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Gay Pride Fest Finds Space in W. Hollywood, Drops L.A. Site

March 19, 1987|STEPHEN BRAUN | Times Staff Writer

Organizers of West Hollywood's annual Gay Pride celebration have abandoned plans to hold the event's two-day festival in Los Angeles and now intend to return it to West Hollywood.

Officials of Christopher Street West, the parade's organizing group, said earlier this year that logistical troubles would force them to move the festival out of West Hollywood. The group began negotiating with county officials in January for rights to use Pan Pacific Park in the Wilshire District.

But confronted with a new problem--a mile-long commute between the Gay Pride parade in West Hollywood and the planned festival site--Christopher Street West officials took another look at sites available in West Hollywood and decided to hold the festival in West Hollywood Park, on the city's west side.

"We discovered that West Hollywood Park had more space than we had originally expected," said Bob Craig, president of Christopher Street West. "Once we realized that, there were no more second thoughts. West Hollywood is where we wanted to be all along."

City officials, too, said they were delighted to again serve as hosts for both the Gay Pride parade and the festival. "We're real pleased," said Lloyd Long, West Hollywood's director of human services. "There are still details to work out, but we think we can make it work."

The parade organization has sponsored the Gay Pride event for 17 years. Last year, an estimated 150,000 people gathered along the parade route and 80,000 attended the festival, which features live music, food and refreshments and booths with gay-oriented themes.

The parade was first held in Hollywood but was later moved to West Hollywood, which had become the center of gay life in Los Angeles, because of complaints of tension between Los Angeles police and parade visitors.

The parade has become a June ritual along Santa Monica Boulevard, the commercial hub of West Hollywood. But the festival has been less secure at its site in the parking lot of the Pacific Design Center at Melrose Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard.

Last year, the design center began building several massive new structures that won't be finished until at least 1988, making the parking lot unavailable to the Gay Pride festival.

Christopher Street West officials turned to the county after initially determining that no other site in West Hollywood was large enough to accommodate the festival. "The design center provided us with about 275,000 square feet of useable space," Craig said. "At that point, it appeared that West Hollywood Park was not even going to provide us with that much space."

But after several discussions with county officials about the use of Pan Pacific Park, Craig and other Christopher Street West members encountered new problems.

Parade organizers had to devise a way to move masses of Gay Pride visitors from the parade location along Santa Monica Boulevard to Pan Pacific Park, more than a mile away. "We discussed some kind of shuttle, but it just seemed impractical," Craig said.

The park's location posed another problem. "We would have been hosting the event outside of our own community," Craig said. "The county Parks and Recreation Department had concerns that there would be dozens of cars clogging all the side streets near the park."

In February, the group gave West Hollywood another chance, surveying the space available in West Hollywood Park. Christopher Street West officials found it contained more than 400,000 square feet, nearly one-third more than the Pacific Design Center parking lot.

"It is perfect for our needs," Craig said. "Assuming that it works out satisfactorily with the city, we would hope to use the park as our permanent site."

Human Services Director Long said several details must be worked out. The park is being landscaped, and city officials want to be certain parade organizers take responsibility for any damage done to park land or facilities.

The City Council still needs to give the parade group final approval, but both Long and Christopher Street West officials expect it to be granted. "The Gay Pride events have been very good to this community," Long said. "It brings a lot of people in and it helps our businesses. We're anxious to work with them again."

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