Turf wars rage between Cliff House street artists

New rules intended to oversee how street merchants are assigned to vending spots around The City will not help those artists in hostile turf wars over selling their wares at the Cliff House.

The Art Commission recently formalized what used to be an unofficial lottery for coveted vending spots, but the vote only applied to Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown, leaving the handful of merchants who perpetually vie for space at the Cliff House on their own.

We call it the wild, wild west out there,” said Amanda Nordquist, who has been selling jewelry at the Cliff House for about a year. “You won’t believe how crazy it gets, and there’s absolutely no supervision.”

Nordquist said she has been yelled at, called names and on some occasions scared to show up to work because of the obscenities yelled at her by other merchants, some who have been selling there for years.

Six vendors typically compete for the three Cliff House merchant spots. Any of the 395 city permitted merchants can apply for those spots, but the same six are typically the only ones clamoring for a space.

Marc Melancon, who has been selling stained sand dollars and sea glass at the spot for about five years, agreed, “It’s gnarly out there.”

Nordquist filed a complaint with the Street Artists Committee, handing over a recorded sound clip of another vendor saying obscene things to her. The committee held a hearing and publicly told the vendor to apologize, but did not make any other ruling on the issue.

Program Director Howard Lazar of the Street Artist Program, who sits on the committee, said he asked that a police officer monitor one of the hearings. “They’re constantly at war with each other,” he said. “No one is innocent.”

Lazar also said that he met with them several times last year to try to facilitate a mutual understanding, but no one could agree.

“They’re going to have to find a resolution,” he said. “If they’re physically hurt then they should call police.”


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