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Event Politics

The Right to Know

The Entertainment Commission of the San Francisco City and County celebrated its third anniversary on July 1, 2006. Commissioners and leaders of the San Francisco Late Night Coalition reflect on their accomplishments as they reach a new apex in the learning curve of community service.

The first of its kind in the U.S., the SF Entertainment Commission is a city appointed official liaison for the regional police department, the local entertainment vendors, neighborhood merchants, residents and the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The need for this liaison becomes clear after attending one of the SFECís monthly hearings. A resident of the Castro District steps up to the podium to speak in opposition to the issuance of a sound permit that would extend the length of entertainment to 1am on Pink Saturday. Pink Saturday, an event in its ninth year coordinated by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, attracts thousands of locals and tourists to the Castro for a mega-party that lasts until the wee hours on the Saturday night before Pride.

The opponent of the permit complained that, although there was outreach to the merchants on behalf of the event, no one had made an attempt to communicate with the residents. Commissioner Terrance Alan, assured the speaker that the commissionís mission was to allow for that outreach to happen within the hearing chamber.

As this was unfolding a Sister Edith Myflesh, whose title is ďSound NunĒ for the event, had a chance to respond to the resident, and the commissioners supported the discussion by trying to take all points into consideration.

The permit was granted; the pros outweighed the cons in reviewing the event and its history. As for the man who couldnít sleep through the hoopla on this one-day annual event, it had to be pointed out that he, like all residents of this ground-zero location, had chosen to live at a very high-profile, high-energy sector of the city. The noise and occasional crowds were a part of the locationís package.

One of the most significant elements of the commissionís role in the politics of San Francisco nightlife is to assist club owners and event promoters in submitting proper permit applications the first time through.

Even after three years of commission-authored policy reforms, promoters are still dealing with residual permit confusion over those previously issued by the former city entertainment authority, the SFPD. Permit requirements and policy fundamentals, such as a standard, yet flexible "Good Neighbor Policy" for various mixed-use districts are getting a close scrutiny by the commission.

In the previous hierarchy, permits would be submitted as an initiation gesture. They would be reviewed by precinct officers, and were either issued or rejected, often on the basis of the crossing the tís and dotting the iís.

Underlying San Franciscoís tourism and entertainment industries are issues of economic regional health and prosperity. San Francisco has long been an internationally designated big-player in the destination travel market. City politicos and the Convention & Visitors Bureau constantly ask themselves if we are offering competitive appeal to continue to attract the multitudes of visitors we annually depend on for our prosperity.

Dr. Jordan Shlain, Chair of the Commission following Audrey Joseph and Terrance Alan in the role, has been on the Commission since its inception, as have most of the commissioners. The Entertainment Commission's hearings are open to the public. The schedule of meetings is posted on the web at www.sfgov.org/site/entertainment