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Meeting Information


2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 


Wednesday, July 8, 2009
3:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70







Members present: Commissioners Amy Chuang, John Calloway, Topher


Members absent: Alexander Lloyd, Sherene Melania


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



Commissioner Delaney chaired the meeting and called it to order at 3:05 p.m.


1. Action. Hearing and possible motion to approve proposed election procedure for five (5) members of Street Artists Liaison Committee.

Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar gave a brief history of a former ad hoc Liaison Committee which had existed some twenty years before. It had been composed of street artists who discussed proposals and submitted recommendations to the Arts Commission. Mr. Lazar himself had attended the meetings to give clarification of regulations and policies. Recently, a new group of street artists had formed an ad hoc Liaison Committee, also calling itself a “Steering Committee,” and met with Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel and Mr. Lazar. Thereafter, Mr. Cancel and Mr. Lazar, as well as Street Artists Committee Chair Alexander Lloyd, had expressed their view that the Liaison Committee should no longer be ad hoc but a bonifide committee.  While it would then be subject to the rules of the Brown Act and the Sunshine Ordinance and would entail staff time in the drafting of agendas and the taking of minutes, staff felt that it would be in the best interest of the Street Artists Program to make the Liaison Committee official.  
As with the Liaison Committee of twenty years before, the new committee would act as a representative body for street artist views and/or proposals to the Arts Commission.
In implementing the Liaison Committee’s creation, staff was proposing an election procedure for street artists wishing to be members of the Liaison Committee. Members of the current ad hoc committee had requested that an election not occur until after the busy summer selling season; staff had agreed to this and wanted the election procedure approved by the full Arts Commission and in place by the end of summer.

Mr. Lazar “walked” the Commissioners through the steps of the procedure. This included descriptions of the qualifications, terms, and duties of the members, and the ultimate counting of ballots at a public meeting of the Street Artists Committee. 

Commissioner Delaney called for public comment.

Street Artist Maria Hillius commented that the procedure did not provide for a term limit. 

Street Artist Michael Addario submitted a chart he created on the Street Artists Program’s budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10.  Reading from a prepared statement, he expressed opposition to the election procedure, citing the production of agendas and minutes of Liaison Committee meetings as “an expense of time and money the Program cannot afford.” He went on to criticize the Program for a “lack of oversight”, stating that “the Program is presently sliding into anarchy”. To remedy this, he called for the dismissal of all Arts Commissioners from the Street Artists Committee and their replacement of “San Francisco street artists of good standing.” This, he said, would end “the present disinfranchisement” of “the members” and would “gain an amount of autonomy and oversight of this Program.” He stated that he could find nothing in his alternative proposal that would run counter to the Street Artists Ordinance. He asked that a vote be delayed on the Liaison Committee election procedure and that his own proposal be adopted.

Commissioner Delaney ascertained from Mr. Addario that he was proposing that she and her fellow Commissioners, who are appointed by the Mayor, would no longer serve on the Street Artists Committee, and that five street artists would be appointed to the Committee.

Street Artist Tad Sky expressed support for the idea of a Liaison Committee in order to have more street artist input on issues. This, he said, would benefit the Street Artists Committee because, in the thirty-five years of being a street artist, he has observed such a great turnover of Arts Commissioners on the Committee that “often you [the Commissioners] don’t know the issues that we have to deal with.”  

Mr. Sky went on to say that he preferred having Commissioners on the Street Artists Committee because they are “an objective body, and I think the Liaison Committee could work well with you.” He stated that he doubted that street artists on the Street Artists Committee could be an objective body.

Street Artist John Ndoli stated that this upcoming September he will be a street artist for thirteen years. He opposed the idea of a Liaison Committee because of an existing conflict of interest among the street artists due to their inherent competition, often resulting in a single artist feeling “victimized.”  The introduction of a Liaison Committee, he said, would only complicate matters for the Commissioners, Program Director Lazar, and the street artists. In contrast, he said, presently if there is a problem, “we can go to Howard; he can organize a committee if necessary – or he’ll straighten out the problem.”

