City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

November 30, 2011

Street Artists Committee - November 30, 2011


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1:30 p.m.

25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70


Commissioner Chew called the meeting to order at 1:32 p.m.

1. Roll Call
Commissioners Present: Greg Chew, Chair; John Calloway; Amy Chuang; Sherene Melania
Commissioners Absent: Jessica Silverman

Staff present: Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Assistant Alyssa Licouris

Commissioner Chew stated that he encouraged the Commissioners to purchase from the street artists.

2. Discussion. Street Artists Program Director’s Report:

Program Director Lazar reported on the following:

F-Line Boarding Platform: The Program Director, Program Assistant, and street artists attended two Citizens Advisory Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) meetings and one full Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) meeting and spoke in opposition to MTA’s proposed boarding platform for the F-line on Beach Street between Hyde and Larkin Street. A meeting with the Director of MTA has been scheduled.

Occupy SF: the Street Artists Program office has received complaint letters from street artists relating to problems arising from the Occupy SF encampment such as health issues and a decline of business and has forwarded the letters to the Mayor’s office with a request to remedy the situation.

Hallidie Plaza Renovation: Union Square Business Improvement District (BID) approached the Street Artists Program to help in designing uniform street artist displays for the Hallidie Plaza area as part of the upgrade to make it a premium destination. All street artists wishing to sell at Hallidie Plaza would be required to use these displays since the BID would become the landlord of Hallidie Plaza and would have the authority to issue its requirement for Plaza usage. The Program Director, Program Assistant and two street artists met with the BID staff and a pro bono architect who brought a model of the display. There is an upcoming meeting scheduled to pick a color scheme for the displays. This project is scheduled to take many months to complete since BID is still looking for funding.

Land Use Committee:
The Program Director presented proposals for resolutions on Sept 19 and October 17 to the Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors regarding designation of two new temporary selling spaces on Post Street to replace the temporary loss of Geary Street spaces due to the Central Subway construction and re-designation of 22 spaces on Grant Avenue, between O’Farrell and Sutter streets, exempting the spaces from a yellow zone. The full Board adopted these proposals.

Central Subway Construction: Downtown construction relating to the Central Subway system will cease between November 23 and January 2 thus allowing street artists to use their winter holiday and permanent spaces.

Mobile Food Facilities: The Street Artists Program office receives notifications from DPW for applications of mobile food facilities. The Street Artists Program has deterred three such applications from three areas of street artists spaces. The program staff and street artists attended a meeting in Supervisor Weiner’s office with mobile vendors and store owners regarding the proliferation of mobile food vendors especially in the Downtown area.

SF Gate Article (September 15): “Street Artists Fight to Sell Their Wares At Prime Location” article by Stephanie Lee.

3. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve Program Director’s recommendations of denial of certificate or renewal of the following certificate-holders for allegedly selling items of commercially manufactured pendants and bead craft jewelry, constituting the following alleged violations: (1) Displaying items not in accord with Arts Commission criteria; (2) Displaying items not of the artist’s own creation; and (3) Displaying items not certified by the Arts Commission:

Chia Ying Fong – Certificate #3616 (hearing rescheduled from 9/14/11)

Zhenhui Feng – Certificate #7911 (hearing rescheduled from 9/14/11)

Program Director Howard Lazar read from a prepared statement which, he said, was reviewed by the City Attorney.

The statement clarified some key features of the proceeding. Any member of the public, whether or not a street artist, has the right to file a complaint with the City's Street Artists Program alleging a violation of the Street Artists Ordinance. But the right to file a complaint must not be confused with the authority to prosecute or adjudicate a disciplinary proceeding.

Mr. Lazar went on to state that the Street Artists Program regulations require the Street Artists Program Director to investigate all complaints. Upon determining that a complaint is well-founded, the Director files charges on behalf of the City against the offending artist(s) by scheduling a hearing before the Program Committee and giving notice to the affected street artists. During the hearing, the Program Director serves as the prosecutor and the Program Committee serves as the adjudicatory body. The accused street artist is the respondent. Individuals filing complaints that give rise to a specific disciplinary proceeding have no standing in that proceeding, they are not parties to that proceeding, and they may not cross examine witnesses at that proceeding.

