Complaints tune out merry music makers 

A large Chinese philharmonic ensemble that serenades the public in the afternoon at a major intersection connecting Chinatown and North Beach is vulnerable to a police crackdown.

A group of up to 20 musicians who sit at a new public plaza at Broadway and Columbus Avenue and play their wind instruments, usually on Friday afternoons, have been cited for the noise. Neighbors have made several complaints to the local police station, and officers have no choice but to break it up, police Lt. Franklin Lee said.

“I’m not sure how many or where they’re from, I just know they’ve been getting a lot of them. The dispatchers tell us where to go,” Lee said.

The mysterious complainers could cost the classical orchestra its permit for playing in the public space while police consider the impact of their tunes. The orchestra already canceled last week’s concert for fear of another ticket.

Organizer Howard Wong — co-chair of the coalition A Better Chinatown Tomorrow — helps book the events that have gone on since May 2009.

“They’re not making money off this,” Wong said. “They’re just there to enhance cultural ambience.”

He said he has welcomed a conversation with whoever is irked by the sound, and at the same time tried to quiet the orchestra down by restricting amplifiers.

“The organization on the whole has no position,” North Beach Merchants Association President Dan Macchiarini said. “On a personal level, I can’t speak for the merchants. I actually enjoy [the musicians].”

Also, officials at the Department of Public Works are scratching their heads at the ruckus.

“The permit use is based on various conditions based on community concerns,” Director Ed Reiskin said. “They’re having some challenges.”

In the meantime, the next concert is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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