christopher street west, la pride, west hollywood
LA Pride Parade (Photo courtesy of Visit West Hollywood)

The annual L.A. Pride weekend in West Hollywood will be back to normal this year, with the Pride Parade returning after having been replaced last year by a political demonstration known as the “Resist March.”

As in the past, Christopher Street West, the non-profit behind L.A. Pride, will stage a parade along Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, June 10. CSW also will host the annual Pride Festival on June 9 and 10 at West Hollywood Park. Because of construction underway as part of the redevelopment of the park, part of the festival will take place across San Vicente Boulevard at the Pacific Design Center plaza.

This year’s event will be different in there will be no festival performances on Friday night. In 2016, CSW expanded the two-day festival to include Friday nights but lost money on that. Last year the Friday night events featured performances by transgender artists. This year those performances will be integrated into the regular performance lineup for Saturday and Sunday.

The West Hollywood City Council on Monday will review the cost to the city for the event, which is projected to be $1.2 million, a modest increase over the cost of the event last year. That includes funding public safety efforts and a waiver of certain city fees. It also will consider whether to grant requests from CSW to absorb the cost of street sweeping and the removal and replacement of the basketball court at West Hollywood Park. A memo from the city’s Economic Development Department recommends that the Council deny that request.

CSW also has requested additional access in the days leading up to the event to parking in the five-story structure adjacent to the West Hollywood Library. The Economic Development memo recommends denying that request, noting that surrounding businesses, residents and library patrons will need to use it.

CSW also is asking the city to waive the $80,000 annual fee it has had to pay West Hollywood for public safety services, which are estimated to cost $946,500 for this year’s event.

CSW traditionally has not made its finances public, although its IRS 990 tax documents can be obtained from the IRS and on various online sites. However, now CSW is publishing those documents on its website, LAPride.org. The latest document posted is its 2016 fiscal year tax return, which shows that it ended that fiscal year with a loss of $209,000 after beginning the year with $206,000 in the bank.  It’s 2017 tax return has not yet been released.

The 2016 loss was part of a major controversy over the organization’s management in 2016 under board president Chris Classen, who remains its president, and Craig Bowers, a board member who was a partner with Classen in event businesses Lyst and Incluence. Bowers has left the CSSW board but has a contract under which he is paid a commission for money paid by sponsors of the Pride event. In 2016 sponsors, most of whom were major car brands, soft drink companies, alcoholic beverage companies, banks and drug manufacturers, contributed $787,000 to CSW.

The controversy in 2016 stemmed largely from the decision by Classen and Bowers to turn the Pride Festival into a music festival aimed at a young demographic, which some called a “gay Coachella.” CSW also decided to cut back time and space given to the transgender and lesbian communities for the June 2016 festival and to raise on-site ticket prices by 40%.

Those moves sparked demands by some groups to boycott L.A. Pride, In response, CSW backed down somewhat by increasing the time and space available to lesbian and transgender and other groups and providing free entrance to the three-day event during limited hours on Fridays.

CSW’s decision to implement a strict non-disclosure agreement led to the resignation of five of its 15 board members, who objected to being barred from being critical of the organization. In the past year, CSW has added a number of new board members without close ties to Classen and Bowers and has begun a search for a full-time executive director.

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