The limits of “Live Performance”

Supervisor Jane Kim has backed off from her earlier enthusiasm for opening up the entire South of Market to live entertainment permits and has proposed an extension of Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s legislation that will only impact South Park and the Sixth Street corridor for the time being. If the Western SoMa Community Plan is adopted as currently written, the legislation will also encompass the Folsom Street Neighborhood Commercial District, the area south of Harrison Street and possibly 9th and 10th Streets, which would be designated as a Regional Commercial District (RCD).

Mirkarimi’s legislation is called “Limited Live Performance” because the new low-cost permit would only allow entertainment until 10:00 p.m. for the first year and an hour or two later at the discretion of the Entertainment Commission. The legislation also prohibits deejays.

The stated purpose is to allow principally permitted uses such as cafes and restaurants to supplement their current business model with accessory entertainment such as “a live guitarist playing background music at a neighborhood restaurant.” The legislation itself defines entertainment as “any act, play, review, pantomime, scene, song, dance act, song and dance act, poetry recitation, fashion or style show, or the playing or use of any instrument capable of producing or used to produce musical or percussion sounds, including but not limited to, reed, brass, percussion, or string-like instruments.” It makes no distinction between amplified and non-amplified performances.

Amplified music includes bands. Bands attract a following. Followers create noise and nuisance. The requirement in the legislation that noise is not to be audible outside the venue is unenforceable and the new permit does not require a security plan. The spin is that this is a low impact form of entertainment. The reality is that it is going to require as much regulation as any entertainment — which the Entertainment Commission lacks the capacity to provide — all at a fraction of the cost of a Place of Entertainment permit.

Mirkarimi has been criticized for his lack of outreach to neighborhood organizations. Legislative aide Rob Selna, formerly a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, has concentrated on building support among small businesses. The South of Market Business Association (SOMBA) enthusiastically embraced the legislation and has lobbied hard to allow the use everywhere in SoMa. The legislation was heard at the Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors on Monday. Mirkarimi’s office made no attempt to inform concerned neighbors of the hearing.

Supervisor Kim consulted with several SoMa community leaders and attempted to tailor her most recent recommendations to ameliorate their concerns. The most common complaint expressed is a strong preference to limit the activity to no later than 10:00 p.m. Nothing in the current version of the legislation addresses this concern.

This so-called “Limited Live Performance” permit will cost applicants $385 for the first year and $139 a year for an annual renewal, which is far more attractive to small businesses than the $1500 currently required for a Place of Entertainment permit.

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