City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

Street Artists Committee - May 14, 2014 - Meeting Minutes

Street Artists Committee - May 14, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
2:30 p.m.

25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
San Francisco, CA 94102


1. Roll Call

Commissioners Present:
Barbara Sklar, Chair
Greg Chew
Marcus Shelby

Commissioners Absent: Simon Frankel, Janine Shiota

Staff present: Arts Commission Deputy Director Rebekah Krell, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Assistant Alyssa Licouris

The meeting was called to order at 2:36 p.m.

Commission Sklar introduced herself as the new chair of the Street Artists Committee. She said that she’s an artist who has shopped with the street artists and that she welcomes this opportunity to serve.

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

Program Director Lazar reported on the following:

Art in Action at SFPL: Four women street artists (Kathy Hallinan, Mara Murray, Jenifer Martinez and Simone Guimaraes) were asked to participate in the Art in Action series at the San Francisco Public Library. Each artist was showcased one Friday in March. Members of the public were invited to speak with the artist while she was demonstrating her craft. This series was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mandi Stillwell on CBS Local: Street Artist Mandi Stillwell was featured on CBS Local’s “Good Day Sacramento” where she was interviewed about her interactive photography and video phone app process.

Post Street Re-Designation: In February, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to re-designate 2 spaces on Post Street at Stockton Street for a period of 6 months. These spaces are replacement spaces for the loss of Geary spaces adversely affected by the Central Subway project.

Temporary Port Spaces: 4 spaces on Jefferson Street between Mason and Powell streets were temporarily approved by the Port for the month of April. These spaces were extremely valuable due to the influx of Spring Break customers.

Street Artists Highlights: Commissioner Sklar asked Program Director Lazar to report on data about the Street Artists Program. He reported the following:

Number of current street artists: 368
Number of female artists: 162  (44 % of Program)
Number of  male artists: 206  (56 % of program)
Number of artists living in San Francisco:215  (58 % of Program)             
Number of artists licensed since 1975: 8,891

Since 1975, when the voters mandated the Arts Commission to license the artists the Street Artists Program has provided work opportunities for nearly 9,000 artists in the course of the last 39 years.

I recently received a “thank you” card from an artist who was retiring from the Program after 30 years. The artist wrote: “Through this Program, I earned the money to raise my family.”

General categories of arts/crafts currently being produced and sold (listed in the following order by number of artists per category):

Jewelry (beadcraft; fabricated metal; mixed media; leather/bead, etc.): 146
Photography/Prints of Original Artwork/Printmaking:44
Crochet/Knitting: 2
Clothing/Apparel (silkscreen; batik; handpainted): 27
Sewn Items (clothes; bags; dolls; etc.):21
Sculpture: 12
Misc (masks; hats; flutes; candles; etc.) 11
Pottery/Ceramics: 7
Woodcraft: 5

The production and sale of jewelry items account for nearly 40 %  of the artists.  The next popular category is photography/prints of original artwork/printmaking, accounting for 12 % of the artists. And the categories of crochet/knitting, clothing/apparel, and sewn items each account for 5 –7 % of the artists. It’s evident that adornment, whether for self or abode, is the leader in sales.

Number of current street artist spaces: 439
Number of VIABLE spaces (based on staff observation of where the artists consistently sell): 251  (57 % of total spaces)
There are more artists (368) than viable spaces (251); hence the purpose of assigning spaces to the artists through a daily lottery system.)

Approximate annual value of 251 viable spaces: $ 4,000,000. This figure is based on an estimated 200 artists (out of 368) who sell regularly and an estimated conservative annual income of $20,000 for each (200 artists x $20,000 = $4,000,000);  the figure of $4,000,000 divided by 251 viable spaces yields an estimated annual value of each viable space as $15,936.

The Program had two major anniversary celebrations:

Its 25th anniversary in 1997 during which Beach Street was closed for the event;

Its 40th anniversary in 2012 at Justin Herman Plaza – this event garnered a feature article in the San Francisco Chronicle and an NBC broadcast feature which aired 3 times.

In recent years, the Arts Commission was presented twice with petitions signed by over 200 street artists requesting that their Street Artists Program continue to be administered by the Arts Commission and by no other agency.

Commissioner Chew commented that the Program has helped people who have recently immigrated to sell their art. He also mentioned that it’s expensive to have a gallery space so the Program is a good alternate.

Commissioner Shelby asked about the number of viable spaces.

Program Director Lazar answered that, over time, the number of viable spaces changes due to pedestrian traffic patterns, adjacent businesses and so forth. He has seen many spaces rise and fall in popularity over the years.

Commissioner Sklar asked if artists get turned away every day due to lack of spaces.

Program Director Lazar answered that some artists might not get the space that they want but they will find a space with a lesser value to use.

