SAN FRANCISCO — Dancers and artists pranced on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to a driving drum tattoo, protesting rising rents and dwindling rehearsal space and demanding more from the city they’ve helped define.
“Wake up San Francisco. No Art No Soul” read one protest sign as stiltwalkers teetered above a crowd of more than 3,200 performers, vowing unrest until city leaders come up with a concert plan to address their concerns.
“The city need us to keep it a vital city,” said Jo Kreiter, an acrobat who shimmied up 15-foot-tall pole for a slow, bird’s
eye ballet of twists and turns. “They need us to thrive here. Not just scrap out a living.”
The musical call-to-arms came in the midst of a political tug-of-war over spiraling office space rents, driven up by the dot-com companies that are creeping into nearly every nook in the city.
Performance studios in San Francisco pay on average $12.70 per square foot. But the market rate for the same space is $55 per square foot.
After the rally, the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Labor Committee began meeting inside City Hall to discuss the displacement of artists and nonprofit groups.
One of the issues up for discussion was Mayor Willie Brown’s plans to offer $7 million in city grants to build space for performers and artists. The proposal, announced Tuesday, includes the development of a waterfront location for creative types some 150,000 square feet of office space for non-profits.
Many of the artists losing their regular haunts are musicians from Downtown Rehearsal, the city’s largest rehearsal space, closed late last month in preparation for the building’s reported $14 million sale.
The musicians, which include Chris Isaak, have taken the $750,000 offered by the building’s owner to find a new home.
But they didn’t go quietly either, as dozens of bands throughout the city plugged in their amplifiers and played for about an hour.
At Wednesday’s protest, Krissy Keefer grabbed a microphone and told the crowd that the show of unity would send a message that politicians could not ignore.
Keefer said she wanted the city to buy buildings to house nonprofits, help artists pay for maintenance and the projects that emerge from the space.
“We might be rabble rousers, but we are not isolated,” Keefer said.