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Meeting Information


2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 


Wednesday, May 6, 2009
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70








Members present: Commissioners Alexander Lloyd, Chair, Amy Chuang, Topher Delaney, Sherene Melania


Members absent: John Calloway


Staff present: Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar, Program Assistant Evelyn Russell



Commissioner Lloyd, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:09 p.m. and welcomed Commissioner Amy Chuang to the Committee.


1.     Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve policy of receiving  application and certificate fee payments in the form of checks or money orders only (no cash).

Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar explained that, during all of the thirty-seven years of the Street Artists Program, the payment of fees has always been allowed in the form of cash, check, or money order. However, after an incident of a theft of $400 cash in street artist fees from the Program office, the staff now considered it necessary to recommend that fee payments be in the form of checks or money orders only.

In response to questions from Commissioner Lloyd, Mr. Lazar stated that the Program office is housed in an unguarded open-area suite, and that this is in contrast with the offices of the Tax Collector and Controller whose tellers enjoy the security of reinforced collection windows and City Hall armed guard service.

Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel recommended that cash not be kept on the Arts Commission’s premises; he stated that there is an improved collection system when a transaction is made in the form of a check, leaving a better paper trail in conjunction with the receipt given an artist.

Both Mr. Cancel and Mr. Lazar affirmed that it would not be difficult for an artist to obtain a money order if he or she does not have a checking account.

Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.

Street Artist William Clark opposed the recommendation for the collection of fees in the form of check or money order only.  He handed Commissioner Lloyd a ten-dollar bill and read aloud the wording on the bill’s face: “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”. He asserted that cash is legal tender. Reading aloud various definitions of “legal tender” from a legal dictionary and from federal law (US Code Title 31,5103), Mr. Clark then stated that he felt the Commission would be prohibited by federal law to accept payment only in the form of non-cash.

He read aloud a passage of Section 5 of the voter-mandated Street Artists Ordinance which states: “…upon payment of the certificate fee fixed by this ordinance, the Executive Director of the Art Commission shall issue a certificate …” Mr. Clark stated that the section did not provide “upon payment of the fee by check” which, he said, would require a ballot amendment.

Mr. Clark cited San Francisco Administrative Code Section 10.11-1 as authorizing the Arts Commission to accept credit cards and debit cards for the payment of street artist fees. He requested that the proposal now under consideration be amended to allow street artists to pay their fees by cash, check, money order, credit card, or debit card, and that it be continued for further discussion.

Mr. Clark presented a copy of an Arts Commission letter of 1976 which announced that street artists were henceforth to pay their fees in cash because, prior to this, the Commission had been experiencing a problem of returned street artist checks.  He further stated that it was his understanding that the Program loses additional money when a check is returned, because the Controller deducts a fee from the street artist fund which is then left to the Street Artists Program to recover. If a non-cash policy were to be adopted, he said, the Program would inevitably incur more returned checks which would cost the Program more in the long run.

Street Artist Michael Addario read aloud from a prepared statement which accused the Program staff of “poor fiscal control of” the artists’ “revenue and an apparent attempt to hide” from the artists a theft of $400 from the Program office in 2007. His statement also accused the Arts Commission’s accountant of not being aware of the theft “until recently”, accused the Program staff of leaving an artist’s fee payment in the artist’s file and forgetting about it, and accused the Arts Commission and its Street Artists Program of not having a system of reconciling fee receipts with bank deposit slips. Furthermore, the building which houses the Program office was not secure.  He urged that the first step toward fiscal responsibility would be to not allow staff to handle cash.

Street Artist Robert Clark stated that he was opposed to the proposal which he considered the “most absurd thing” that he has ever heard in his thirty-seven years of attending street artist meetings.  He questioned the validity of being told that, as an American citizen, his “hard-earned cash that he worked hard to get” would no longer be accepted by a governmental agency when he renews his street artist certificate. He asked that the proposal be amended to provide for payment to be made by cash, check, money order, credit card, or debit card.

In response to a question by Commissioner Lloyd, Director Cancel stated that it would be possible for the Program to go to the expense of establishing and maintaining credit card and debit card capability, but the expense would then have to be levied on the street artists who choose to pay by such methods.

