Aaron Milligan-Green's plan to free street music started last year with a guerrilla concert in downtown Santa Rosa called the Renegade Art Revival. "At first, I independently made an issue out of it," says Milligan-Green, "it was through my and other's efforts that enough pressure was put on the city to really do something about it." On May 6, after over a year's worth of work, Milligan-Green faces the city council with a proposed ordinance change, the Street Performers Draft Ordinance.
The new proposed ordinance would override the city code Section 17-16.090, "Drums and other instruments," which states, "It is unlawful for any person to use any drum or other instrument or device of any kind for the purpose of attracting attention by the creation of noise within the City." Milligan-Green's proposed Street Performers Ordinance passed through Santa Rosa's Art in Public Places Committee and is now making its way to the City Council for approval. Future sessions will focus of the community and business impact of street performers.
Tara Matheny-Schuster, arts coordinator for Santa Rosa, feels positive about the direction the new ordinance has taken. "We have been working on a cohesive stand with the city on this," she says. The new draft ordinance encourages street performers to apply for a free annual permit that lets them play music without incurring a $246 fine, the fee under the current ordinance. Milligan-Green agrees that it is a step in the right direction, noting that it still forbids groups of more than one player from applying for a permit as a group; instead, each player in the group must have a permit. But it's not a deal breaker.
Under neighboring Napa and San Rafael municipal codes, sound amplification and noise are also regulated by permits and are distributed on a per-event basis. Milligan-Green says that Santa Rosa isn't the only city working out these issues of street performers, and there are currently similar problems taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Santa Cruz, New Orleans and New York. "There is nothing uncommon about what is going on in Santa Rosa with street performers," he says. "Some places have dealt with these issues, others still have yet to deal with them."
The presentation will include time for discussion and feedback. "We want to know what the community thinks works, and what needs improvement," says Matheny-Schuster.
"Once it's finished, I hope people are encouraged to get out there and start juggling, dancing and playing music. It's something this place needs," Milligan-Green says.
The street performer presentation is slated for Thursday, May 6, from 5pm to 7pm at the Finley Community Center, Manzanita Room, 2060 W. College Ave. Santa Rosa.