Port may bridle performers

To avoid any turf conflicts between magicians, silver human statues and even the guy who hides behind the branch and scares people, the Port Commission is expected to vote today on a proposed five-month pilot program that would impose limits of time and place on unlicensed street entertainers at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The pilot program would also provide a chance for street entertainers to buy licenses and have scheduled, longer and publicized performances at specific locations.

According to the Port of San Francisco, roughly 14 million people annually visit Fisherman’s Wharf and the surrounding neighborhood, and many are entertained by musicians, magicians, comedians and others.

But, according to police, the entertainers have also engaged in other not-so-pleasant activities, such as fighting over the best locations, aggressive panhandling and illegal vending.

The pilot program would save two-thirds of allotted time to 12 locations along Jefferson Street between Hyde and Powell streets for licensed entertainers — those who have paid the proposed $500 fee annually or $50 monthly.

The unscheduled time slots would be available to licensed and unlicensed performers on a first-come, first-served basis, but performers must limit their time to 1½ hours if another unscheduled entertainer is waiting, according to Port documents.

There are some concerns, however, about the locations of some designated performing areas and potential crowd congestion that could leave shop tenants liable.

Kathy Paver, senior vice president of marketing for Pier 39, said that while Pier 39 backs the proposed effort, the group managing the pier did have an issue with a location where loud, amplified music would be a hazard.

“The Blue and Gold [ferry fleet] operates close by, so we have to make sure safety announcements can be heard,” Paver said.

Many entertainers have said a pilot program is not the way to go because of its complicated nature, with the locations, permits and time schedule. A neighborhood group, however, does back the proposal.

Karen Bell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District, said the board was “totally in support of the program” because “we’ll get some organization and control of the entertainment” and the streets would be a “little bit safer.”

The Port Commission meets today at 3:15 p.m. on the second floor of the Ferry Building.

dsmith@examiner.com

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