Mr. Lazar clarified the right of public comment. Because a hearing is held as a public meeting of a policy body subject to the Brown Act and the Sunshine Ordinance, members of the public, including street artists and those filing complaints against street artists, may make public comment before or during each agenda item, including an item that involves charges against street artists and the Program Committee's adjudication of those charges. But members of the public, including those members of the public filing complaints that gave rise to the disciplinary charges against a street artist, do not have standing in the proceeding, they are not parties to the proceeding, they do not serve in the role of prosecution or defense, they may not call witnesses, and they may not dictate the questions that the Program Director or the accused artist may propound to witnesses. In addition, the Program Committee may not consider information that members of the public provide in public comment as evidence on which the Committee may rely to take a decision. Should the Program Committee conclude, after hearing the entire case, that public comment raises issues that the Program Committee wants the parties to address, the Committee could continue the matter and ask the Director and the accused artist to address the issues with the requisite evidence and argument.

Mr. Lazar concluded that he hoped this information was helpful as the Commissioners conducted the hearings.

The Commissioners requested a copy of the statement presented by Mr. Lazar.

Commissioner Chew announced that a Chinese interpreter obtained by the Street Artists Program, Mr. Fong, was present for the hearing.

Mr. Lazar stated that Street Artist Juan Manuel Alvarez, whose hearing was scheduled for today, asked for a continuation of his hearing to January, and therefore the scheduled Spanish interpreter obtained by the Program was cancelled.

Mr. Lazar read the action item and announced that both artists, Ms. Fong and Ms. Feng, were present.

Commissioner Chew called for public comment for Ms. Chia Ying Fong. There was none.

Commissioner Chew called for public comment for Ms. Zhenhui Feng. There was none.

Mr. Lazar clarified that the Program Committee held an earlier public hearing in September (Sept. 14) on charges against four other artists facing charges exactly the same as those the City presented in this proceeding. At that hearing, the Program Committee determined that the accused artists were laboring under a misunderstanding of the meaning of the Program rules and used the hearing to clear up the misunderstanding. The Program Committee decided to dismiss those charges after the accused artists acknowledged that they understood that their actions were inconsistent with the requirements of the Program and indicated that they intended to act in accordance with the Program rules in the future. Now that the Program Committee had facilitated a better understanding of the Program rules, and since that earlier public hearing, Mr. Lazar and the screening committee observed that those four artists and the two artists subject to today's proceeding have diligently complied with the program rules. Accordingly, in the interests of the Program, the artists, and the public, Mr. Lazar requested that the Commission dismiss these charges consistent with the action it took dismissing charges against the four other artists accused of committing similar violations.

Mr. Lazar stated that the Program Committee facilitated a better understanding of the rules for the four other artists as did the screening committee last June (June 16) with all six artists. Evidence shows, Mr. Lazar stated, that there has been compliance.

Commissioner Melania motioned to dismiss the charge against Ms. Fong and to renew Ms. Fong’s certificate. Commissioner Chuang seconded.

Commissioner Chew asked for public comment.

Mr. Rob Williams, attorney for Ms. Fong and Ms. Feng, asked for clarification regarding what the circumstances will be in the future if his clients aren’t in compliance. He wanted to clarify that further citations wouldn’t immediately prompt a suspension of license if they have items in the future that need clarification.

Mr. Lazar responded that if the screening committee finds a questionable item, the artists will be asked to have it screened but the artists will be asked to not sell the item until it’s been screened and verified. For example, Mr. Lazar said, it could be a product in the beadcraft category which looks radically different than the artist’s previous expression.

