San Franciscans have widely embraced events that close streets to cars and open them up to people, with Sunday Streets having expanded to 11 well-attended events per year, and possibly more to come. But for residents looking to hold car-free neighborhood events of their own, unaffordable city fees can present a major barrier.
Community organizers in the Inner Sunset, who are planning to hold four street fairs this year called Inner Sunset Sundays, have teamed up with Sunday Streets organizers to push city agencies to reduce costs and cut red tape to facilitate community street events.
Organizer Adam Greenfield said Inner Sunset Sundays is intended to build on the success of the Inner Sunset Street Fair, which was held each of the last two years. However, fees for this year’s four events, which will take place on one block of Irving Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, will saddle organizers with an estimated bill of $25,000. The fees, he said, are not only questionable, but prevent organizers from holding bigger, more frequent events and force them to commercialize much of the space.
“The current system in San Francisco is destroying community — it’s that simple,” said Greenfield. “It’s harming people psychologically and physically, it’s harming business, it’s harming everybody. And I think it should be one of the city’s core goals to help people who are building community.”
“You don’t have to pay a toll every time you get in your car and drive around,” he said, “but for some reason when it comes to building community, which I think is as important as moving around, the city lumps excessive fees on you.”
The fees for last year’s Inner Sunset Street Fair, which occupied just three blocks during a Sunday afternoon, were $9,000. “Everyone we talk to about this,” said Greenfield, “the universal reaction is shock. ‘How can it cost that much?’”