Public Comment:
Paula Datesh commented that Program Director Lazar’s report was not a clear representation of working on the street. She said that the maps are outdated. She said that it is not the responsibility of the older artists to educate new people. She reported that Apple will soon start construction that will affect the entire corner. She said that the Arts Commission was not represented at the Planning meeting. She said that two spaces on Post Street are monopolized by two street artists with an oversized stand. She said that Program Director Lazar doesn’t know what is happening on the street and he doesn’t know how much money they make.

Commissioner Sklar thanked Program Director Lazar for his report and highlights. She said she has visited the recent Advisory Committee screening meeting as well as many of the artists’ spaces. She said that she understands the difficulties of all of the changes involving the spaces. She said she hopes to achieve an evaluation in the future of the Program based on comments from street artists about what’s working and what’s not working.

Commissioner Chew thanked Program Director Lazar. He encouraged everyone to buy from the street artists.

Commissioner Shelby asked about the process for artists when they have an issue.

Program Director Lazar explained how an artist would propose a new space. He said that with other program issues can sometimes resolve it. However, in other instances, the issues or cases will be submitted to the Street Artists Program Committee.

Commissioner Sklar asked if the Board of Appeals understands the Arts Commission. Program Director Lazar said that historically the Board members demonstrated that they did not understand the Commission and they do not have art backgrounds.

Commissioner Chew confirmed that a hearing at the Board of Appeals is not common for the Arts Commission.

Public Comment:
Paula Datesh said that her due process rights were violated in that situation. She said, according to the Bluebook, there are minor and major violations and a progressive disciplinary process. She said she was in the hospital and couldn’t comprehend the packet she received. She said she was told that her defense was entered into the minutes but it wasn’t. She said she listened to the audio and it wasn’t presented that she was in the hospital and that it was an off-topic meeting where people slandered her. She said she was told that her license was revoked. She noted that there was a concurrent civil case about her. She said that Program Director Lazar said she was on a trolley and walking down Market Street. She said the Board of Appeals has strict guidelines. She said she submitted her materials within a time period and so could the respondent. She said it was from her efforts, since her permit has been revoked three times and that on the day of the hearing there were lots of email correspondence. She said that anyone can see the hearing on SFGov TV and that the Board of Appeals ruled no factual evidence and manifest injustice

3.   Discussion. Public Comment.

Public comment:
William Clark said he was disappointed because he was hoping Program Director Lazar would discuss the budget. He said that the Program number has dropped to 322 on average based on the revenue. He said he noticed for the first time for the Program that the Arts Commission is relying on general fund money. He said from 1972-1978, $200,000 of certificate fees were placed into the general fund from the Street Artists Program which resulted in a loss of revenue and why the fees were raised. He said that throughout years, they were told that the Commission couldn’t get money from the general fund. He said that street artists were illegally taxed during those years. He resents the fact that the City Attorney told him personally that they couldn’t get money from the general fund. He said $58,000 has been taken out already. He resents that street artists haven’t been informed of the budget and what the possible realities are next year. He said the fees may have to be raised. He said that the issue should have been talked about at the Street Artists Program Committee. He gave Commissioner Sklar a diagram of the money that came into the Program.

Robert Clark said that the figures presented by William Clark are official Arts Commission figures. He said it’s 1970’s money which is worth more today. He said they listened to the Executive Committee meetings which were discussing the financial problems of the program. He said that during the first 6 months, the Commission had to get $58,000 from the general fund. He said they have been told for 40 years that they couldn’t get any general fund money and we can’t have the fees returned to the Program; therefore the fees would have to be raised to support the Program. He said that he wants it known that they aren’t being subsidized by taxpayer money but  that $200,000 was taken from the Program and that any money from the general fund is coming from what money that was illegally taken from the Program in the past. He said it was an Illegal tax and illegal to take money from a small group of people to use for general municipal purposes. Mr. Clark requested if there is another deficit that the Arts Commission attempt to cover it from the general fund. He thinks the Arts Commission should request the $200,000 plus 25 years of interest and in the terms of 2014.

Deputy Director Krell confirmed the policy change last year that the Arts Commission has moved all financials discussion to the Executive Committee and then to the full Commission. She said that the chair can always put an item on the agenda but discussions have been streamlined at an agency wide level.

Mr. Clark began speaking.

Commissioner Sklar asked that he stop talking.

Mr. Clark said that the Commissioners can extend speaker minutes.

Commissioner Sklar asked for order while they were speaking and told Mr. Clark that he was out of order. Commissioner Sklar said she would not extend the time of the speaker.

Commissioner Sklar asked that the Committee be informed of the budget at the next meeting or when the information is ready.

Paula Datesh asked that her public comment be entered into the minutes.

