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Insurance Secured : Gay Parade to Step Off After All

June 19, 1986|STEPHEN BRAUN | Times Staff Writer

Organizers of the West Hollywood-based Gay Pride Parade, notified this week that they had obtained crucial insurance coverage, said Tuesday that they will go ahead with this weekend's festival and parade.

Officers of Christopher Street West, sponsor of the 16-year-old parade, also said they would withdraw a lawsuit against the city of West Hollywood and the state Department of Transportation over their insurance requirements.

Parade officials had feared that the two-day event might be canceled because they could not find an insurance company that would provide the general liability coverage required by the city and Caltrans.

"Everything worked out the way we were hoping it would," said Dave Richards, a Christopher Street West vice president. "From here on, everything is go."

Tracy Jordon, an attorney for the organization, said the group obtained the necessary $500,000 in general liability insurance on Monday from an East coast-based company.

The city had originally required $1 million in insurance and Caltrans $5 million. Christopher Street West filed suit against West Hollywood and Caltrans on June 3, alleging that they were unconstitutionally requiring excessive insurance. The group asked for a preliminary injunction against any insurance requirements.

West Hollywood and Caltrans agreed to drop their insurance requirements to a total of $500,000 after negotiations during the past week. Christopher Street West officers said they were withdrawing the request for an injunction and a scheduled court hearing was canceled.

"We're happy events turned out this way," Jordon said. "We had no animosity against the city or Caltrans, but we had to file in case we couldn't reach an agreement."

West Hollywood City Manager Paul Brotzman, saying he also is pleased with the outcome, added that the city is continuing with preparations for the event.

As of midweek, Christopher Street West was still trying to secure an additional $500,000 in insurance. "It would be nice to have the extra coverage," Jordon said, "But if we don't get it, we can still get by."

The parade, which was first held in Hollywood and then moved to West Hollywood, features gay-oriented floats, marching bands and celebrities. It is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. Sunday and move along Santa Monica Boulevard, the commercial hub of West Hollywood's gay community. The parade has become one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the country, boasting attendance close to 100,000 in recent years.

The two-day festival, a recent addition to the parade, features live music, food and refreshments and gay-oriented booths. It will run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the parking lot of the Pacific Design Center.

Caltrans required insurance because the parade route crosses a median strip it owns on Santa Monica Boulevard. And West Hollywood insisted on insurance for the parade and the festival because city property will be used in both events.

In recent months, at least two other regional gay-pride parades were confronted with insurance problems. In San Diego, the gay-oriented San Diego Land of Pride organization staged a parade June 7, but was forced to cancel its festival because it could not afford liquor liability insurance, which covers organizations that allow drinking during their events.

And the city of Long Beach ordered Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc. to provide $1 million in insurance for its parade. After suing to overturn the order, the gay group won a Superior Court injunction on May 14 and proceeded with its parade.

According to Jordon, several gay parade organizations have begun looking into the idea of forming a self-insurance pool for future events. "We can't keep having these problems year after year," she said. And Christopher Street West Vice President Richards said the group's board would discuss the idea at its August meeting.

Tanya T. Lou, the owner of North City West Insurance Inc., a San Diego firm that represents many California parade and festival groups, said that many of her clients have begun talking about a similar idea.

"Self-coverage is a feasible option," she said. "It would be beneficial for all kinds of parade and festival groups, no matter what their size is."

And, according to Lou, a self-insuring pool could also aid gay-oriented parade and festival groups, which have been long been considered controversial by insurance companies.

"Any time you have a large public gathering for a parade or a festival, insurance costs start to mount up," she said. "And if there's any possibility of controversy or trouble, it becomes even more difficult to insure. A self-insurance option could cut costs."

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