Street performers voice complaints about cops

August 23, 2010 6:46:44 PM PDT
San Francisco is known for colorful street performers, from the guy who jumps out of the bushes to scare tourists, to the men dressed head to toe in silver. But, it seems like every summer during the height of the lucrative tourist season, some of these performers complain about being hassled by police.

Sean Lee, also known as 1man banjo, entertains crowds waiting to board the famed cable cars on Powell Street. He says last week he was ordered to leave by an officer who told him he needed a permit to play.

The problem is that the only permit issued for musicians like Lee, is if they are using amplified sound. He's not. Neither is Bucket Man, who bangs on buckets and cans as he sings. Larry Hunt is his real name and he says he too is being told to "move along" by officers.

Jocelyn Kane with the city's Entertainment Commission says she is contacted every day by performers.

"They are asking me to help them, protect them from a variety of folks who might chase them off the streets," she said. She feels her hands are tied. Sgt. Troy Dangerfield with SFPD insists there is no new crackdown on street musicians. He says officers generally are responding to complaints, especially those involving noise or spectators blocking the sidewalks. Dangerfield says, "It's not tourists who are complaining. It's other businesses or residents who are around and who are tired of hearing it."

He says performers are rarely cited.

This recurring summer dilemma highlights the lack of rules and regulations for a lively part of the San Francisco scene. There is only one area of town with organized and licensed performers. The Fisherman's Wharf program began in 2008 as a pilot program to calm tensions and turf battles among performers competing for the most popular spots.

The program is run by the Port of San Francisco and allows performers to sign up for specific times to use 12 designated performance locations. By all accounts, it is successful and has now become permanent.

The Entertainment Commission would like to see that program replicated around the city, but Jocelyn Kane believes it would take a group, organization or commission to oversee it and so far nothing has been created.

Watch ABC7 News tonight for the latest details from Carolyn Tyler.


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