With the 50th anniversary of LA Pride coming in June, West Hollywood’s City Council voted 4-1 on Monday night to spend $3 million on the event, some $1 million more than it spent on LA Pride in 2019.
With the city covering costs for security, traffic control, parking enforcement, and a massive mailing announcing road closures, the $3,012,576 is the largest amount the city has ever spent on LA Pride. In 2019, the city spent $2,088,442.
The increased costs are primarily due to public safety and build-up costs for the expanded “Pride on the Boulevard” portion of the LA Pride festival which will see Santa Monica Boulevard closed from Doheny Drive to La Cienega Boulevard for the entire Pride weekend, which is June 12-14. This free “Pride on the Boulevard” section will be for booths for vendors and non-profit organizations and food trucks.
Last year, for the first time, the LA Pride festival expanded beyond the boundaries of West Hollywood Park and the adjoining San Vicente Boulevard for “Pride on the Boulevard.” With that Pride of the Boulevard section proving wildly successful, this year Pride on the Boulevard will more than triple in size, which accounts significantly for the increased security costs.
The breakdown of the of the $3 million the city will contribute to this year’s Pride is $2.4 million for public safety, $200,000 for traffic control, $30,000 for parking enforcement, $115,000 for rental of the Pacific Design Center courtyard and $200,000 for the Pride on the Boulevard build-up/break-down, toilet rentals and janitorial services. Additionally, the city will spend $30,000 on a citywide mailer informing residents of road closures and events related to Pride.
The $2.4 million public safety cost covers not only sheriff’s department personnel (which accounts for $1.4 million of the cost), but also fire department personnel, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and a medical tent.
Mayor John D’Amico cast the only dissenting vote, saying it felt “uncomfortable” and “a little vulgar” to spend $3 million on the event.
“I’m just not convinced that paying 50% more [this year] is going to make this event 50% better,” said D’Amico.
D’Amico said a slight increase in costs, say 10% more, might be appropriate, but felt 50% was just too high. He said that amounts to almost $100 per WeHo resident, or $40 per Pride attendee, money that could be used for other services.
The other councilmembers were OK with the costs, Councilmember Lauren Meister saying, “Public safety should be our number one concern.”
Councilmember John Duran noted that West Hollywood is a tiny city that hosts one of the largest Pride events in the country, thus the costs are justified.
“The $3 million we’re being asked to contribute is immeasurable in terms of where we position West Hollywood in the communities of Southern California and how we position LGBT people where we are at this current time in our movement,” said Duran.
Councilmember Lindsey Horvath noted the city hires a producer to put on the annual Halloween Carnival with minimal community input and could do the same thing with Pride. However, she said the city and Christopher Street West, the non-profit which puts on LA Pride, actively seek community input which is what makes Pride so special.
“What Pride has is a spirit and a soul and a community connection because of the [community input],” said Horvath.
During the public comment period, residents seemed fine with the increased costs.
Resident Steve Martin said that LA Pride is the most famous event the city hosts and it is imperative the city protect the event, and the city’s reputation, by paying for public safety costs.
Meanwhile, resident Larry Block, who owns the Block Party clothing and gay memorabilia store in Boystown, noted there is “no cost too high for public safety.” He reminded that pedestrian activity in Westwood Village dropped drastically after a 1988 shooting there and said he would hate for something similar to happen in Boystown.
While the Council approved the $3 million amount, it declined to pay $40,000 for certain things including the cost of a transgender brunch, an alternate parking area during Pride for employees of the Metro bus terminal and the costs to dismantle the basketball court area in WeHo Park while LA Pride uses it for the festival grounds.
As Councilmember John Heilman explained, the city should not be involved in things related to the programming of the festival like the trans brunch or paying for an alternative place for Metro employees to park, something Metro should pay for. However, Heilman was fine covering costs the city would normally cover like safety and traffic.
The city’s contribution to LA Pride has been steadily increasing in the past five years. In 2015, the city paid about $500,000. In 2016, that figured increased to about $660,000. However, in 2017, the year the Pride parade was cancelled in favor of the #Resist March, the figure jumped to $1 million. In 2018, the amount was $1.2 million and in 2019, it jumped again to $2 million.