San Francisco police have been talking to a San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration official about making Pride a one-day event or shrinking the festivities’ amount of space.
The street closure permits for this year’s events, June 25-26, were unanimously approved this morning (Thursday, March 10) by the city’s eight-member Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation for Temporary Street Closures.
At the meeting, however, police Sergeant Luke Martin raised concerns about problems that occurred at last year’s event. At least one brawl was captured on video.
Martin said Pride will be “a department-wide resource drainer” and possibilities include cutting a day or closing off less space. Those ideas are not being considered for this year, said Martin.
The annual celebration, which draws at least 1 million people to the city, takes place on a Saturday and Sunday and is centered around the city’s Civic Center area.
After the meeting this morning, Martin said problems have included “a lot of intoxicated people” and “several fights.” He also said that calls for ambulances add to the city’s burden.
“A small group can cause a huge problem for the crowd in general,” he said.
He said the police department’s faced with budget crunches and Pride is a “strain on resources.”
Asked what needs to happen to avoid reductions in time or space, Martin said, “As long as we see relatively few issues, that don’t zap the resources we have … I’d say it will probably stay the way it is.”
Martin said the number of police who’ll be assigned to Pride this year isn’t yet known.
Joe Wagenhofer, Pride’s longtime event manager, said after the meeting that reducing the number of days would be a decision for the board of directors and the community. Pride started out as a one-day event more than 40 years ago.
One advantage of including Saturday in Pride events is that “a lot of families and out-of-towners choose to go [then] because it’s not as crowded” as Sunday, he said.
One officer mentioned to Wagenhofer the possibility of merging Pink Saturday with Pride.
Wagenhofer emphasized “that’s coming from the police, not us,” and he noted there are several groups having events on the day before the Pride parade. Aside from Pride and Pink Saturday, which is organized by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, there’s also the Dyke March.
“In the minds of a lot of people, San Francisco Pride does everything that weekend,” said Wagenhofer.
He said reducing Pride’s physical size is “a big concern.”
“Where are all those people going to go?” if the event’s footprint shrinks, he said. Cutting the size would also mean fewer venues, he said.
Waggenhoffer and Martin both indicated the talks haven’t been contentious.
“It never hurts to talk and to brainstorm with them, and we recognize they have budgetary problems,” said Wagenhofer, as is Pride, which is almost $200,000 in debt.
At least some of the people who’ve been waiting for money from Pride this week should be getting payments soon, though.
Pride co-chair Alex Randolph said this week that the organization is sending out checks for approximately $100 to about 32 of its community partners.
Many of those are beverage partners who were upset last year when they got thousands of dollars less than they’d expected. The groups work Pride’s beverage booths in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. About $44,000 remains to be paid to the groups, said Randolph.
Shortly after those payment problems were revealed, Pride Executive Director Amy Andre resigned. The group is hoping to have an interim executive director in place by April 1.