Program Assistant Evelyn Russell stated that her office has a locked cash box, and that immediately after the loss of the money, she initiated a system of documenting the denominations of currency submitted by artists in paying for their fees, and there has been no further incident of lost money. She showed the Commissioners a sample of such documents. She questioned Mr. Addario’s assertion about a fee payment left in an artist’s file. 

In response to a question by Commissioner Delaney regarding the Program’s bookkeeping, Program Director Lazar stated that the Arts Commission’s accountant is always apprised of the Program’s deposits, and that the Program’s accounting system is the City’s system.  The Program Director prepares both the deposit and a deposit sheet which matches the amounts listed on the invoices with the fees being deposited, as well as a detailed breakdown of all currency and checks.  The deposit sheets are reviewed by the Commission’s accounting staff and the Controller’s staff.  This has been done since the Program’s commencement in 1972 – and is evidenced by all of the deposit sheets archived by the Program Director since 1972.

In response to a question by Commissioner Delaney, Director of Cultural Affairs Cancel stated that, while computers keep track of the Program’s revenue and expenditures, the issue at hand was that the transaction itself is not an electronic transaction but a physical transaction, either by check or cash; and that its processing generates paperwork which is then submitted to the accounting staff who enter the information into the computerized system.  Mr. Cancel added that, from his perspective and experience in running organizations, he wanted to discourage the use of cash handling on the premises for security reasons.

Commissioner Delaney stated the Committee should be respectful of Mr. Cancel’s decisions in running the organization.  She further assessed that improvements in handling the fees had been made since the incident of the lost money, that it was time to let go as “old business” any complaints about the incident and to commend Ms. Russell for improving the handling of fees.

Commissioner Lloyd asked Mr. Lazar to investigate the practicability and expense of processing credit and debit cards for fee payments. In the meantime, he felt the present system of accepting payments by cash, check or money order be retained.

Commissioner Delaney disagreed and moved to approve a policy of receiving application and certificate fee payments in the form of checks or money orders only and not in the form of cash; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Melania.  The following vote was taken: Yes – Delaney, Melania, Chuang; No – Lloyd.  The motion was approved.

2.     Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve authorization of Program Director to request Board of Supervisors for temporary designation of street artist selling spaces on 17th Street, north side, at Castro and Market Streets, as part of a “mini-plaza” proposed by the Castro Upper Market Benefit Community District.

Street Artists Program Director Lazar referred the Commissioners to information he had sent them relative to the proposed creation of a temporary “mini-plaza” at the eastern end of the intersection of17th Street, Castro Street, and Market Street.  The proposal was initiated by the Castro Upper Market Benefit Community District and is endorsed by the Mayor in keeping with his office’s plans to make areas of the city more pedestrian-friendly. Ms. Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of the Castro Upper Market Community District, approached the Mayor’s office to obtain street artists to sell in the “mini-plaza”; the Mayor’s office referred her to Mr. Lazar.  A meeting was arranged, Ms. Aiello and Mr. Lazar surveyed a proposed area in the “mini-plaza” for street artists, and Mr. Lazar drew to scale a map showing the placement of a possible five regular-sized (4’ x 3’) street artist spaces which he then forwarded to the Commissioners.

Mr. Lazar described the placement of the proposed street artist spaces as being restricted to the north side of 17th Street, adjacent to the Chevron service station, and in keeping with public safety regulations and certain emergency considerations.

Commissioner Lloyd commented that the Arts Commission had already heard a proposal for a public art piece to be installed above the traffic adjacent to the same intersection and expressed his enthusiasm for this location for art and artists.

Ms. Andrea Aiello stated that her group provides security, cleaning, and other services above those which the City provides for the Castro/Upper Market area.  Part of her group’s work is to identify open spaces in the neighborhood that could be conducive to pedestrians and economic vitality.  Her group and the City identified the 17th/Castro/Market location, at the terminus of the MUNI F-line, as one such area. It was being built as a temporary plaza, and it will include tables, chairs, and foliage. If it does not prove successful in the next six to eight months, the intersection will return to its previous state.  The City will be evaluating it.

