Opinion: LA Pride Becomes More Expensive and Less Inclusive

Ah, the good old days of Pride. Pride was a once-a-year event to celebrate our diversity. We would march to honor our community. We marched to show our unity. We marched to honor loved ones lost to AIDS, marched against a government that would not recognize our love or our equality. Then we celebrated at a festival that was accessible to all and celebrated by all.

Most of us inside West Hollywood’s borders have heard complaints about past LA Pride Festivals. Many residents complained that the festival had grown to be one drug drunk party. Ticket prices had skyrocketed to $25 a person at the gate. The event that cost the taxpayers of West Hollywood almost $600,000 seemed to have lost its way. In 2014, the City Council got involved to answer community concerns and formed an oversight subcommittee of Council members John Duran and John D’Amico to listen to residents and work with Christopher Street West (CSW) to create a festival that would live up to the expectations many of us share.

Larry Block, The Block Party, West Hollywood City Council candidate
Larry Block

What followed was a gigantic shake up at CSW that saw resignations of old board members and the election of new ones. Community outreach followed, and at those meetings many echoed what we would like to see happen at the Festival. What was suggested by myself and others include more events for woman, more inclusiveness of senior citizens, expanding Pride to include events at Plummer Park, highlighting gay artists and culture, lowering ticket prices and fostering more inclusion. It was hard not to be optimistic listening to the speakers at the few past City Council meetings lauding praise on the Council for a fantastic working relationship with CSW. I became very excited for this year’s Pride.

The other day, when ticket prices were made public, my heart sank. $35 for a one-day ticket! The free Friday night admission eliminated. And LA Pride is now renamed LA Pride Music Festival and Parade. Instead of inclusiveness many will not be able to afford admission to the festival. Instead of celebrating our diversity, a new VIP area ($150 a ticket if purchased after June 3, with “exclusive bar and dining options with seating and upgraded restroom facilities”) for exclusive gays and City Council members will separate some of us from the rest of us. My suggestion to open to all the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard from San Vicente to Hancock for gay vendors and non-profits has fallen on deaf ears. We have failed miserably to make Pride more inclusive.

During planning for #Sizzle, the sober Pride event, some questioned whether to separate the #Sizzle sober zone or open it to all. After last year’s #Sizzle some people said they were bothered by the intoxication around the sober area. But we decided inclusion was more important than exclusion, and #Sizzle remains open to all. Now, however, one has to pay $35 admission to celebrate his or her sobriety at #Sizzle.

West Hollywood taxpayers already front about $700,000 to CSW in direct costs and waived fees for this fabulous event (about $100,000 is reimbursed to the city). That works out to almost $20 a head based on Pride attendance estimates.So it just doesn’t seem fair that West Hollywood residents who tolerate the Pride weekend traffic and noise but can’t afford a $35 ticket are shut out of a community festival already heavily supported by the city. What we are getting for our city’s money doesn’t seem like a celebration of our diversity.

Who hijacked our Pride, now nicknamed GayChella, a gay version of Coachella and a seeming replacement for the failed Sunset Music Festival? What happened to that Council subcommittee oversight? And why that VIP section, which looks like Pride’s version of the rich real estate developer’s “poor door” apartment building? I’m furious.

At the rate CSW is going, next year daily ticket prices will be $50, $100 for a weekend pass and $1,000 for VIP admission. Should Christopher Street West be driven by money? Isn’t a 501 c(3) non-profit? And where does this money go? CSW has failed to reveal its financial records from 2014 or 2015. Yet our City Council approved over $600,000 of our taxpayer dollars to support LA Pride. Almost 20 bucks a head!

If the City Council cannot work with LA Pride to include West Hollywood branding in its advertising and promotional materials, and if LA Pride cannot offer West Hollywood residents a preferred ticket price of $10, I want my $20 back!

