Market Street from Justin Herman Plaza to 8th Street/Van Ness Avenue. The discussion, which included representatives of the public and private sectors, divided itself into sessions of groups representing block regions of the corridor. Each group discussed possible opportunities to improve the look and use of Market Street.

Mr. Lazar and Program Intern Lyla Conrad participated in the “Justin Herman to 2nd Street” group. Ms. Conrad, who introduced many of the novel ideas that were discussed, was asked by the participants to relate the major points to the entire discussion group. The points included possible bicycle paths and special bike parking; bike “mural tours” to induce biking tourists to travel past the existing storefront murals along the corridor; street artist spaces positioned not curbside but directly in front of the windows of vacant storefronts (to hide a building’s look of emptiness); art installations inside vacant properties; nighttime activities such as block parties or “sidewalk soirees” that would invite artists, musicians, and food vendors and encourage the participation of passersby; and thematic interactive events of various activities and sponsors.

Commissioner Haryati commented on these short-term plans for the re-vitalization of Market Street. Future focus group discussions will be held.

Commissioner Melania called for public comment relative to the Program Director’s report.

Street Artist Michael Addario, Chairman of the Street Artists Liaison Committee, commented on the public records requests and asked for a cost plan and a hearing on the upcoming online payment system.

Street Artist Maria Hillius requested that the expiration date on the new certificates be larger and bolder.

2. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve or deny issuance of certificate:

Jennifer Chen – Certificate #7976. Alleged violation: Selling with an expired certificate (Street Artists Ordinance, Proposition “L” of November 4, 1975 election, Section 7(a) ).

Program Director Lazar discussed the alleged incident, the complaint received by the office, and the previous history of violation and certificate suspension of the defendant, Jennifer Chen. Through the Chair, he called witnesses to give testimony. Mr. David Chan of Safety Awareness For Everyone, interpreted in Cantonese-English and English-Cantonese throughout the hearing.

Street Artist Joyce Kung stated that, while in her car, she and her husband saw Jennifer Chen selling in space “Stockton-1” (Stockton Street) on March 23rd. She telephoned her sister Cheryl Chen (no relation to Jennifer Chen) to ask if Jennifer’s certificate was current, and Cheryl discovered through the Program office that it was not current. Ms. Kung later discussed the matter with Street Artist Hui Min Ma who then asked Jennifer to cease selling. Jennifer refused to do so.

Responding to questions by Mr. Lazar, Ms. Kung stated that Jennifer was observed selling from her mother’s table, that her mother was present most of the time, and that she, Jennifer, took money for jewelry items which she handed to her customers.

Ms. Kung stated that her husband Man Tak Chin was unable to be present to testify.

Street Artist Hui Min Ma stated that she observed Jennifer Chen exchange money for merchandise and that Jennifer left the stand and returned several times over the course of a few hours. Ms. Ma went to her and told her that she was not allowed to sell without a street artist license, but Jennifer told her that it was none of Ms. Ma’s business and that only Program Director Lazar could tell her what to do.

In response to questions by Commissioners Melania and Haryati, Ms. Ma reiterated that she had observed a monetary transaction.

Street Artist Ying Jie (Kong) Chen interjected that he was Jennifer Chen’s brother and that there was a conspiracy against his family perpetrated by other street artists who were controlling the spaces on Stockton Street.

Commissioner Melania asked to hear from Ms. Chen.

Street Artist Jennifer Chen stated that, on the day in question, she was not selling but only bringing lunch to her mother. Furthermore, she said that had gone to the Program office that morning to pay for her license, but the office was unable to process the renewal because she did not have a check to cover it.

In response to a question by Mr. Lazar, Street Artists Program Intern Lyla Conrad stated that she licensed Ms. Chen that day at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon.

Street Artist Lian Huan Chen stated that her daughter was only bringing her lunch and that her daughter would never sell without a license.

Street Artist Cheryl Chen stated that she knew that Jennifer Chen’s license was expired and had asked Hui Min Ma to tell her not to sell. Cheryl Chen added that she was concerned that Jennifer had a bad attitude and was a poor representative of the Program.

Commissioner Chuang addressed Jennifer Chen in Cantonese, acknowledging that Ms. Chen was young and obviously a good saleswoman, but advising her to try to get along with the other artists and put her talent to better use.

At the conclusion of testimony, the Commissioners discussed the case. It was acknowledged that (a) Ms. Chen had a record of having received previous warnings from the Program Director on January 31, 2009 and February 20, 2009 for selling with an expired certificate; (b) the Program Director, as hearing officer, held a public meeting with her on charges of other alleged violations committed during the months of May through August, 2009, which resulted in Ms. Chen signing a statement that she finally understood the Program’s rules and would agree to abide by them; and (c) the agreement was later broken, and the Commissioners suspended her certificate from November 28, 2009 – January 26, 2010 for her refusal to vacate a street artist space which was eligible for the noontime lottery space-assignment and her obstruction of the noontime lottery procedure.

Commissioner Haryati moved that Jennifer Chen be found in violation of the Street Artists Ordinance by selling with an expired certificate; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Calloway and unanimously approved.

Commissioner Calloway moved to suspend Ms. Chen’s certificate for a period of three (3) months; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Chuang and unanimously approved.

Discussion. Street Artists Liaison Committee’s Report.

Street Artists Liaison Committee member Tad Sky reported that the Liaison Committee was pleased with the Program Intern’s work. Noting the concept of “liaison,” however, he asked that there be a better partnership in communication between the Program Director and the Committee in various matters of personnel and other program issues. He stated that complaints about the previous Program Assistant had been ignored, and that the Liaison Committee had been denied information about the circumstances surrounding the Assistant’s departure from the Program. He stated that the Program Director had failed to inform the Liaison Committee of his initial discussions with Recreation-Park personnel regarding Rec-Park’s proposals for an additional market at Justin Herman Plaza. He also stated that the Program Director’s draft of the Liaison’s December minutes left out the Committee’s discussion on personnel issues.

4. Discussion. New Business/Public Comment.

Street Artist Michael Addario criticized Program Director Lazar’s
performance in managing the Street Artists Program and accused
him of covering up information and being “mendacious” in his actions.

With permission of the Chair, Mr. Lazar responded to the issues
raised by Liaison Committee members Tad Sky and Michael Addario,
giving his understanding of areas of information for which street
artists were legally entitled and other areas for which they were not.

There being no new business or further public comment, Commissioner
Melania adjourned the meeting at 4:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director