Mr. Williams responded that the process described by Mr. Lazar is what the artists had in mind.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Commissioner Melania motioned to dismiss the charge against Ms. Feng and to renew Ms. Feng’s certificate; Commissioner Calloway seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

5. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve Program Director’s recommendation of denial of certificate or renewal of the following certificate-holder for allegedly (1) Selling commercially manufactured pendants, earrings, and hand beaded woven bracelets, and (2) Not displaying Certificate prominently, constituting the following alleged violations: (1) Displaying items not of the artist’s own creation; and (2) Failing to display Certificate prominently:

Dong Ling Song – Certificate #8419

Mr. Lazar announced that Ms. Dong Ling Song was present and asked Mr. Fong to interpret for her.

Mr. Lazar presented the case against Ms. Song. He stated there were three observations/reports from the Advisory Committee regarding Ms. Song. On June 14, 2011 the Advisory Committee issued to Ms. Song a checklist on the items that she was selling which included “commercial store bought pendants, commercial leather with stud bracelets, small commercial earrings, god’s eye string earrings, metal with bead bracelets, commercial metal faux, enamel butterfly earrings”. Mr. Lazar presented photos taken by the Advisory Committee of the June 14 monitoring to the Commissioners. Ms. Song was invited to a rescreening on June 30, 2011 where she was told by the Advisory Committee what she could and couldn’t sell. On July 20, Ms. Song received another checklist from the Advisory Committee showing similar items that were clearly commercially manufactured. Advisory Committee Members expressed on the checklist that Ms. Song’s license should be revoked. Mr. Lazar showed photos taken on July 20.

Advisory Committee Member Josie Grant, who was monitoring with Advisory Committee Member Susan Tibbon on July 20, was present. Ms. Grant stated that Ms. Song’s display was the most egregious she’d seen. When Ms. Song was rescreened, Ms. Grant said, Ms. Song brought a few bags of product that didn’t match her finished pieces and she was told that she couldn’t sell manufactured items to which she agreed. The next monitoring visit, stated Ms. Grant, Ms. Song’s stand still had manufactured items although they were different. Ms. Grant stated that Ms. Song understood and claimed that she made her items, but Ms. Grant reiterated that Ms. Song hadn’t shown matching beads (beads that would match those in the finished items she was selling) or an ability to make her items.

Commissioner Calloway asked for details of the Advisory Committee’s observations. Ms. Grant described the first monitoring visit at Ms. Song’s stand at Powell Street (on June 14). According to Ms. Grant, Ms. Song was told that her items were illegal and that she needed to be rescreened. Ms. Grant reported that Ms. Song attended the screening without an interpreter and showed up at the last minute. Ms. Grant explained that Ms. Song was scheduled for the next screening, (June 30), but she couldn’t show the Advisory Committee that she could make her items. Ms. Grant reported that, at the second monitoring visit (July 20), they saw again a proliferation of commercial pieces on Ms. Dong’s display.

Commissioner Calloway asked how Ms. Grant knew Ms. Song understood the Advisory Committee’s clarification. Ms. Grant explained that Ms. Song spoke to them in English and said she made the items herself. Ms. Grant stated Ms. Song never said she misunderstood and didn’t ask for an interpreter.

Mr. Lazar stated that Ms. Grant participated in the June 14 monitoring, and Mr. Lazar again showed the Commissioners the images from that monitoring visit.

Ms. Grant stated that the main concern of the Advisory Committee is to make sure that the street artists are making their items and not purchasing their items since they all look the same.

Commissioner Chew asked Mr. Lazar to clarify the number of warnings received by Ms. Song. Mr. Lazar answered that the June 14 report, June 30 rescreening, and July 20 report were all considered warnings to remedy the problem.

Commissioner Chew asked Mr. Lazar if Ms. Dong had been selling recently. Mr. Lazar explained that Ms. Song’s license expired on September 7, 2011.

Commissioner Melania commented that there were three warnings for Ms. Song and that she didn’t change what she had been doing, based on the feedback from the Advisory Committee, but noted they should hear from Ms. Song.

Ms. Song admitted that the first time she received the checklist notice she didn’t know the rules. The second time, Ms. Dong said, she fixed her display and added different beads and didn’t sell illegal items.

