Two months ago, a Chula Vista jewelry maker told Mayor Bob Filner that San Diego’s ordinance restricting art sales in public parks doesn’t just restrict his ability to make a living, but is also unconstitutional.
Filner agreed that art was free speech protected by the First Amendment, so he wrote the Parks and Recreation department a letter saying David Millette had his permission to sell his wares at parks and beaches.
Millette laminated the letter, which he used to protect himself from being chased off by the SDPD. In response, other local artists said they too were planning to ask the mayor for the same permission.
Saturday, at Filner’s monthly City Hall “office hours” with the public, two artists did just that.
One artist, William Dorsett, who weaves palm fronds for donations outside Anthony’s Fish Grotto near the harbor, said more artists had planned to attend, but hadn’t shown up for one reason or another.
He was joined by 67-year-old Jeff Minkin, a downtown resident who sells wood carvings and other handmade art near Dorsett at the harbor.
But rather than write more permission slips, Filner told Dorsett and Minkin to gather all the street artists they know so he could hold a meeting with them, SDPD and the city’s Park and Recreation department.
“He said he really wants to work towards resolving the issue,” Dorsett said. “Mayor Filner is awesome.”
Filner’s office didn’t respond to attempts to confirm his plans.
On Saturday, Filner said he wrote Millette’s note because it was a special circumstance. He didn’t explain what made the circumstances special.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be a big process, and a constitutional problem,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was a far bigger problem. I haven’t studied it really.”
Filner said he’s open to looking into how the process can be changed to address the constitutional concerns.
“I thought it was a single case, so we dealt with it,” he said. “Now apparently there’s others, so we want to see the general situation, and see what the problem is in general, and see if we have to change the process.”