Hollywood

City To Set Limits on Costumed Street Performers in Hollywood

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday directed city attorneys to draw up regulations that would limit the number of costumed street performers allowed along a touristy block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Police and city officials say they are concerned about overly aggressive sales tactics and activities that take up too much space along a lively stretch of the street between Highland Boulevard and Orange Drive.

The block, which attracts millions of tourists and visitors a year, includes the Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theatres and Madame Tussaud's Hollywood wax museum.

The council asked the City Attorney's Office to write rules that would require street performers to obtain one of a limited number of permits that would be given out each day, with Los Angeles Police Department officials recommending that number be set at 20: 10 for the sidewalk on each side of Hollywood Boulevard, between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive.

Performers often request donations for posing for photographs.

Police officials say that one-fifth of visitors to the area reported "unsatisfactory" experiences with performers and those who distribute music compact discs or other products along the street, with many pointing to "aggressive and rude" behavior.

Recent altercations between street performers along Hollywood Boulevard have also raised concerns about public safety for the area.

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Last year, performers dressed as "Mickey Mouse" and "Donald Duck" engaged in a fistfight outside the Dolby Theatre, and in another incident, a performer in a "Mr. Incredible" costume was caught on a cellphone video punching a "Batgirl" performer near TCL Chinese Theatres.

"There are some bad apples who are actually exhibiting predatory behavior,'' said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, an advocate for steps "to restore some kind of order."

LAPD also expressed concern about incidents in which some character performers alleged demanded "donations" of up to $20 from tourists after posing with them for photographs.

Los Angeles City law makes no provision for street vending in Hollywood. Buskers, CD music distributors and others are allowed to accept donations, but cannot set a price or charge a specific fee, though some do.

Some character performers said the permit restriction will unfairly penalize all for the misdeeds of a few.

"If they shut this down and regulate this, it's going to be hard for me," said Omar Badhoo, wearing the costume of a character he calls "the Green Machine."

Others asserted there is an unspoken agenda to get rid of all the street performers.

"It's never been about 'good' and 'bad' characters," said Christopher Mitchell, who calls himself Hollywood Darth Vader. "It's just about corporate greed."

Morrison rejected that and said increasing "civility" will benefit all, including the performers themselves.

"I think any character who really has an appreciation for how we're trying to improve Hollywood's image would understand that there's a logic to what's being contemplated here," Morrison said.

Some attorneys, including Stephen Rohde, have expressed concerns that the city action not intrude on the first amendment rights of buskers and others who want to express themselves on Hollywood Boulevard.  

The city councilman who represents Hollywood, Mitch O'Farrell, introduced the motion calling on several city departments to report back with "recommendations on policies and procedures that could be adopted to address public safety challenges in the area." That could take a month or two, O'Farrell's aide Tony Arranaga said. Then council would need to vote again on proceeding with specific recommendations. 

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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