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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

City Fee Increase for Street Artists Takes a Giant Leap Forward for Bureaucracy

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 12:39 PM

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By Benjamin Wachs

Life looks like it’s going to get harder for street artists.

The city’s Budget & Finance committee approved a measure today that would increase the fees for street artists by about $160 annually … despite a long line of artists taking the stand to oppose the increase and a few fishy numbers from the city.

Fishy? Well, not as in “inaccurate.” I take Street Artist Program Director Howard Lazar at his word when he says that street artist fees in places like Seattle and Honolulu are way, way higher than they are here.

It’s just that … Honolulu? Seriously? Why on earth are we comparing our fees to Honolulu’s?

In fact, as several artist pointed out in public comment, SF’s fees are significantly higher than many of our neighboring cities in the Bay Area. About twice as expensive as Oakland’s, for example.

The artists were uncommonly prepared , coming with a counter-proposal of their own: 85% of the program budget comes from two full-time employees. If you need to balance the budget, how about cutting staff?

In response, city employees said that program staff was strained enough as it was, and that they were actually thinking of increasing it … which would probably lead to more fee increases down the line.

The issue now goes to the full Board of Supervisors.

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Benjamin Wachs

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