Ms. Aiello endorsed Mr. Lazar’s proposed location for street artist spaces as being in accord with the regulations and emergency considerations he had mentioned.  She said that the City was willing to allow street artists in that location. She added that if it proves successful for the artists, she would be willing to work with Mr. Lazar in the future to find more spaces in the area for the artists.  

Ms. Aiello stated that opening day for the “mini-plaza” was just one week away: Wednesday, May 13th – with the Mayor opening the plaza to a press conference.  The City, she said, will be putting a generous amount of money into the project and will have only two days to close off the area to vehicles (except F-line) and transform the area into a “mini-plaza.”

Program Director Lazar clarified that, if he receives authorization from the Arts Commission, the earliest that the spaces would be designated by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor would be at the end of June (given the allowance of time for approval at the next meeting of the full Arts Commission and hearings conducted by the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee and the full Board itself).

Commissioner Lloyd asked if there was a faster way to allow street artists to use the area, as its opening day would be only one week away.

Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel agreed that economic opportunity for the artists should be created as soon as possible.

Commissioner Delaney mentioned that immediate participation by street artists was necessary to provide a full and accurate evaluation of the value of the plaza.

Ms. Aiello stated that she would discuss the matter with the Department of Parking and Traffic’s Cindy Shamban (permit officer for event street closures), because the street artists were included on the site map of the “mini-plaza” which was approved by ISCOTT (Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation).

Mr. Lazar responded that, if that was the case, he surmised that street artists were being included in an “event”, just as they had been when the Arts Commission itself had received approval by ISCOTT to close Beach Street for the Street Artists Program’s 25th anniversary (1997).

The Commissioners directed Mr. Lazar to allow street artists into the “mini-plaza” upon its opening, as well as to pursue formal designation for the artists by the Board of Supervisors.

Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.

Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan stated that she had sold her wares in the Castro Street Fair for many years, and that the area was very lucrative.

In response to a question by Street Artist Tad Sky, Ms. Aiello, through the Chair, stated that the merchants of the area were cognizant of the plans for street artists to be in the “mini-plaza” and had voiced no objection to this.

Commissioner Melania
moved to approve authorization of street artists to sell their wares as permitted by the Department of Parking and Traffic for a “mini-plaza” proposed by the Castro Upper Market Benefit Community District for 17th Street, at Castro and Market Streets; and to approve authorization of Street Artists Program Director to request Board of Supervisors for temporary designation of street artist spaces in “mini-plaza” proposed for 17th Street, at Castro and Market Streets. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Delaney and unanimously approved.

3.     Action. Hearing and possible motion to reduce wasteful usage of lottery supplies by rescinding procedure which allows street artists to enter into the space-assignment lotteries the names of street artists not present at the lotteries.

Street Artists Program Director Lazar asked that the item be withdrawn.  He had discussed the matter with a member of the Lottery Committee, and it had been concluded that the problem of misuse and waste of the lottery supplies could be corrected without the rescission of a rule which appeared to be benefitting most street artists.

Commissioner Lloyd withdrew the item from the agenda.

4.     Discussion. Street Artists Program Director’ Report.

7th International Public Market Conference.
Street Artists Program Director Lazar reported that he had been contacted by organizers of the 7th International Public Market Conference to speak at the conference which was held in San Francisco. On April 24th and 25th, Mr. Lazar spoke on how the Street Artists Program was created, how it is administered, how it influences San Francisco’s economy, and how it provides jobs for the artists it serves. The purpose of the conference was to provide a sharing of information on the administration of premier market events.

City Attorney clarification on Program Director’s authority to select and make honorarium payment to qualified street artists assisting Program Director in painting street artist space markings.  For many years the Program Director had selected qualified street artists to assist him in measuring and painting the numbers and markings of street artist spaces on the sidewalks and, by Arts Commission resolution, had made honorarium payments in amounts of $100 to $300 to them for their assistance. Last November, however, Mr. Lazar had received a letter from a street artist protesting this practice and asserting that City law requires the Program Director to put such jobs out to bid. Mr. Lazar reported that this assertion was refuted by the City Attorney’s office who clarified that, according to the City Purchaser’s regulations, contracts for general services (that is, the measuring and painting of street artist spaces) for an amount between $0 to $10,000 do not require competitive bidding. With this clarification, Mr. Lazar stated that he will continue to select qualified street artists for such jobs and will continue to request Arts Commission resolution for the payment of their assistance.