Street Artist Oscar Bevilacqua stated that he is one of two “market managers” among the street artists who sell at Justin Herman Plaza, and that he was in favor of a Liaison Committee so long as it dealt with violations in the Plaza and not just artists’ proposals.

Street Artist Maria Hillius stated that she was not in favor of what Michael Addario had proposed. Instead, she said, a duly-elected Liaison Committee should be implemented on a trial basis. She added that if street artists replaced the Arts Commissioners on the Street Artists Committee, there would be a conflict of interest – even to the point of friends having to judge the actions of friends.

Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel clarified that the proposed election procedure called for, in the first election, the three members receiving the highest vote to serve for two years, while the remaining two members (in the first election) would serve for one year. Thereafter, all terms would be for two years.

Street Artist Debra King stated that she has been a San Francisco street artist since 1976 and that she felt fortunate to have worked well with the Program.  While she has witnessed the Program’s history – its swelling in numbers, its contraction, its community aspect – she felt that at this point in time the artists needed all the help they could get to be able to work together.  Therefore, if the election procedure for a Liaison Committee would act as a vehicle toward that goal, she would be in favor of it.

Commissioner Delaney closed public comment.

Commissioner Calloway commented that he appreciated the inclusion of the following statement in the printed election procedure: “NOTE: The purpose and duties of the Liaison Committee would not, in any way, preclude or abridge the right of any street artist or public member to introduce a proposal under ‘New Business’ or ‘Public Comment’ of an agenda of the Street Artists Committee.”  The Commissioner acknowledged that some artists who have issues with other artists might not feel comfortable in presenting a proposal to a body of their peers and would rather submit it directly to the Street Artists Committee.

Director Cancel stated that, from the staff’s perspective, having a body that has been authorized by the broad community of street artists affords the opportunity of a sounding board for conversations on policy issues.

In response to a question by Commissioner Delaney regarding the Liaison Committee’s cost for the Program, Mr. Cancel stated that all Arts Commission committees for the Street Artists Program fall within the purview of the Sunshine Ordinance and become part of the cost of doing business.

Commissioner Delaney noted that there would be a cost involved in the Program Director’s time in drafting agendas and taking minutes of the new committee’s meetings; she was inquiring about the estimate.

Mr. Cancel responded that the committee already exists on an ad hoc basis, as it has been meeting with Mr. Cancel and Mr. Lazar periodically; the current proposal was simply a means of making the Liaison Committee official. While a separate accounting of staff time in meeting with the committee has not been done, the activity represents a cost of doing business.  Similarly, he said, a separate accounting has not been done on the time-consuming staff research and fulfillment of documents that have been provided to Mr. Addario’s requests for information; this, too, is built into the cost of the Program’s operation.
It was possible that the Liaison Committee’s activities might lessen the frequency of such requests.

Mr. Lazar stated that, because his Program was short-staffed, his servicing of the Liaison Committee could at times take priority over some of his other duties. Nevertheless, he agreed with Mr. Cancel that the committee would be of benefit for the Program. The cost of supplies – printing of ballots, etc. – for the committee would be negligible.

In response to a question by Commissioner Calloway, Mr. Cancel stated that the Liaison Committee would be a separate, independent, advisory body which would act as “a sounding board” on issues.  Presently, whenever Mr. Lazar and he meet with the ad hoc committee, they have no assurance that its current members speak for a significant number of street artists.  The proposal would provide for a committee elected by, and representing, the artists.

Commissioner Calloway moved to recommend approval of the proposed election procedure for five (5) members of the Street Artists Liaison Committee; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Delaney and unanimously approved.


