Laguna Beach sets rules for street performers within city limits

A street performer plays and sings on the Promenade on Forest in Laguna Beach in 2020.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach has made a move to establish regulations for street performers within the city limits with an ordinance that dictates the time, place and manner for such activities.

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved the ordinance at a meeting Tuesday night. It sets the window for such performances at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

Street performers will be prohibited from engaging in such activities in a variety of locations, including within 10 feet of a bus stop, street corner or crosswalk, and within that proximity to a business or residential entrance.

Safety concerns led to city staff adding to the ordinance that street performers should not set up shop in areas where the sidewalk would be reduced to less than four feet to allow for safe passage for the public. That could also be the result of associated crowds.

The props used by the performers cannot be capable of causing bodily injury, including items such as knives, swords, axes or flames. Objects that pose a danger of fire hazard are also not allowed.

“There is someone in town who has taken on the role of the Greeter, and that happens, there have been several over the years,” Councilwoman Toni Iseman said.

“But the current one you can see on the corner in front of Sapphire Restaurant, very narrow sidewalk, and he’s a mime, and he waves and leans into the street … If he’s there, I always think there’s going to be a car accident because he’s a major distraction and [it is] a very difficult cross street. When I see him at the Main Beach, it’s entertaining because he’s not creating the potential of a very serious accident.”

Iseman landed on the question of whether street performers who were not in compliance with the ordinance could be relocated.

A man plays the guitar near the Huntington Beach pier on July 31, 2020.
Laguna Beach has approved an ordinance that provides guidelines for the time, place and manner in which street performers can engage in those activities within the city limits. A man plays the guitar near the Huntington Beach pier on July 31, 2020.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Jeremy Frimond, a senior administrative analyst who presented the item, said he had been in contact with Laguna Beach interim Police Chief Jeff Calvert about the man in question and it was found he was operating at least 10 feet away from the crosswalk and the business.

“Sometimes, he has cardboard and has set up a stage, so that wouldn’t be allowed, but provided that he’s not blocking access and he’s kind of mobile up and down and waving to people, and not collecting [a fee], he would be allowed to do that,” Frimond said. “The city would certainly seek to educate him and make a special case of contacting him.”

The citywide ordinance applies only to public areas.

A separate set of rules will go into effect for the Promenade on Forest, where a city-issued performance permit will be required to perform.

Nonprofit organizations will have access to the performance deck between 4 and 9 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. A nonprofit may reserve the deck for a maximum of 14 days in a calendar year, and their performances may not exceed four hours.

For individual performers, the hours of use are in line with the city’s time frame of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for street performances. Those individuals must limit their performances to three hours.

Laguna Beach cultural arts manager Sian Poeschl said she believes the Promenade portion of the ordinance bolsters performance opportunities.

Poeschl said performers apply to the cultural arts department and there is no charge for a permit to play on the Promenade.

“We assist them with that permit, and on three evenings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the cultural arts department arranges live musicians to play,” Poeschl said.

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