4.    Discussion. New Business and Announcements.

Program Director Lazar reminded Commissioners about the continuing Advisory Committee project in upgrading the screening criteria. He said that they are close to finishing the criteria. He said he anticipates one more meeting before the Committee is finished. He announced that the next Criteria meeting has not yet been scheduled but that he was hoping it would happen in June so that the criteria recommendations would be in front of the Street Artist Committee in July or, if not, in September. He said that most of the criteria under review goes back to 1977.

Program Director Lazar thanked Commissioner Sklar for attending the last screening meeting to watch how the Committee verifies the street artists’ artwork.

Commissioner Sklar asked all Commissioners to attend a screening meeting. She said she appreciates the Committee for their hard work.

Commissioner Chew said the Committee members are very qualified.

Commissioner Shelby asked Deputy Director Krell about the budget issues.

Deputy Director Krell explained that, in order to stream line and de-silo the agency, the Commission began discussing agency and program budgets at Executive Committee meetings where all of the information is readily available. She said that for the first time this year there has been general fund money supporting the program’s costs. She said they are projecting a deficit for the current year and they are discussing the budget with the Mayor’s office but decisions aren’t yet final. She said they will brief the Executive Committee and full Commission when the decision has been made. She said that the proposed budget is sent to the Mayor’s office which will decide how to balance the budget. She explained that on June 1, it gets submitted to the Board of Supervisors. She said the program had reserve money to draw on when there had been previous deficits but does not have a reserve now.

Program Director Lazar added that a recent legislative change provides for the fee to increase modestly and automatically in keeping with the CPI every year just as other City fees do.

Public Comment:
Paula Datesh asked that her statement be entered into the public record and read from her statement [While the statement is more than 150 words, it is nevertheless attached here and at the end of these minutes] . She said that she attended the May 7, 2014 Advisory Committee meeting where Program Director Lazar was not the chair but allowed the first speaker’s public comment to last for 45 minutes and the second speaker to speak for 10 minutes. She said that the motion was poorly written so she couldn’t provide meaningful public comment and Program Director Lazar interrupted her thus abridging her public comment. She said she requested by email a copy of the audio CD of the meeting. She said that Program Director Lazar could not confirm the address she had on file and that Kate Patterson hung up on her. She said that she spoke to Deputy Director Krell and that she said it would be sent. She said that in the past she has not received her letters and that Deputy City Attorney Jesson gave Program Director Lazar the address and that she doesn’t know why Program Director Lazar covers the return address. She said that the next day she received an email from Program Director Lazar telling her that he sent it out and that she refused to confirm the address. She again asked her documents be entered into the public record.

William Clark asked how the Arts Commission proposes to balance the budget if there isn’t enough revenue coming in. He said that unless expenses are reduced, there will have to be a major fee increase to cover all expenses especially since the Mayor requests agencies to reduce their general fund requests. He said that the street artists haven’t been informed that they’re going to have a deficit and all he wants to know is how the Commission intends to balance the budget. He asked Deputy Director Krell to send an email to him responding to that question.

Robert Clark said that the budget had gone through the Street Artists Committee so all artists knew what’s going on and they could make suggestions. He said that they were expecting the budget to be on the agenda two years ago but it wasn’t put on the agenda. He said they found out that the Executive Committee agenda was going to discuss the budget but they weren’t informed of this change. He said they were prepared this year for it to be on the Executive Committee agenda. He asked why street artists aren’t being told of the financial problem and why the budget was not discussed at today’s meeting. He said they want to know what the deficit will be and he’s estimating $50,000-$60,000 on top of  the $58,000 which means they have to get more money from the general fund or raise the fee significantly which will cause more problems and destroy the program.

Commissioner Sklar reconfirmed that the process of the budget review has changed. She said that it’s public information and encouraged the artists to look for the Executive Committee agendas. She asked that the budget information be presented at the next Committee meeting if it’s available.

Commissioner Shelby asked if it’s too late for street artists to provide ideas.

Ms. Krell said that it’s never too late to make suggestions. She said that there are many opportunities such as at the Executive Committee meeting or by email or phone.

5.    Action. Adjournment.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:41 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by:
Alyssa Licouris, Street Artists Program Assistant

Minutes approved by:

Howard Lazar, Street Artists Program Director

Additional documents submitted by the public at the meeting: Letter and documents from Paula Datesh.

An audio recording of this meeting is available online at the following address:

Translated written materials and interpretation services are available to you at no cost. For assistance, please notify Howard Lazar, 415-252-2583,

如需協助,Howard Lazar, 415-252-2583,

Materiales traducidos y servicios de interpretación están disponibles para usted de manera gratuita. Para asistencia, notifique a Howard Lazar, 415-252-2583,