Save Local Performers and the Arts!

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By Steve Epstein of Santa Barbara

A proposal for The City of Santa Barbara: Public Performance Revitalization Proposal

As the City Council learned when planning Paseo Nuevo and studying successful strategies in other communities, carefully curated live music and street performance can measurably increase tourist engagement and contribute to a more vibrant downtown.

However, near as we can tell, our county is one of few in California that has continued to ban all public performances. There appears to be a total ban on all public performances, indoor and out and a poorly defined policy on what enforcement should look like when it comes to performances on State Street, De La Guerra Plaza, the Harbor, the Rose Garden or Stearn’s Wharf. 

Those who do perform have experienced a range of responses from the SBPD, ranging from an appreciative “thumbs up” to a citation and everything in between.  And while many employment sectors have been allowed to return to work with updated COVID protocols, performance artists of all types are experiencing severe financial impacts stemming from their inability to work, even outdoors. There is no evidence that public performances are causing large groups to congregate or that these performances are unable to be conducted safely.

It is time to take action to retain this important aspect of Santa Barbara’s character and support our arts community.

We respectfully request that The City Manager and the City Council immediately establish an ad hoc committee to develop and propose strict protocols, for review and approval by the Council before many of our local performers are forced to leave or have to face even harsher financial impacts.

1. The committee would work in close collaboration with the City of Santa Barbara (Including Paul Casey and Jason Harris), The Santa Barbara County Health Department, The Downtown Organization, The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, The Waterfront Department, State Street retailers and restauranteurs, and the SBPD to delineate clearly defined and health-conscious protocols.  

2. The committee would also study and model the proposed policies on the ways in which 3rd Street Promenade (Santa Monica), Pearl Street (Boulder) and Quincy Market in Boston are effectively managing this aspect of cultural life during the pandemic in addition to working with local shop and restaurant owners where applicable. 

3. The committee’s proposal would include such components as: 

• A modest city permitting fee for approved acts. 

• A warning/fine structure for performers who do not adhere to the published policies. 

• A limited sound level/DB that Ambassadors could monitor. 

• Appropriate spacing between acts with designated performance locations (for instance, 2 musicians per block, with a non-musical act interspersed between).  

• Performer/performance/anti-crowd congregation protocols, as approved by County Health officials.  

• Virtual audition of all acts/performers/street artists/for quality and their commitment to the cultural experience they want to create.

The following community members have already volunteered to serve in some capacity (including the ad hoc committee): 

• Kostis Protopapas, Artistic and General Director, Opera Santa Barbara  

• Caren K. Rager, Chrisman Executive Director and President of the Granada Theater  

• David Asbell, Executive Director, Lobero Theater

• Nir Kabaretti, Music and Artistic director, Santa Barbara Symphony

• Moss Jacobs, Senior Vice-President, Goldenvoice Concerts

• Todd Capps, Musician, Executive Director, The Common Table Foundation  

• Hal Conklin, Past Mayor, Past Council Member, Founder SB Leadership Team  

• Robin Elander, Interim Executive Director, Downtown Santa Barbara

• Patrick Mc Elroy, City of Santa Barbara Fire Chief, retired

• Nicholas Jurkowski, Executive Director, Santa Barbara Revels

• Kai Tepper, Santa Barbara Bowl, community musician and advocate

• Steve Epstein, musician, degree in technical theater production, live event expert, Board Member, Common Table Foundation

• Jason Frost, professional musician 

• Jamie Faletti, musician, former music store owner 

• Kathryn R Martin, Next Chapter Coach

• Erin McKibben, Music Director, Santa Barbara Revels, Choral Director, Music Academy of the West’s Sing! Program and Music Director, Santa Barbara Youth Opera

• Hector Hurtado, musician, stage manager for Fiesta/Solstice 

• Roger Perry, booker for July 4th and Fiesta, Leader of the Youth Music Movement

• Maria W. Long Music Fundraising Events/ Media Representative

In addition to the immediate benefits of clear and reasonable public performance policies, this work could form the foundation for additional arts support post-pandemic that would further enhance the appeal of Santa Barbara as a destination.  

We respectfully urge the various government officials to act on this before we start seeing homeless artists and performers, this is becoming dire!


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Greemo Sep 05, 2020 11:04 AM
Save Local Performers and the Arts!

I believe everyone would agree that the absolute best way to keep corona at bay is to shut all businesses and enforce strict stay at home order until there is a vaccine. Most people would also agree that that’s not possible. Therefore, the state makes decisions to accept certain levels of risk in order to service basic economic and social needs. There is no doubt that going to a restaurant or to church poses a much greater risk than not going, yet the stare allows these activities to continue.

The decisions on what is permitted and what is not are mostly made for political reasons. The reason we have restaurants open is not that they are essential, or that they are “safe”. It is that too many people were complaining about their closure, that the owners were at risk of going out of business, and the city needs the tax revenue. Churches are open not because they’re “safe”, but because the church community complained hard enough. Having a guitarist on a street corner poses no greater resin than having people gather at a restaurant on lower State, and having an outdoor socially distanced concert for 50 people, with controlled ingress and egress, mandatory masks, and no food or alcohol is no more dangerous than having that same number of people go to outdoor church.

The performing arts is the only remaining industry that is forbidden from operating at all, and performing artists are the only worker class that is condemned to indefinite unemployment without any discussion. Furthermore, SB County is the only California county that has a Blanket “no live performance” language in its order. There are outdoor socially distanced performances taking place regularly in Ventura and LA.

Health orders are inconsistent, and the authorities are mostly at loss. They say that they want to discourage “gatherings”, but when asked for their definition of “gathering”, and why a wedding is a “gathering” but 50 people at a restaurant is not, they have no answer. It’s politically expedient to say “concerts are dangerous and inessential, so I’m keeping you safe by not permitting them.” And it results in an entire class of workers being thrown under the bus.

SBCountyLocal Sep 04, 2020 02:00 PM
Save Local Performers and the Arts!

Live performances of any kind in a pandemic should not be considered or promoted. They encourage congregating indoors or out which promotes the spread of the disease. This proposal is entirely selfish in nature and contrary to public health and should NOT be entertained. We are all facing hardships and instead of pushing to open or expand businesses or activities, that can cause the transmission of the disease, we should be working on ways to get those that need rent relief, unemployment benefits...what they need to survive.

420722 Sep 04, 2020 03:47 PM
Save Local Performers and the Arts!

I agree with you on that Sacjon 100%. We are smart enough to figure out a way for everyone to continue their passion while still being safe about it.

sacjon Sep 04, 2020 03:11 PM
Save Local Performers and the Arts!

SBCOUNTY - "....what they need to survive" is an income. Why do you oppose allowing artists to make a living, but then say we need to focus on rent relief, etc? "Selfish?" Why? They want a chance to work for their income. That should be encouraged, not admonished. These are outdoor activities, not indoor. As long as people are allowed (and encouraged) to be out and about in town, why can't artists try to continue making a living?

Babycakes Sep 04, 2020 01:59 PM
Save Local Performers and the Arts!

Nothing like live music and performances. But, in these uncertain times, with the COVID precautions in place, it's not going to happen. The next best thing would be to live stream any such events. This would eliminate any permitting, sound, and group-gathering issues. Live streaming would be the way to go, especially while everyone is trying to avoid large group gatherings. Win-win for everyone.

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