Street fairs could face fee hike

Street fairs, the hallmark of summer in The City, are straining to survive under the weight of skyrocketing city fees, organizers say.
Now, Muni is considering increasing its fee for rerouting some service around the events.

When there is an event in The City that interrupts electric buses or light-rail vehicles, the event must pay Muni $6.31 an hour per bus so the transit agency can substitute diesel buses around the route.

Muni now wants to incrementally increase that fee to $20 per hour in 2011.

The fee hike follows the Aug. 1 doubling of costs for temporary street-closure permits, bringing them as high as $750, depending on advance notice given to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Fair organizers say The City’s fees for everything from loudspeaker permits to cleanup assistance to police protection have risen, making some question how long they will be in business.

Currently, the organizers of the two-day Fillmore Street Fair pay $6,150 to Muni, while organizers of the one-day Castro Street Fair pay $2,499.

Events without corporate sponsorship are being hit particularly hard, said Sister Barbi Mitzvah of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which oversees the pre-Gay Pride street party Pink Saturday in the Castro. The event, which attracted more than 100,000 revelers this year, is organized by volunteers and uses its donation proceeds for charitable grants, Mitzvah said.

“Our costs over the last three years keep going up and up and our profit margin is going down,” Mitzvah said. “We’re evaluating whether or not we’re even going to do this next year. The City is broke so everyone is trying to become a revenue generator by grabbing at our purses.”

Muni spokesman Judson True said the agency’s goal is simply to recover the staff time it expends to reroute traffic. Muni hasn’t raised the fees since 1988.

Brad Olsen, the founder of the nine-year-old How Weird Street Faire, estimated that his festival has tripled in size while fees from The City have increased tenfold. Police fees, which hovered around $5,000 for years, increased to $7,676 last year and $9,000 this year, he said.

The increased Muni fee was discussed Tuesday by the board of directors, but the motion was continued to the board’s Sept. 16 meeting.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Fee-stivals

Muni rerouting fees currently paid by street fairs:

$1,217 Union Street Spring Festival (two days)

$2,434 Union Street Fair (two days)

$1,600 Haight Street Fair (one day)

$4,700 Juneteenth (two days)

$2,129 Pink Saturday (one evening)

$6,150 Fillmore Street Fair (two days)

$860 Cole Valley Festival (one day)

$2,499 Castro Street Fair (one day) 

How the fees would increase

Now: $6.31 per hour

FY2009: $10 per hour

FY2010: $15 per hour

FY2011: $20 per hour

Source: SFMTA

Bay Area NewsfestivalsLocalMuni

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