2.     Discussion. Street Artists Program Director’s report.
Program Director Lazar reported on the following events:

“Café Spaces” (Market Street at Steuart Street): Mr. Lazar presented at a hearing of the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee the Arts Commission’s request, on behalf of the street artists, for permanent designation of nine (9) temporary street artist spaces designated last year by the Board for Market Street, north side, at Steuart Street. The full Board approved the request. The nine permanent spaces are the only sidewalk spaces that allow street artists to exceed the 3’ x 4’ display size regulations; the artists may have 10’ x 10’ displays in these nine spaces.

Hayes Street (near Octavia Street) spaces; and “Mini-Plaza” spaces (17th Street/Castro Street/Market Street): Mr. Lazar will be presenting at the Board of Supervisors two other Arts Commission requests for spaces: a request for four (4) street artist spaces on Hayes Street, near Octavia Street, which is being opposed by the Hayes Valley Merchants Association; and a request for eight (8) spaces in the recently created “mini-plaza” at the intersection of 17th Street/Castro Street/Market Street. Both areas are being requested on a temporary six-month basis with a provision for subsequent review.

San Francisco Examiner story on street artists: Mr. Lazar showed a copy of a full front page article by the Examiner on the Arts Commission’s Street Artists Program.  The article, published on the eve of the 4th of July weekend, continued on the inside pages with a full spread of photos of various street artists selling their wares in Justin Herman Plaza. Mr. Lazar commented on the article’s significance: (1) It was the first time that a prime market newspaper approached the Arts Commission for a story on the street artists’ cultural contribution to San Francisco – a far cry, he said, from the newspaper political cartoons of thirty-seven years ago which portrayed the artists unfavorably; (2)  the Arts Commission was given credit for running the Street Artists Program, and the Commission’s Director of Cultural Affairs, the Program Director, and various street artists were interviewed and quoted; and finally (3), after thirty-seven years, the news acknowledged the licenseholders as “artists”, not street vendors.

Commissioner Delaney requested that staff convey the Commission’s appreciation to the article’s author, Will Reisman.

On-line payment for certificate renewal. Director of Cultural Affairs Cancel informed the Commissioners that one of the Street Artists Program’s goals by the end of the current fiscal year is to provide an on-line resource as a convenience for street artists to pay for their certificate renewals. The certificates would then be either mailed to the artists or claimed by the artists at the office.

There was no public comment on the Program Director’s report.

3.     Discussion. Street Artists Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s report.

No representative of the ad hoc Liaison Committee came forward; no report was given.

4.     Discussion. New Business/Public Comment.

Street Artist Michael Addario disparaged the Program staff for  perceived “improprieties,” failings, and inadequacies, which included an alleged “stalled” request for an audit, discrimination against the street artists, a “lack of oversight,” and the creation of “a defacto caste system.”

Street Artist Tad Sky stated that newly licensed street artists come out on the street and sell unscreened items. Because of the Program’s budget constraints, the screening committee monitors the street artist areas only during the winter and summer selling seasons, which then allows violators to sell “anything they want” during the rest of the year.  While the Program’s two staffpeople spend eighty hours a week in the office, there is no staff monitoring on the streets during the week, and “anyone who wants to cheat can” do so.  This leaves the other artists having to do investigative work and submitting complaints. He proposed that either the Program Director monitor the  artists’ areas more often – because he knows the items each artist has been approved to sell – or that the Program Assistant’s job be half assistant-half inspector, or that the screening committee monitor more often.

Street Artist Maria Hillius asked that the Commission rescind its policy of allowing street artists to renew their certificates during a ten-day grace period prior to or after their certificate’s expiration. The policy, she said, allows artists to take advantage of the system by selling during the ten days after their certificate’s expiration and telling other artists that their renewal payment was mailed when it was not.

Street Artist John Ndoli acknowledged Street Artist Michael Addario’s conflict with the Program Director but stated that he felt “Howard is a wonderful director” and that “the majority of the artists” would agree. Mr. Ndoli looked forward to the meetings of the new Liaison Committee being recorded and accessible to all artists.