Street artist opposition to proposal for Street Artists Program to withdraw from Arts Commission. Mr. Lazar referred the Commissioners to thirteen letters he had received over the previous month and a half from street artists who, he said, vehemently expressed their opposition to any proposal for the Street Artists Program to leave the authority and administration of the Arts Commission.  In addition, the Program Director had received a petition signed by 54 street artists which stated emphatically that “WE DO NOT ENDORSE ANY ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM (NON-PROFIT OR OTHERWISE) WHICH WOULD WITHDRAW OUR PROGRAM FROM THE ARTS COMMISSION.”

Commissioner Lloyd stated that it was clear to him that, without a measure approved by the voters, the Program could not be privatized.

Mr. Lazar affirmed that the responsibility for licensing the street artists was given exclusively to the Arts Commission by the voters who also placed the authority of designating street artist selling areas in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. The voters would have to rescind the present Street Artists Ordinance in order for the Street Artists Program to leave the jurisdiction of the Arts Commission.

5.     Discussion. Street Artists Liaison Committee’s Report.

Program Director Lazar reported that Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel and he had met with members of the Street Artists Liaison Committee (previously known as “Steering Committee”) to discuss a proposed election procedure for artists wishing to join the Committee.  Mr. Lazar briefly described the procedure which would culminate in the votes being counted at a meeting of the Street Artists Committee.

Commissioner Lloyd confirmed with Mr. Lazar that the purpose of the Liaison Committee would be an efficient, coherent way for ideas and proposals of the street artists to be expressed.  Until the election procedure is approved by the Arts Commission, the current Liaison Committee would continue to function as an ad hoc committee.

Director of Cultural Affairs Cancel stated that the City Attorney had clarified that if such a committee were to be formally established by the Arts Commission, the committee would have to follow procedures established by the Sunshine Ordinance – its agendas and minutes would have to be published on the Commission’s website. While there would be these added responsibilities, the staff felt that the benefits derived from having a formally recognized group representing all 400 street artists would be worth the effort. 

Commissioner Lloyd stated that the proposed election procedure for the Liaison Committee would be placed on the agenda and heard at the next meeting of the Street Artists Committee. 

Commissioner Lloyd asked to hear a report by the current ad hoc Liaison Committee.

Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan reported that, prior to the formation of the current Liaison Committee, various street artists spread the word to invite artists to join.  This resulted in a group of four people who met informally every two months to discuss issues.  She expressed that it would be a good time now to invite more artists to join the committee. While it will provide an informal platform for artists to discuss issues, it will not preclude any artist from independently submitting an issue for Arts Commission hearing. 

Ms. Hallinan further stated that she envisioned the placement of notices and petitions on the space-assignment lottery tables, inviting artists to express ideas for changes in their Program which could then be conveyed by the Liaison Committee to the Street Artists Committee.  She looked forward to an actual election process starting in September (after the busy summer selling season).

6.     Discussion. New Business/Public Comment.

Street Artist Maria Hillius stated that she had attended the January 14, 2009 meeting of the Street Artists Committee and witnessed street artist Michael Addario ask for a discussion on severing the Street Artists Program from the Arts Commission and making it a non-profit organization. She also witnessed Comissioner Garcia-Nakata responding that the artists’ “Steering Committee” should investigate whether the majority of artists were in favor of such a proposal and, if so, a discussion could be calendared.

In keeping with this, Ms. Hillius stated that she subsequently wrote and circulated among the artists a petition with an attached excerpt of the January 14th minutes detailing Mr. Addario’s request and Commissioner Garcia-Nakata’s response. 

Ms. Hillius stated that she circulated her petition primarily among the artists who sell at Fisherman’s Wharf and at Justin Herman Plaza. She stated that it engendered much discussion among the artists.

Ms. Hillius presented the petition to the Commissioners.  Its heading stated: “Keep the Street Artists Program part of the S.F. Arts Commission. The Street Artists Program has been part of the San Francisco Arts Commission for 37 years, since 1972. We are very satisfied with that relationship and wish to continue the system which has provided us good selling spaces. WE DO NOT ENDORSE ANY ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM (NON-PROFIT OR OTHERWISE) WHICH WOULD WITHDRAW OUR PROGRAM FROM THE ARTS COMMISSION. Any new proposal brought before the Program Committee by an artist which significantly changes our current Program should be accompanied by a petition with a majority of license holders.”  The petition was signed by 217 artists.

