With the growth of downtown Glendale over the past several years and the promotion of an "18-hour city" — where residents are encouraged to drive less and socialize more — the number of street performers is increasing, according to city officials.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that seeks to balance the rights of street performers with the municipal code by regulating performers within the confines of the 1st Amendment.
The Downtown Glendale Assn. previously worked with city officials to compile a list of possible regulations influenced, in part, by common complaints from local businesses and pedestrians.
A tempered version of the association's recommendations was presented last week by Gillian Van Muyden, chief assistant city attorney, and it took into consideration the city's interest in maintaining public safety and ease of movement on public streets and sidewalks.
Now, performers are required to stage their sidewalk shows at least 10 feet from any bus stop, street corner, crosswalk, outdoor dining areas or business entrance or exit.
"What we found is 10 feet seems to be a reasonable distance. It seems to be narrow enough," Muyden said. "It's not overly broad or overly wide as to reasonably preclude active participation and the exercise of free speech."
Several other provisions are also contained in the ordinance including limiting the types of equipment performers can use, the use or manipulation of public property, incorporation of animals and limiting performances to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In the ordinance, a performer is defined as "an individual or group who performs public entertainment in a public area for tips or gratuities."
However, the definition raised concerns from some council members.
Councilman Ara Najarian asked when the ordinance was first introduced if the term could be broadened to to regulate, for example, anyone in colorful costumes soliciting money aggressively, much like those who roam the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Muyden said that Glendale's municipal code takes care of both aggressive solicitation and the blocking of sidewalks by anyone regardless if they fall under the category of "performer."
"In drafting these definitions … we did take a look at many [other] cities' definitions, and we didn't, I think, find them to be massively inclusive of all types of performance," Muyden said last week. "One of the changes we might be able to make here is: 'performer means to engage in any kind of performance, including but not limited to' — try to broaden it up."
Before voting to pass the ordinance on Tuesday night, one person asked during the public-comment portion of the meeting that council consider extending the required distance from business entrances and exits to 15 feet instead of the proposed 10.
City Atty. Michael Garcia said that some sidewalks are shorter than 15 feet and that would outright preclude street performers in many areas. He added that many businesses in downtown are stacked close enough together that entire strips of sidewalk would be off limits to performers as the result of a change to 15 feet.
Still, Garcia said council can revisit the ordinance with business owners in three to six months.
Jeff Landa, email@example.com