Street Artist Debra King expressed her appreciation of the Mayor-appointed members of the Program’s Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Crafts Examiners who, when they hold a screening, “work very hard under hectic conditions” examining the wares of ten to twelve applicants an hour.  The screeners are then expected to remember each applicant’s arts and crafts during subsequent on-site inspections, in order to verify whether the applicant is selling what he or she is authorized to sell.  To assist them, Ms. King recommended that they carry a photo portfolio of all certificateholders and their approved items.

Ms. King went on to say that, in the current “challenging economic times,” she has been aware of certain certificateholders who have been selling items that they have not been authorized to sell.  Because San Francisco is “nationally and internationally known for her beauty and her arts,” Ms. King wanted the “Street Artists Program to echo this beauty and the arts.”  To illustrate her “portfolio” recommendation, Ms. King submitted mockup pages of people and their arts and crafts.

Program Director Lazar stated that each applicant and his/her approved wares are photographed at the applicant’s screening, and the photos are part of the applicant’s file.  The next step, in keeping with Ms. King’s recommendation, would be to consolidate the photos into a size-manageable portfolio which can be carried by each Advisory Committee member.  It was an idea that he himself had considered many years before while he was on monitoring duty but had never had the opportunity to bring it to fruition.

Director Cancel suggested that an iPod with all of the images could be used as such a “portfolio.”  Commissioner Calloway stated that this would be readily affordable.

Mr. Cancel stated that, upon visiting the street artists at their locations, he has been frustrated over seldom seeing the artists’ certificates on display. He suggested that a larger, placard-sized image of the certificate be displayedin order to readily see who is authorized versus who is not and what items are authorized to be sold. He asked that this be considered.

Mr. Sky said that street artists who do not display their certificates are actually abetting unlicensed vendors who do, on occasion, sell among the artists.

Commissioner Delaney stated that the Commission should properly identify the street artists as “street artists,” using some type of method as, for example, a certain color or a canopy or a banner, in order “to celebrate the work” of the artists and to define their work as being different from that which is imported or mass-produced.  An 8 ½” x 11” placard attached to the artists displays might accomplish this.

Mr. Lazar stated that, about fifteen years ago, the Arts Commission did something similar for the street artists: it hosted a competition among the street artists for a design which was ultimately produced as a placard boldly identifying them with the City’s seal, and the placard was slotted to hold each artist’s certificate. Initially, most of the artists displayed it; but, eventually, very few did.  Upon enforcing its display, Mr. Lazar received from the artists various excuses that they did not want to display their names because thieves could find out where they lived and steal their merchandise, or that their licenses and the placards could be stolen from their displays.  Because the crime of failing to display a certificate was not considered a major crime (not, for example, as major as selling something not made by the artist), such cases were not a priority for the Commissioners to hear; and, therefore, a consistent enforcement of certificate display was not achieved.

Commissioner Delaney stated that identifying signs were needed and that monitoring was needed not only for such signs but for the items being sold, and that it was not proper for the artists to be placed in a position of having to confront each other on such issues. All of this needed to be addressed.

Mr. Lazar responded that the monitoring/enforcement issue was being addressed by the new fiscal year’s increased allocation of compensation for the screening committee.  The allocation was significantly raised for the new fiscal year. This had been a part of the budget submitted by the Arts Commission to the Board of Supervisors in response to the artists’ request for more screening committee monitoring assignments. The artists who had conveyed their request to the Commissioners had consented to having their fees raised in order to provide for this. Therefore, for the current year, the committee will be monitoring not only on weekends during summer and winter but on weekends throughout the year. The screening committee members will monitor to the extent of the law which restricts them to a limit of 35 meetings per year (screenings, studio visits, and monitoring assignments).

Commissioner Calloway expressed enthusiasm for the increase in the monitoring assignments and consideration of the use of iPod “portfolios.”  He also endorsed the prospect of “celebrating” the artists’ work as a means of improving the Program.

There being no further new business nor public comment, Commissioner Delaney adjourned the meeting at 4:22 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

Howard Lazar
Street Artists Program Director



July 24, 2009