Commissioner Lloyd thanked Ms. Hillius for the petition and reiterated that, without the voters rescinding the present Street Artists Ordinance, any proposal for withdrawing the Street Artists Program from the Arts Commission was not realistic.

Street Artist Michael Johnson stated that what happened earlier in today’s meeting was “the best signature” of what the Commissioners and the staff can do for the artists: obtain new spaces for the artists in which “to create art and to create wealth.”  Opposing any idea of the Program leaving the Arts Commission, he stated that if the Program were to start over with “a new untried, untested, unformed group” of individuals, “then we will lose all of the support” of the neighborhood and merchant groups, the Commissioners and staff, “and also the mandate of the voters of this city.”

Street Artist Tad Sky stated that he has been in the Street Artists Program for thirty-five years and that the Program works well for the artists. He went on to say that what upset the artists was when they saw that one person could recommend a proposal without first discussing it with the other artists. He added that “the ‘Steering Committee’ was asked to” investigate the proposal, “and it wasn’t done”; therefore, that was the reason for the fostering of the petition. He reiterated that when major changes to the Program are to be discussed, he wanted them first to be discussed among the artists, and he applauded the Liaison Committee as a means to fulfill this.

Street Artist John Ndoli stated that the Liaison Committee would serve a good purpose in conveying to all street artists information on major issues.

Commissioner Lloyd stated that the Liaison Committee will provide an open process for communication, the minutes of its meetings will be available, and all artists will be welcome to attend its meetings.

Street Artist Carlos Cuzma stated that for street artists in the Program for thirteen or fourteen years, the Program is their life.  He urged the Commissioners to continue managing the Program for them.

Street Artist Dennis Dooley stated that he is one of the long-time street artists in the Program with license number 33, and that he felt that elections for Liaison Committee membership were an excellent  idea because the Program is “so open”, but that the elections should be conducted in a strict manner.  He went on to say that in this “open Program” some people have called him “an anarchist.”  He added that there is “a lot of trust” in the Program, and that the Program was very extraordinary with many fine artists, as well as some mentally challenged people who have managed to maintain their licenses; the Program was “a community.”

Street Artist Michael Addario stated that the minutes of the January 14th Street Artists Committee meeting reflect that all he asked for was a “discussion and possible motion, and I should be granted that right”. Furthermore, the Program’s bluebook clarifies that any artist can submit a proposal directly to the Street Artists Committee for a hearing.  This is reinforced by Roberts Rules of Order which, he said, allows for the rule of the majority and the protection of the minority and does not allow the majority to silence or to take away the rights of the minority.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr. Addario (1) requested the Commissioners to direct the Program Director to alert all Commissioners and staff, and to amend the Program’s by-laws to reflect, that hearsay evidence is admissible in civil proceedings; (2) requested that the scheduled audit on the Street Artists Program commence at the end of the current fiscal year, for “accurately gauging the fiscal health of the San Francisco Street Artists Program”; (3) reiterated that anyone on their own can initiate a change under the by-laws of the Street Artists Program; (4) requested that the Commissioners be given a copy of, and urged to read, the Program’s by-laws; and (5) requested that the Commissioners join the street artists at either their 6 a.m. or 9 a.m. lotteries to see for themselves the issues faced by the artists.

Street Artist Juan Marin Jimenez stated that, in his travels through many countries and for many years, he never saw in any town or in any country a program like San Francisco’s Street Artists Program: “I never saw”anything “equal to this Program.”  He wanted to see it continue.

Street Artist Kathleen Hallinan stated that the “Steering Committee” had met only in coffee shops for a period of time “and really didn’t do that much … we were just a discussion group. We sought no power.”

Commissioner Lloyd clarified that, from the Commission’s point of view, the purpose of the Liaison Committee was not about power, that it was all about communication and interaction.

Upon the conclusion of “Public Comment”, Commissioner Lloyd adjourned the meeting at 4:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director








May 27, 2009