by Sue Basko, esq.
Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S. to be a street performer. The area is full of tourists and people happy to see a good act -- and to tip accordingly.
The Port of San Francisco has a unique dual-tiered program for street performers at Fisherman's Wharf. You can be an unlicensed street performer and take hour and a half time spots on a first-come first-grab basis. Or you can be a licensed street performer and be allowed to reserve 3-hour time slots. The license sounds like a good idea if you are a regular at the Wharf, but it is expensive at $500/year or $50 month. In addition, one requirement is that you must pay for insurance. They have a shared group insurance that is about $250/year. It excludes certain types of acts, including acts with animals. It does not exclude fire performers, which is great since fire acts are so popular now.
To me, it sounds as if it would be worth being licensed if you plan to perform at the Wharf for at least a couple months - because you can book the choice time slots and locations. I also suppose the better acts will be licensed. However, if you cannot afford the license or do not want to be bothered, you can simply show up and vie for an available slot.
Rather than bog you down with details, I will just post the links here:
As far as street performing in the rest of San Francisco, it seems to be legal, but some performers complain of being chased off. Who knows- maybe they are noisy or inconsiderate. The Entertainment Commission of San Francisco does not issue licenses. The only area that is organized and optionally-licensed is the Wharf.