With West Hollywood Park construction reducing the space available for the annual pride festival and a protest march replacing the pride parade, this year’s LA Pride in June may prove to be a vastly different experience from recent years.
That was the message coming out of a community meeting on Wednesday night where leaders of the Resist March and Christopher Street West (CSW), the group that produces L.A. Pride, discussed this year’s pride events.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that the people who come to the city, sometimes only once or twice a year, are going to see something familiar [at the pride festival],” reported CSW board president Chris Classen, conceding that accomplishing that goal was proving challenging.
The Pride Festival will be a ticketed event, as always (likely $20 per day), scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11 in West Hollywood Park, plus a free transgender event and Sizzle sober area on Friday, June 9. However, the entire festival will have to be downsized as a three-year construction project that began in January has closed off a significant portion of the park.
CSW is losing almost 70% of the “footprint” it had available in 2016, Classen reported. Consequently, only West Hollywood Park’s great lawn and the auditorium, plus San Vicente Boulevard between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, are currently available for this year’s Pride Festival.
Officials with the City of West Hollywood are negotiating on behalf of CSW to see if part of the Pacific Design Center lot and/or the adjacent Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) lot can be used for the pride festival. CSW hopes to have a final answer about the available footprint following the April 3 City Council meeting when L.A. Pride will next be on the agenda.
As a result of this uncertainty, CSW currently does not know how many entertainment stages it will have. It may only be able to accommodate one stage (last year they had three) and consequently has not been able to begin booking talent.
“I’m not happy that we’re this late in the process. We’re 90 days away [from the festival] and I don’t know where we’re putting things, but we’re going to get there,” Classen assured the two dozen people attending the meeting. He added they expect to use more DJs and less live talent this year.
While the 2016 event was branded as a “music festival” due to the large number of musical acts performing, this year’s will not have that branding.
Meanwhile, the annual pride parade has been canceled, ceding to the nationwide LGBT Resist March that is scheduled in many U.S. cities for Sunday, June 11, the day the Los Angeles pride parade would normally occur.
Similar to the giant Women’s March that took place in dozens of cities across America on Jan. 21, the Resist March in Los Angeles will step off from Hollywood and Highland, since there is a subway station there allowing participants to arrive by mass transit. The march will follow a 3.1 mile path down La Brea Avenue, turning onto Santa Monica Boulevard and ending at San Vicente Boulevard, the entrance to the Pride festival.
With a quarter-million to a half-million people expected to participate in the march, John Erickson, a Resist March committee member, said they expect to have several simultaneous smaller marches in surrounding areas that feed into the larger march going down Santa Monica Boulevard. Resist March committee member Paul Katami reported they will figure out a way to provide transportation back to Hollywood and Highland from San Vicente Boulevard.
With so many people expected to be in the streets, it is impractical to incorporate aspects of the pride parade such as cars and floats into the protest march. “It’s very difficult to mix pedestrians and vehicles,” said Classen, who expects the pride parade to return in 2018.
Since a possible 500,000 people will be marching down Santa Monica Boulevard to the entrance of the L.A. Pride festival at San Vicente Boulevard, many may decide to attend the festival. However, with the smaller festival footprint, it may not be possible to let them all in.
“Security insurance costs the same [whatever the attendance], but I can’t pay for that if I don’t have the footprint to let enough people in to buy tickets and food and beverages. Sixty percent of our income comes from people coming to this festival,” Classen said. “Add on to that the fact that we may have half a million people who come on the march. If I only have room for 5,000 people on San Vicente, where do they go?”
Resident David Reid suggested the pride festival could move to the large Poinsettia Park, which is just across the West Hollywood border in Los Angeles on Romaine Street at Poinsettia Place. Classen said that was a consideration, but pointed out there are advantages to having the pride festival in West Hollywood Park since it is immediately adjacent to the Boystown LGBT entertainment area.
A recent report showed that the pride events generate an estimated $5 million in revenue for West Hollywood businesses, especially those in Boystown. Classen noted that one of the things which makes L.A. Pride unique was its adjacency to the gay entertainment district. He pointed out that in places like San Francisco and San Diego, their festivals are held more than a mile away from the gay districts.
Responding to charges about its finances, Classen reported that the festival has lost money for 10 of the past 17 years. CSW board member Craig Bowers reported that CSW reduced office expenses by 67% after moving from its longtime offices on Santa Monica Boulevard at Harper Avenue to new offices in a back corridor of the Pacific Design Center blue building.
Staffed entirely by a volunteer board, CSW does hire consultants in the period leading up to the festival, but currently has no plans to hire any full time staff such as an executive director, Classen said.
CSW also owns an AIDS hospice, Casa Del Sol, in East Hollywood, which is operated by AIDS Project Los Angeles. Additionally, CSW funds a yearly LGBT scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC).
Wednesday night’s meeting was originally scheduled to be a special meeting of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board (LGAB). However, LGAB did not achieve a quorum as only four people of its 10 board members showed up. Consequently, the meeting was transformed into an informal community meeting where CSW and Resist made their presentations.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that a study found that the annual Pride event generates an additional $9 million in revenue for local workers and businesses. The revenue generated actually is estimated at $5 million. The story has been updated to reflect that.