The leader of a Hollywood group formed to feed and shelter the homeless has accused the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce of being "vague and arbitrary" in rejecting the group's application to have a float in the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade.
Chip-In, a coalition of 40 Hollywood church, service and social agencies, had posted the $3,500 fee and complied with all other application requirements to participate in the Dec. 1 parade, said Rabbi Gilbert Kollin of Temple Beth-El, president of Chip-In.
The application was rejected this month by the Hollywood Parade Committee, which organizes the 3.2-mile procession for its sponsor, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
'Vague, Arbitrary Reasons'
"We were surprised and disappointed with the rejection," Kollin said. "And despite our best efforts to find out why we were rejected, the Chamber of Commerce has not been responsive. We have been given only vague and arbitrary reasons for the rejection.
"I can only conclude that someone in the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce did not want us there because of our efforts to feed and shelter the homeless. Some members of the business community would like us to disappear from the community."
Bill Welsh, president of the Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that some Hollywood business people were unhappy with a meals program organized by Chip-In at the Hollywood Salvation Army offices at 5941 Hollywood Blvd.
But that dissatisfaction, Welsh said, had nothing to do with the rejection of the float.
Welsh said that the float was rejected because Chip-In did not have a national sponsoring agency, such as the Red Cross, or a specific design plan.
"Chip-In simply did not meet the parade's qualifications," Welsh said. "It has happened before, and it will happen again. You will remember that we caused a brouhaha when we rejected participation in the parade by the Hollywood High School band."
The band, which historically led off the parade, was banned two years ago because its membership fell to 40 musicians. The Chamber of Commerce said it would allow the band to re-enter the parade when membership reached 100, a number that has eluded the band since.
But Kollin said the criteria cited by Welsh were not publicized in any parade material given to applicants and that another parade participant--the Crystal Cathedral, an Orange County-based church headed by the Rev. Robert Schuller--does not have a national sponsor.
"That is a local church, with scant, if any, connection to Hollywood," Kollin said. "Our organization is a bona fide Hollywood group--and we cannot get into the parade."
Larry Harman, director of the parade for the past six years, maintained that the Crystal Cathedral is a national organization because Schuller has a nationally televised program.
Harman said that Chip-In was in competition with several applicants for the last float slot in the parade.
"Because the parade is geared to a two-hour television time limit," Harman said, "we had only room for one more float." He said that the parade committee selected a float depicting the "Miss Hollywood Pageant," sponsored by Procter & Gamble Co.
The executive committees of Chip-In and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce have agreed to meet later to discuss areas of "mutual concern," Welsh said.
Kollin said he hopes that his organization will receive the "real reasons" for the rejection and determine the exact nature of Chamber of Commerce complaints against Chip-In's efforts to feed and shelter the community's homeless.
Since March, Kollin said, the organization has been associated with the Salvation Army in feeding 1,500 people a week. Chip-In also is trying to find a site to house the community's homeless.
Welsh said the main complaint he has heard concerns "the long lines in front of the Salvation Army" when meals are being served Monday through Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
"Some business people do not think tourists coming to Hollywood get an appropriate introduction to the community by seeing those lines right after they get off the freeway," Welsh said. "The Salvation Army has a large parking lot away from the street where the lines could be formed."
Moses Reyes, who is in charge of the feeding program for the Salvation Army, said that his organization is preparing a way to move the line off of Hollywood Boulevard.
But he also expressed irritation that the lines of people had become an issue.
"I have encountered people who deny that there is any problem of hungry and homeless people in Hollywood," Reyes said. "It really is very sad, because there is definitely a problem in Hollywood."