Sep 19, 2022 - News

Golden Gate Park hopes to attract more musicians with new permit program

Person plays music in Golden Gate Park
A man plays saxophone in a tunnel near the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Photo: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

There's something magical about hearing a musician play in Golden Gate Park. And now, that experience might happen more often.

What's happening: Rec and Parks announced on Friday that — for the first time ever — it's created a process for allowing musicians to collect donations while playing in Golden Gate Park, otherwise known as busking.

Details: The agency has designated seven areas in the park where people will be able to play music — most of which are along the section of JFK Dr. closed to car traffic, known as the JFK Promenade.

  • Performances will mainly be without amplification, though Rec and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton told Axios there will be some opportunities for "modestly" amplified sound via a "a battery-operated sound system" — the kind that can't be "heard outside the immediate area" and doesn't "blow away nearby picnickers."
  • Permitting for musicians will be free until March to "aid pandemic recovery," the department said. It'll be $73 per year after that.

What they're saying: "This is a great way to enhance arts and culture for park visitors while giving visibility to emerging performers," Rec and Parks general manager Phil Ginsburg said in Friday's announcement. "There will be loads of talent in the park, with a bit of structure to keep all the other activities running smoothly."

Be smart: Musicians have been playing in tunnels and other places throughout the park for years, but there was no process for legal busking.

  • Yes, but: Park rangers spent most of their time educating musicians about the rules, rather than giving out citations to those asking for money.
  • The bigger problem, Aparton said, was people who amplified their music and brought in crowds that interfered with "other scheduled, permitted park activities."

Zoom out: The busking program is one of several ways Rec and Parks is working to "activate" the JFK Promenade.

The intrigue: Although the board of supervisors voted in April to keep JFK Dr. permanently car-free, an effort to reopen the road to vehicles gathered enough signatures for the issue to appear on the November ballot.

  • Between the lines: The more residents visit and enjoy the JFK Promenade before the upcoming election, the more likely they will vote to keep it closed to cars.
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