With LA Pride 2020 six months away, West Hollywood’s City Council unanimously approved expanding the venue’s “footprint” and corresponding road closures during its meeting Monday night. Those closures include a controversial plan to close Santa Monica Boulevard in the Boystown district starting on the Friday morning of Pride weekend.
2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first LA Pride Parade, and Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit that produces LA Pride, hopes to make the Pride festivities bigger and better than ever. Thus, CSW wants the larger footprint and more time to set things up.
Under the plan, Santa Monica Boulevard will be closed between Doheny Drive on the west and La Cienega Boulevard on the east starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 12 and ending at 5 a.m. on Monday, June 15. This portion of Santa Monica Boulevard will be closed to allow for a free “Pride on the Boulevard” section for booths for vendors and non-profit organizations and food trucks.
The Pride Festival, which has several music stages and requires a paid ticket for admission, will happen in West Hollywood Park and the adjacent San Vicente Boulevard, as it has in the past.
“Pride on the Boulevard” actually will take place on Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14 from noon to 7 p.m. each day, but the Friday street closure is needed to allow for set up of the booths. That same section of Santa Monica Boulevard is closed all day each year on Halloween to allow for set up of the yearly Halloween Carnival.
There were similar Friday road closures on Santa Monica Boulevard in 2019, the first year CSW hosted the free Pride on the Boulevard section. However, in 2019, the eastbound lanes of Santa Monica Boulevard were closed at 10 a.m., while the westbound lanes didn’t close until 7 p.m., something that confused many drivers.
The staggered closure on that Friday eased some of the traffic problems, but there were still massive traffic backups since drivers were diverted to Melrose Avenue or Sunset Boulevard. Traffic was especially heavy that Friday with people coming to town for Pride, as well as the normal traffic of people just trying to get home.
The Council understood the reasons for the 10 a.m. closure, but worried that people living in the areas immediately adjacent to Santa Monica Boulevard will be severely impacted by the Friday closures. Councilmember John Duran noted that people living north of Santa Monica Boulevard on residential streets like Larrabee Street, Palm Avenue or Hancock Avenue would only be able to access their streets via Sunset Boulevard or Holloway Drive.
“I’m really worried about the amount of stress we’re putting on the neighborhood with an all-day closure on Friday,” said Duran.
Councilmember Lindsey Horvarth said she had received numerous phone calls from residents on Pride weekend 2019 who were stuck in traffic due to the closures and didn’t know how to get home.
Because Pride on the Boulevard was so well received in 2019, the number of booths will be expanded in 2020. Jeff Consoletti, whose JJ|LA event production company puts together the event each year for CSW, said there were 55 booths in 2019 and they had received about 100 more applications they were not able to accommodate. Thus in 2020, CSW hopes to expand Pride on the Boulevard a few blocks in each direction beyond Robertson Boulevard on the west and Hancock Avenue on the east, the boundaries in 2019.
As was done in 2019, Pride on the Boulevard will use the south side (eastbound lanes) of Santa Monica Boulevard for the vendor booths and food trucks, while the north side (westbound lanes) will be reserved for the Pride Parade to come through on Pride Sunday. That closure on the north side is needed on Pride Friday to allow space for booth set ups and on Pride Saturday to avoid someone walking on the south side accidently stepping into oncoming traffic.
Along with the expanded footprint, CSW hopes to expand the number of community beer garden areas to six. In 2019, there were two beer gardens – in the parking lot of Koontz Hardware and in the parking lot for the Factory on Robertson. CSW is not sure where the additional beer gardens will be located yet. Mayor John D’Amico suggested contacting local businesses to run the beer gardens.
Even though they are being called “beer gardens,” Consoletti said they hoped to dedicate one of them to a family area and one to an alcohol-free sober area.
The Council also approved closing Robertson Boulevard, La Peer Drive and Almont Drive between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard from 10 a.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday, the same hours as the Santa Monica Boulevard closure.
The Council also approved CSW hosting a special area on La Peer Drive, although CSW isn’t sure exactly what it will do with the area yet.
As has traditionally been done, San Vicente Boulevard will be closed to traffic beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday and lasting until 10 a.m. on Monday.
For the Pride Parade on Sunday, June 14, the Council approved closing additional portions of Santa Monica Boulevard – from La Cienega to Fairfax Avenue – from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Similarly, portions of Crescent Heights Boulevard, Laurel Avenue, Hayworth Avenue, Norton Avenue and Holloway Drive near Santa Monica Boulevard will be closed that Sunday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow for parade set up, as always.
The city plans to send out special city-wide mailers advising residents of the road closures.