West Hollywood’s City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to pay almost $1 million in security costs for this year’s L.A. Pride festival and the accompanying Resist March.
“Freedom costs a lot,” said Councilmember John D’Amico. “It does cost $1 million for what we are about to embark on. There’s no other choice, we want to do this march. We are a city that believes in exactly what this march and this festival and Christopher Street West represents. We want to do it. Since we want to do it, we need to pay the cost of doing it, the cost that we would pay which is public safety.”
The Resist March will replace the June 11 L.A. Pride parade, which would have been in its 47th year. This year’s L.A. Pride festival will continue, on June 10 and 11, in West Hollywood Park. A free transgender event will take place in the park on June 9, while the separate Dyke March also will happen that day, leaving from the Sal Guarriello Veteran’s fountain on Santa Monica Boulevard at Holloway Street.
Resist Marches are scheduled in U.S. cities nationwide for June 11, similar to the giant Women’s Marches that took place in dozens of cities across America on Jan. 21. The Resist March will start at 8 a.m., stepping off from Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Los Angeles because 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 La Peer Drive, a few blocks west of the entrance to the pride festival on San Vicente Boulevard. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people are expected to participate in the march.
Between the expanded route of the march (the parade normally just goes down Santa Monica Boulevard from Crescent Heights Boulevard to San Vicente Boulevard) and tightened security following worldwide terrorist threats and last year’s massacre at Orlando’s Pulse LGBT nightclub, public safety costs have skyrocketed.
A report shows the city spent $445,000 in 2015 for public safety-related costs, including the sheriff, fire and medical personnel as well as traffic control at the Pride festival and along the parade route. That figure increased to $659,000 in 2016, but is expected to be $989,000 in 2017.
“I think that it’s worth it for us to invest to insure that Pride stays here, particularly in a public safety component,” said Councilmember Lindsey Horvath. “Last year alone, the city spent almost twice as much on Halloween as it did on Pride. I think that Pride is really key to our community and who we are.”
D’Amico added, “This is really about who we are and for anyone who reads the news and even those who don’t, you can hear every day ways in which we are being attacked and the things we must resist. Even if we are only preaching to the choir, sometimes the choir needs to be preached to as well.”
West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Captain Sergio Aloma told the council he and his staff are working with the Los Angeles Police Department to coordinate security and that the City of Los Angeles is covering security costs for the Los Angeles portion of the Resist March.
In years past, the city has required Christopher Street (CSW), the nonprofit which puts on the annual L.A. Pride festival, to pay $80,000 of the security costs. However, the Council agreed last night to consider waiving that $80,000 fee if CSW provides a detailed report about its finances, something many community members have been demanding for months.
CSW lost $396,000 on last year’s Pride events and still owes the City of West Hollywood $58,000. However, the Council also agreed to discuss waiving that $58,000 sometime this summer, after the Pride festival is over. Additionally, the council agreed to a three-year deal with CSW to keep the Pride festival in West Hollywood.
The city is requiring CSW in increase the insurance coverage it carries for the Pride festival from $5 million in 2016 to $10 million this year. Chris Classen, CSW board president, reported last year that CSW paid $55,000 for insurance and expect that figure to rise 35 to 40% this year.
Classen told the council that CSW paid approximately $100,000 for airport-style metal detectors to screen people entering the Pride festival last year and expects to pay that much this year.
This year’s Pride festival will be downsized due to the three-year construction project that began in January, which has closed off a significant portion of West Hollywood Park. As a result, CSW is losing almost 70% of the “footprint” it had available in 2016. This year, only West Hollywood Park’s great lawn and the auditorium, plus San Vicente Boulevard between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, are available for the Pride festival.
The city has arranged for the Pride festival to use the courtyard at the adjacent Pacific Design Center (PDC) this year. The city’s arrangement covers the cost of rent on the PDC courtyard, but CSW will have to pay the $35,000-$40,000 cost for “decking” (covering) the giant water fountain in the PDC courtyard.
Brian Pendleton, a CSW board member and head of the Resist March, told the Council that CSW plans to set up a giant stage on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Peer Drive. Video screens will be set up all along Santa Monica Boulevard from La Peer to La Cienega Boulevard so that march participants can hear speeches. Classen said they will also have video screens set up inside the festival grounds.
Classen told the council the Resist March is a good idea since it allows more people to participate rather than just observe a parade from the sidewalks.
“It’s really a time that people can come out and show the world how colorful we are as a community and not just watch from the sidewalk, but to really participate and make it your own,” Classen said.
Pendleton added that everyone is invited to participate in the march, which will represent not just LGBT rights, but women’s rights, minority rights and immigrants’ rights.
A breakdown of the $989,000 the city will pay in security costs includes $600,000 to the sheriff’s department ($200,000 for the festival, $400,000 for the march), $224,000 to the fire department ($160,000 for festival, $64,000 for march), $100,000 for traffic control ($18,000 for festival, $82,000 for march) and $65,000 for the medical tent at the festival.
The city also will incur an additional $75,000 in other expenses including the annual mayor’s reception ($10,000), the free transgender event on Friday on the festival grounds ($15,000), a citywide mailer about the festival and march and One City One Pride related events ($20,000), and park/facilities costs ($30,000). Additionally, the city will waive $225,000 in fees related to use of the park and loss of revenue.
CSW also has agreed to promote the city’s many One City One Pride events happening throughout June on the L.A. Pride website.