Commissioner Melania reminded Ms. Song that the screening meeting counted as a “warning” where she was told what she needed to fix. After the screening, Commissioner Melania reiterated, Ms. Song still did not attempt to fix the problem.

Ms. Song maintained she didn’t sell the illegal items.
Mr. Lazar said that she did not change her display because, on July 20, the Advisory Committee found more commercial earrings being sold by Ms. Song. While Ms. Song said she put a different design of items on her display, the Advisory Committee still didn’t allow her to sell her items.

Commissioner Melania restated that the first time Ms. Song received a checklist she said she didn’t understand. Commissioner Melania continued to explain that Ms. Song was asked to go to a screening meeting where the Advisory Committee showed Ms. Song what to sell and this was her second chance to understand the rules, but after the screening Ms. Song was caught selling illegal items again.

Ms. Song said she did fix her jewelry and that she said that Mr. Lazar told her she needed bigger beads.

Commissioner Chew reminded Ms. Song that she needs to comply with the rules.

Commissioner Melania motioned to find Ms. Song in violation; Commissioner Chuang seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Commissioner Melania stated that in order to protect the integrity of the Program and other street artists, all street artists must follow the rules. Commissioner Melania continued that if a street artist is new and doesn’t understand the rules, they can read the Program’s bluebook, talk to the Program Director or talk to the Advisory Committee. Commissioner Melania reiterated that Ms. Song had been given three chances to understand the rules, but she didn’t change her ways, and this cannot be tolerated.

Interpreter Fong said that Ms. Song said the first time she didn’t know the rules and, after the second report, she said she stopped and didn’t continue to violate.

Advisory Committee Member Josie Grant asked that Ms. Song be required to attend a screening meeting before she is allowed to get her license back in order to watch her make all of her items and again show her what she can and can’t sell.

Commissioner Melania motioned to issue or renew the certificate of Dong Ling Song after a two (2) month denial of renewal and that renewal be contingent upon verification by the Advisory Committee that Ms. Song makes her items; Commissioner Calloway seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Mr. Lazar requested that Mr. Fong tell Ms. Song that she will receive a letter from the Program office stating the decision.

6. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve Program Director’s recommendation of denial of certificate or renewal of the following certificate-holder for allegedly selling items during period of Certificate expiration, constituting the following alleged violation: Displaying items without a valid Certificate (Sec. 7(a) of Proposition “L” of November, 1975):

James Toolate – Certificate #3078

Mr. Lazar explained that the street artist Market Managers of Justin Herman Plaza receive a membership list weekly from the Program Assistant that tells them which street artists have valid licenses. A complaint was received from the Market Managers and written by Market Manager Susan Levinson regarding Mr. Toolate entering the lottery with an expired license. Mr. Lazar read Ms. Levinson’s statement and presented an accompanying original map of the sign-in sheet for the Commissioners’ review. Ms. Levinson’s letter stated that she was present on August 20, 2011 when Mr. Toolate was selling on an expired license in Café space #102. Café spaces, she said, are most coveted and the first to be taken. Ms. Levinson’s letter stated that the lottery member didn’t check Mr. Toolate’s license or the membership list. Ms. Levinson noted on that Sunday that his license was expired and that she further checked to see if he had renewed on Friday, August 19, because it wouldn’t have been reflected in the membership list which is published on Thursdays. Mr. Toolate told Ms. Levinson (according to the complaint) that he had renewed by mail; he then called Ms. Levinson “the Gestapo”. Ms. Levinson telephoned the Program Assistant on August 30 who said that Mr. Toolate renewed in person on August 25.

Mr. Lazar stated that the evidence showed that Mr. Toolate renewed on August 25 in person and the sign-in map clearly showed that he took space #102 on August 20.

Program Assistant Alyssa Licouris verified that Mr. Toolate came to the office to renew his license in person.

Mr. Toolate apologized for forgetting that his license expired. He stated that the thought it was August 19 when he signed in, which is the day his license expired. Mr. Toolate stated that he went out of town for the rest of the weekend so he wasn’t aware that his license expired until he was approached later. Mr. Toolate stated his expired license had been on his display.

