Thursday, November 13, 2008

Miami Beach revises rules on street artists and performers

[2 articles]

Miami Beach revises rules on street artists and performers


Later this month, anyone who wants to pantomime, perform music or
peddle artwork in Miami Beach will face a slew of new rules.

The Miami Beach City Commission unanimously approved changes to the
city's existing laws governing artists and street performers Wednesday.

The new measure is aimed at regulating who can work in Miami Beach,
especially in South Beach, where winning business from tourists has
become a competitive sport. Among the revisions: All artists who want
to sell their handiwork anywhere on Miami Beach streets must get a
license by proving to the city's fine arts board that they make what
they sell.

And those who want to work specifically in the tourist-heavy streets
of South Beach -- Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, Washington and Collins
avenues, and along the beachwalk -- will need to get a work permit as well.

Mayor Matti Herrera Bower said the new requirements, which will
provide more regulated spots for people to work comes after months of
feedback from artists, hoteliers and other business owners.

''We're trying to strike a balance for the artists and the residents
with this ordinance,'' she said.

The new rules also list specifications for vendors' tables, such as
the length and color of the table cloths and size of the tables.

City officials said when artists left the regulated hotspots of Ocean
Drive and Lincoln Road earlier this year in favor of unregulated
spots near residential areas, neighbors began complaining that
artists were making noise and littering. They also complained that
vendor tables were blocking the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to
walk in the middle of Collins Avenue.

In the past year, code compliance officers issued 70 violations to
artists, said Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez.

A handful of artists came to City Hall on Wednesday to protest the new rules.

''What concerns me is that sometimes I do an impromptu jam session
with people in Lummus Park,'' said Steve Ferentz, a music teacher.
``And now I can't do that without a permit? It's my First Amendment right.''

Ferentz reminded commissioners that the American Civil Liberties
Union of Florida had sued Miami Beach last year on behalf of a street
artist, Harvey Russell. Code compliance officers had cited him for
drawing a caricature of a girl eating penne pasta on Lincoln Road.
The lawsuit is pending.

Other artists, such as Juan Alvarez, accused city leaders of treating
artists as second-class citizens after Commissioner Saul Gross
suggested banning them from setting their tables in front of
businesses on Washington Avenue.

''We have the same rights as people who own storefronts,'' Alvarez
said. ``Every day, people are leaving. A city without art is like a
city without soul.''

But the new rules had the support of Shawn Hauver, managing director
of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

''People are really shocked about what's going on in front of our
hotel,'' Hauver said, referring to the jewelry tables set up by 1601
Collins Ave. ``They ask us, `When did Collins Avenue become a flea market?'''

Hauver said he wished the rules were even tighter.

''The best solution to me is not to have vendors anywhere on Collins
Avenue,'' he said.

``But I think this ordinance is a great compromise.''


Miami Beach leaders consider new rules for street vendors

Miami Beach city leaders are considering new rules for artists and
street performers in South Beach.


During a hot Saturday morning, Alicia Gonzalez sat at her booth and
strung together a necklace using purple mother-of-pearl and turquoise beads.

A few tourists stopped by to admire her wares -- black string
necklaces with glass pendants, rings woven with beads and tiny
malachite stones.

Gonzalez may soon have to show off her skills to a whole other
audience: members of a city-appointed fine arts board.

Miami Beach wants to tighten restrictions on artists peddling their
craft on city streets -- asking them to prove they actually created
the jewelry, paintings and other tchochkes sold to tourists and locals.

On Wednesday, the City Commission will vote on the homemade-only
provision -- as well as several other new rules that would control
where artists and street performers can make their living.

The proposed changes include requiring all artists to get a license
from Miami Beach. Currently, only those who sell items on Lincoln
Road and Ocean Drive are required to get permits to sell at those two
hot spots.

Also on the list: new penalties for those who sell or perform without
a permit on South Beach -- as well as a rule requiring artists to use
tablecloths that are ``skirted to the ground in solid black, dark
blue or green fabric.''

This is at least the third time since 2005 that Miami Beach has
changed the way it regulates street performers and artists. The
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a lawsuit last year
challenging the city's policies. The case is still pending.

City officials say the new rules will help clear thoroughfares of
clutter, and address concerns about what gets sold on the streets.

''We were getting many complaints,'' said Hilda Fernandez, an
assistant city manager, who said common violations are blocked
sidewalks and tables set up next to fire hydrants.

''A lot of resources were being used to make sure vendors were not
violating the city code,'' she said.

So far, artists on the beach have been receptive to proving their
work is their own -- saying the certification will help drive away
imposters who peddle made-in-China knockoffs to unsuspecting buyers.

''If you have to show that you make your own products, that will weed
out the people who don't do that,'' said Gonzalez, whose prices range
from $25 to $45. ``There will be more original things because of this.''

Mayor Matti Herrera Bower met with artists this summer to get their feedback.

Artists would have to prove that the goods are their actual
handiwork: They'd have to bring in raw materials and assemble a
sample before the board.

Other options, in case the type of work is too complicated to
complete in the confines of City Hall: The fine arts board can visit
artists' studios or require photos documenting the artistic process.

While Gonzalez said she's fine with showing off her skills to the
board, she takes issue with how Miami Beach currently doles out
permits. Vendors and street performers have to apply for a lottery to
get coveted spots on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.

If approved, the new rules would expand permitted spots to include
other South Beach areas such as the beachwalk and Washington and
Collins avenues.

Currently there are not permits issued for those areas, but they
remain popular with performers and artists nonetheless -- especially
during the winter, when hordes of tourists and snowbirds arrive for
the warm weather.

A representative from the Florida chapter of the ACLU said he was
alarmed by the proposed Miami Beach rules.

The group sued the city in June 2007 on behalf of street artist
Harvey Russell, alleging Miami Beach had infringed upon his rights to
free speech when code compliance officers cited Russell for drawing a
caricature of a girl eating penne pasta on Lincoln Road.

''The new ordinance adds more rules for people,'' said Jose
Rodriguez, a lawyer with the ACLU, who took issue with the citywide
license requirement. ``It seems more onerous than what's already there.''

Gabriel Ruiz, a traveling jazz saxophonist, said the new requirements
makes Miami Beach seem like Big Brother.

''The city is stifling my freedom of expression big time,'' he said
during a break from playing on Lincoln Road last week.

''I'm stressed someone may kick me out or ask me questions,'' said
Ruiz, who travels from city to city, making it difficult to apply for
proper permits. ``It impedes me from concentrating on the music.''


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