SAN FRANCISCO, CA (8/26)- According to Chinatown officials traditional Chinese musicians are being driven slowly out of Chinatown. According to Wilma Pang, with A Better Chinatown Tomorrow (ABCT),”last Friday (8/23) about the constant harassment and complaints to Central Station about the “success” of elderly musicians playing on various locations through out Chinatown. I know City Hall is very stringent about paid sound permit. However, the cost is prohibitive. No one can afford to pay. I helped the elderly a few times with my own money, but I just can not afford to continue. However, the elderly have determined to go out and play anyway. Does City Hall really care about the elderly who contribute so much of San Francisco’s Chinatown’s tourist income?”
The complaints are detailed as,”numerous complaints from various individuals and merchants’ in Chinatown about the street musicians. The latest came from the 2nd floor of 737 Grant Ave. On Wed. 20th, a woman across the street “ordered” the musicians to stop playing in front of Eastern Bakery…”
According to Wilma Pang,”I am very much aware of the cumbersome and stringent regulations of obtaining a sound permit,and the cost is at least $60 per day per location if it is available. Therefore I wrote numerous emails to related departments and Supervisor Chiu to request a waiver of fees for Portsmouth Square so the elderly can enjoy singing and listening to music. No one from City Hall responded to my plead. Mind you, any time anyone calls Central or Park and Rec, if there is a permit, and when police comes around, they can legit won’t interfere the musicians.
Initially, I paid a few times. That was at least 3 years ago…. I told the elderly musicians and attendees about the situation and asked them to stop. They came out anyway, and more defiant and determine than ever! The police usually just let it go since they see the elderly really enjoy themselves and tourists likewise. If you google “SF Chinatown Street Musicians,” There are so many postings about them.
There are ways to waive the fees, but it seems no one from top down is willing to do so. All I am asking is to waive the fees and let the elderly enjoy themselves and at the time same showcasing authentic culture to the public. I have heard many good comments from visitors from all over the map about their appreciation for what they believe to be most authentic.
Sadly according to Wilma Pang,”I think there is a deeper issue on the plight of street artists in general. We used to see a lot more in North Beach, such as the Beatniks in the 50′s. However, the imposed fees chased them out. And the lofts were build for the living artists on SOMA. Soon after they were built, they were sold for profit. What I am saying is San Francisco was known for the arts. The irony is no artists can afford to live and work here. And as for the elderly in Chinatown who have contributed so much, yet, they were treated badly if not abused. What can I say as a professor of music? Do you think Supervisor David Chiu really cares about the abandoned elderly? Why do I have to end up picking the tab as a elderly myself?”