San Francisco may have a reputation for rolling out the night life, but the industry is struggling, according to the sponsors of a November ballot initiative aimed at keeping events and clubs from becoming extinct.
The proposed charter amendment by the newly formed SaveSFCulture Coalition goes before San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission today. It is aimed at preserving The City’s music venues, night life and outdoor cultural events, according to its sponsors, which includes nightclub owners and event promoters.
Among other provisions, it would require all city departments to consider San Francisco’s entertainment scene before making decisions, according to John Wood, promoter of the LoveFest, an annual downtowndance-music parade and festival.
“All kinds of new housing is going to be built downtown and in SoMa, where most of our venues are,” Wood said. “We need to make sure, for example, that housing has adequate soundproofing when it’s built next to a 20-year-old music venue.”
The initiative, which is not yet in final form, would fund more enforcement personnel on the Entertainment Commission staff and create a Web site where promoters can navigate the permit process online — additions that could cost up to $500,000 in city money, Wood said.
“Every time you turn around, there’s another permit you need to get,” said Marsha Garland, who organizes the annual North Beach Festival.
Planning the event takes nine months, she said, and new regulations — from recycling rules to neighborhood accommodations — emerge each year.
Entertainment Commissioner Terrance Alan said The City has lost several large venues. Losing more entertainment sites could send San Francisco’s tourists to more party-friendly cities such as Las Vegas, said Alan, who co-owns a nightclub space on Mason Street in the Tenderloin.
The number of smaller nightclubs is holding steady, but Entertainment Commission Director Bob Davis said he has seen plenty of turnover in recent years.
“It’s harder to make a living here,” Davis said, citing land shortages, an aging population and high property costs as factors that make entertainment ventures risky in San Francisco.
“We need to talk about what attracts young, bright, informed people to a city,” he said.
A civil grand jury report released in February scrutinized The City’s labyrinthine entertainment process and recommended against a proposal to create a Mayor’s Office of Special Events as fiscally unsound and unnecessary. The jury suggested strengthening the existing Entertainment Commission instead.