The sound of music coming from street performers in and around Union Square and other neighborhoods could be silenced if legislation expected to be discussed by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday is adopted.
The proposal would allow the Department of Public Health to fine performers because the noise is considered a nuisance and the high volume is considered a health concern.
Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the legislation at last week’s land-use committee hearing, saying currently only the police can cite performers but the department’s resources are already stretched thin.
“It allows Department of Public Health to cite through the noise ordinance,” he said. “It empowers them to cite violators, such as people playing drums in Union Square and in public spaces using amplified sound.”
The legislation would be a welcome relief to office workers, retail stores and hotels that are constantly serenaded by the performers.
“It would be nice if this goes through,” said Kevin Carroll, president of the Hotel Council for San Francisco. “They set up on the sidewalk and we get a lot by Union Square with electric guitars, amplifiers, generators, playing for hours on end. It causes problems for hotels.”
Carroll said some performances are enjoyable, but not when they stretch on for hours and hours. He said that many hotels give refunds to customers who have had to endure the noise.
“It can go on well into the night,” Carroll said. “Amplified sound is not appropriate to have next to businesses and hotels. It would help to have some kind of ramifications, and hopefully it will give some relief if it can be enforced.”
Street performers can obtain permits through the Entertainment Commission to perform on sidewalks, but the costs can be out of reach for some. The Port of San Francisco also has a permit for street performers on its properties that restricts the location, amount of time and decibel level of each performance.
Some of the performers the legislation is aimed at are those who park their instruments in and around Union Square in hopes of entertaining shoppers and visitors, but end up annoying local businesses who have to listen to loud drums or bagpipes for hours daily.
The same legislation also would further expand the powers of the Entertainment Commission to grant temporary permits when a business exchanges hands, for entertainment on patio and outdoor spaces, and for regulation of DJs.
Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane said the legislation would create permits the commission didn’t have before.
“It also closes loopholes,” she said. “We haven’t had the tools to manage or regulate an activity that was happening anyway.”