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eddie
eddie
4 years ago

Hello guy: This pride wasn’t proud because all program did suck, organise did not include good package to start. The line was horrible, even the VIP if that would you call it rferferfema, give you to much issue that ever you can have. I UNDERSTAND the part of safety checking you inn, but over do it all the time not having more worker’s. WE pay the balance your employees. There was bigger issue ID problem from another country not valid there, but are money does (?) Everybody pay the part to be equal right or you telling become drump is… Read more »

Donald
Donald
4 years ago

I am saddened by the comments and the content of this opinion piece. The mindset of such banter is less inclusive and of a 1980s world. It is L.A. Pride hosted by the City of West Hollywood. When I left the military, I started frequenting West Hollywood because I felt safe and accepted. It is now 2016, don’t ask don’t tell is gone, and the law of the land gives me the right to marry my boyfriend; however, after reading this opinion and comments, it’s seems many in West Hollywood want to take a note out of Trump’s campaign and… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
4 years ago
Reply to  Donald

Donald, unfortunately you need to go back re-read the article and all the comments because trans people were being and felt left out, residents felt not heard and many had valuable feedback and comments that rang true where LA Pride came back and made adjustments. Your comments are glossing over what had really transpired and you basically cherry picked what you thought was important. People in our community want things to be open and equal for everyone and they also want things to be affordable for everyone. Pride is for everyone.

Chris Freeman
4 years ago

As a gay musician in LA, I have long lamented the lack of local talent on the mainstage. There seems to be zero support from this faction of our community for openly gay musicians who do not play pop or EDM. Now it feels like an outright exclusion. And the price is unconscionable. Because of this, I’ve partnered with the Viper Room to offer an affordable alternative: 11 bands with members who are gay over two nights, June 10th and 11th for $10 a night ($15 for both nights). If you feel as marginalized as we do, please join us… Read more »

Edward Salm
4 years ago

David Keesey: Many great suggestions! However, remember what is “old, tired and the same floats each year” to you, is not for that kid (or 50 year old) just coming out, who has never seen it before. I still remember my first pride, and the overwhelming awe as our contingent turned on Santa Monica Blvd, with tens of thousands of people cheering its on.

R Crane
R Crane
4 years ago

They want us to pay $35 to be corralled inside a chainlink fence for a “music festival” with a lame lineup and NO COUNTRY PAVILION?! Have fun with that. I’ll hit Long Beach instead.

Manny
Manny
4 years ago

Right on R Speer!

Tony V
Tony V
4 years ago

Sounds like a little dirty business to me… I have no interest in ever attending this or any Pride events. I think they’re ancient events that are no longer relevant or needed in the 21st Century. Half naked people prancing around is not what I would call a sense of pride… it’s the imagery the conservative right loves to use to portray us as depraved and perverted. WeHo can keep its Pride event and all the debauchery that comes with it. #overit #embarrassing

R Speer
R Speer
4 years ago

I never understood why LA pride was always confined to Weho. San Diego, San Francisco, Long Beach all have sprawling festivals that canvass multiple neighborhoods. Why LA crams the festival in that tiny area off San Vicente I will never understand.

David Keesey
David Keesey
4 years ago

I’ve been attending Pride since Hollywood Blvd on Cherokee Blvd. It’s time to let the parade go, it’s old, tired and the same floats each year. Instead of charging money for these organizations to participate in the parade, put that money into a huge GAY PRIDE street carnival in downtown LA, similar to the street fair in Silverlake. If it was on Broadway think about opening some of the old theaters to entertainment. The streets are wider, mass transit is close by with the major subways a blink of an eye away. DTLA is trendy with a nice gay life… Read more »

C.R.
C.R.
4 years ago

So disappointing, this is the first I’m hearing about the cost being $35. That takes it off the list as a possibility of going for me. The cost was already questionable in years past, so any increase is out of the question. I’ll still be there for the parade and to patronize the bars but won’t go to the festival and I know most of my friends won’t either. They have the wrong attitude for the event as others have stated. West Hollywood is a wealthy city and furthering elitism in this type of city event is the wrong direction.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
4 years ago

What’s the point of any of this discussion? Whoever in LA needs to pay to go into a “gay-friendly” space, a closet of our own making? And why “Christopher Street West” where the Black Cat/Harry Hay and other LA gay history scream out for no need of NYC verification? WeHo has commodified homosexuality as a touristic theme/destination with homos all uptight about parking permits and other idiotic issues, except as they affect working class men and women servicing the local and visiting gay population.

Pride
Pride
4 years ago

To Manny’s point – He’s correct, parking permit requirements should not be lifted on (what used to be) Gay Pride weekend.