Ammiano to introduce legislation
to restore arts funding
Legislation based on San Francisco Arts Task Force
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 24, 2006
Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he will introduce legislation to
the Board of Supervisors to restore funding to the city's arts
organizations and communities, based on recommendations from the
San Francisco Arts Task Force at the Government Audit and Oversight
Committee meeting on Monday.
"The arts contribute over a billion dollars to the economy,"
Ammiano said, "but a third of our artists and art organizations
are closing or relocating outside of the city. We have underutilized
and under-funded our valuable arts community long enough."
Based on research of the current state of the city's arts infrastructure,
the Task Force called for the restoration of mandated funding
from the Hotel Tax and development of new departments to oversee
the distribution of funding, chair Debra Walker said.
Ammiano requested the city attorney to draft legislation which
he can introduce at a future Board of Supervisors meeting. The
committee requested for the construction of a planning council
between the Task Force, the Office of Economic Analysis and the
Budget Analyst for an in-depth study of the recommendations and
the drafting of a letter to the Budget and Finance Committee to
begin developing this year's funding for the arts.
The city currently invests $48.4 million annually to arts funding,
programming, services and facilities, Walker said. Approximately
$28 million is allocated to fund the War Memorial, Asian Arts
Museum, Fine Arts Museums and Yerba Buena to satisfy charter requirements,
leaving only $20 mil. to fund the rest of the arts organizations.
One of the arts community's major funding sources comes from
the Hotel Tax created in 1961 that places a 14 percent tax on
all hotel room rented throughout the city, Walker said. The tax
is strictly supposed to allocate eight percent of revenue from
the hotel tax to the arts and six percent to the general fund.
But in the past ten years, the city had diverted more of the hotel
tax funding to the general fund, Walker said.
"In this year alone, the difference of what has been given
to the arts community and what it should have been given is $24
million," Walker said.
The task force strongly recommends legislation that restores
the mandated Hotel Tax revenues to the arts industry, said Tom
Kelly, Task Force vice chair. The hotel tax income is estimated
to increase by $20 million per year for at least the next five
"The increase in the hotel tax is a simple way of restoring
arts funding without decreasing contribution of the hotel tax
to the general fund," Kelly said.
There is no surprise that all the arts organizations support
the re-funding of the arts through the hotel tax fund, said Tom
Horn, member of the board of trustees for the War Memorial of
"Our facilities see arts groups of various sizes and compilations
in our theatres and because there is municipal support of our
programs," Horn said.
However, not all the arts organizations agree with the Task Force's
recommendations to establish develop a Department of Arts and
Culture which would consist of both the Arts Commission and Grants
for the Arts and an Arts Planning Council to advise the Mayor
and Board of Supervisors on matters related to public funding
of the arts.
Walker said the Task Force found many problematic program gaps
in the current infrastructure. Gaps include the abandonment of
the Neighborhood Arts Plan with many communities having no cultural
space and little or no arts activities and little attention paid
to individual artists, whose annual income is $7,000 without benefits.
These gaps resulted from not only a lack of funding but also
a lack of coordination between arts agencies and little or no
coordination between arts agencies and other city departments,
The Arts Planning Council came as a specific request from the
Arts Commission staff themselves, Task Force vice chair Tony Kelly
said. The staff said they were personally overwhelmed with their
It only makes sense to have some kind of body to serve as oversight,"
Not all of the members of the city's art community agree with
this specific task force recommendation. According to the alternative
recommendation by 52 local arts organizations, the Task Force's
recommendation lacks analysis and concrete information about how
the creation of these departments would enliven the arts community
and ensure neighborhood arts programs.
"This step is unnecessary and may possibly create a bureaucracy,"
said Charles Chip McNeal, director of education at the San Francisco
Ballet. "Any reorganization should be considered as proper
studies and analysis confirm."
Ammiano said the Task Force's recommendations would not create
a new bureaucracy based on his readings of the recommendation.
"If we're increasing city-wide planning and collaborative
efforts, that's not a bureaucracy," Ammiano said. "That's
Regardless of opinion over the recommendations themselves, the
San Francisco arts community uniformly stands behind the Task
Force's vision of expanding San Francisco's arts funding, said
Deborah Cullinan, executive director of Intersection for the Arts.
"Overall, we're all about incorporating a vision as the
city as a center for art and expanding that vision," Cullinan
The vision advocates for those who will benefit the most from
the recommendations, said Richard Putz, president of Local 19.
"Arts organizations supported by city grants provide employment
and benefits of workers in San Francisco who increase the city's
tax base and draws visitors to the city," Putz said.
Large arts organizations are not the only ones that benefit from
the Task Force's Recommendations, said Jessica Robinson, executive
director of counterPULSE, a smaller arts organization that serves
400 emerging artists from all over the Bay Area annually to help
kick-start their careers by providing workshops for professional
development, performance and funding. counterPULSE has strong
relations with larger arts organizations that help expand artist
"Supporting arts in San Francisco means supporting a large
range of organizations," Robinson said. "It is important
to recognize that this recommendation will benefit the entire
ecosystem which is the city's arts community."
The Arts Task Force is gong to continue to work with the other
art organizations to develop the recommendations, Walker said.
"We need to succeed together," Walker said.
Contrary to opposing opinion, the recommendations will not challenge
funding to the Grants for the Arts, Walker said.
"We want to make sure that nothing that we do here destabilizes
Grants for the Arts and other trust agencies," Walker said.
"It's important to fund Grants for the Arts and other organizations."
At the request of the Matthew Franklin, director of the Mayor's
Office of Housing, the committee postponed the hearing regarding
Grants for the Arts to its next meeting on May 8.