Goodbye LA Pride, West Hollywood wants a new Pride celebration

LA Pride Festival

In 2019, LA Pride officials allowed the festival to exceed capacity, which caused public safety officials to close the event. Photo: Q Voice News.

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood has taken the first step to having a Pride celebration without LA Pride.

Christopher Street West, the nonprofit group that has produced the annual LA Pride celebration since 1979, told the city in a letter last week that it “intended” to find another location for its 2021 event.

The city didn’t seem to bat an eye and said Pride will take place, with or without LA Pride.

“Santa Monica Boulevard and this historic Boystown district will remain the heart and center of Pride month as we always have,” City Councilman John Duran said on Facebook.

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West Hollywood Pride?

During Monday night’s virtual Zoom meeting, the West Hollywood City Council voted 5-0 for the city to host several visioning workshops with residents and businesses in the coming weeks to find out what they want in next year’s Pride celebration.

“Now that (Christopher Street West) is no longer engaged or interested and out of the discussion, we can truly reinvent our Pride experience,” said Councilman John D’Amico, who introduced the agenda item.

A few weeks earlier, D’Amico and Duran had suggested opening bidding to other possible producers for the annual Pride celebration.

After holding the visioning workshops, getting input from various boards and commissions and seeking ideas from area businesses, city staff is expected to return to the council in October with a report about ideas, suggestions for future Pride celebrations.

After the council reviews those ideas, the city is expected to start discussions with potential event producers.

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Leaving West Hollywood?

Christopher Street West officials didn’t speak during Monday’s meeting.

In their July 14 letter, the board of directors said it is “our intention to move the LA Pride Parade and Festival out of West Hollywood in 2021.”

The group said their decision was based on several factors:

  • Construction at West Hollywood Park, the festival’s location, whose footprint has disappeared more than 50%
  • Changing demographics of Greater Los Angeles
  • Commitment to being responsive to the LGBTQIA+ community’s needs
  • Allyship and collaboration with other movements for social change.

Christopher Street West hasn’t said where they intend to move the gigantic event.

Apart from finding a space large enough to accommodate the celebration, Christopher Street West will need to figure out how to pay for it. Since 2015, West Hollywood spent several million dollars on LA Pride, most of it for subsidized security, public safety and permits. The city had projected it would spend $3 million this year, but all large scale events were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The 2019 Pride celebration generated an estimated $2.5 million in tax revenue generated in Los Angeles County, including $896,100 in West Hollywood and $332,800 in Los Angeles, according to an economic impact study Christopher Street West commissioned from Beacon Economics.

West Hollywood bars and restaurants also see increased business during Pride week.

Troubled history

Christopher Street West’ apparent departure from West Hollywood follows a troubled history for the group, LA Pride, and the city.

In 2016, critics said LA Pride had mutated into a corporate “gay Coachella,” excluding many groups in the LGBTQ community.

Two years later, LA Pride officials allowed attendance to exceed capacity, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department closed the festival entrance early on Saturday night, which left thousands of people angry. On Sunday afternoon, organizers stopped allowing people into the festival.

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Later, Christopher Street West withdrew from the march.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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