Commissioner Melania clarified with Mr. Toolate that he had his expired license with him when he signed in at the lottery and that he stated that the lottery person didn’t check the expiration date, so he thought he was okay.

In response to a question by Mr. Lazar, Mr. Toolate stated that he has been in the Street Artists Program since 1985. and that he recycles silverware (as part of his craft).

Commissioner Chew said that Mr. Toolate had shown a good faith effort to come in to the office to renew his license in person.

Mr. Lazar reminded the Commissioners that Mr. Toolate had sold without a license. Mr. Lazar also stated that Justin Herman Plaza spaces are the most coveted spaces especially during the summer which was when this incident occurred. Mr. Lazar stated that usually 140-150 people compete for 70 spaces which include the space Mr. Toolate took on August 20; he urged the Commissioners to consider that.

Mr. Toolate said that on August 20 he shared his space with Anne Dal Pozzo.

Commissioner Melania reconfirmed that Mr. Toolate wasn’t aware of his certificate’s expiration until he was approached.

Mr. Lazar clarified for Commissioner Melania that the Street Artists Program has never sent out reminders to the artists to renew because it never had the ability to do so or the money for postage. Mr. Lazar reminded the Commissioners that the Arts Commission granted the street artists a 10-day grace period for renewal as a way to accommodate street artists. Mr. Lazar noted that street artists selling at Justin Herman Plaza typically make sure that their licenses are valid. Mr. Lazar reminded Commissioners that the law clearly states that an artist can’t sell without a valid certificate.

Commissioner Melania acknowledged that this was an error on Mr. Toolate’s part and that he was in violation.
Commissioner Melania stated she wanted to honor the fact that he’s been in the Street Artists Program for a long time and that he did go to the office to renew his license when he was told it had expired.

Commissioner Melania motioned to find Mr. Toolate in violation of selling with an expired license; Commission Chew seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Commissioner Melania stated that the incident seemed to be human error since both Mr. Toolate and the lottery committee member overlooked the certificate’s expiration.

Mr. Lazar responded to Commissioner Calloway’s question asking if Mr. Toolate had any previous violations. Mr. Lazar stated that Mr. Toolate had no violation in recent years and none related to this type of issue.

Commissioner Melania motioned to suspend the penalty with a warning against selling without a valid license; Commissioner Calloway seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

7. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve recommendation by Lottery Committee to amend the Noon I Lottery for previously assigned spaces whereby any held number from a previous lottery would not be valid for use in the Noon I Lottery.

Director Lazar and Program Assistant Licouris met with members of the official Lottery Committee who assign spaces through the Fisherman’s Wharf and Downtown lotteries. Mr. Lazar explained that a Noon lottery occurs which assigns spaces that were previously assigned in the morning lottery but were relinquished or not occupied. Mr. Lazar has been told by Lottery Committee members that the problem is that a street artist with a held number from a previous lottery would have priority over an artist who had no number in the Noon Lottery. Mr. Lazar stated that Lottery Committee members believe that by eliminating the use of held numbers in the Noon Lottery, it will help to give all street artists the same opportunity in the Noon lottery. Mr. Lazar agreed that it is a fair way to assign spaces and that he has heard many egregious problems from Lottery Committee members.

Commissioner Melania agreed that it seemed like a logical method.

Commissioner Melania motioned to approve the recommendation by Lottery Committee to amend the Noon I Lottery for previously assigned spaces whereby any held number from a previous lottery would not be valid for use in the Noon I Lottery; Commissioner Chuang seconded.

There was no public comment.

The motion was unanimously approved.

8. Discussion. Public Comment.

There was no public comment.

9. Discussion. Old Business.

There was no old business.

10. Discussion. New Business.

There was no new business.

11. Action. Adjournment.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned by Commissioner Chew at 2:39 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by:
Alyssa Licouris, Street Artists Program Assistant

Minutes approved by:
Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Director

 12/15/11 - AL