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LA’s LGBTQ community loses iconic storefront business

After 37 years the Circus of Books shop on Santa Monica Boulevard closes

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Circus of Book was located on Santa Monica Boulevard at the corner of La Jolla in West Hollywood. (Photo from Facebook)

A legacy LGBTQ business that for over three decades was a pilgrimage site for aficionados of homoerotic magazines, books, and video- which also included scarce and sought out vintage titles, is closing its doors Saturday, February 9, forever.

Circus of Books (originally knows as Book Circus), located at 8230 Santa Monica Blvd. at the corner of North La Jolla Avenue in West Hollywood, was a beloved institution offering gay and straight porn magazines as well as adult sexual toys during a time those publications were the primary medium for distributing queer sexual imagery as well as being of dubious legality. The shop also sold international newspapers and classic literary titles.

As was the case with nearly all of the LGBTQ bookstores across the United States, many of which have closed over the past 15 years, the shop was also a community mainstay, a refuge, a haven, a safe place for the community members to come together, meet, chat, peruse publications that offered a perspective on the sexual lives of adult LGBTQ people, but more so, the shop offered them a brief sanctuary from homophobia.

In a piece published Friday, February 8, the Los Angeles Times noted;

“Over the years, Circus of Books has survived an FBI raid, federal obscenity charges and complaints from law enforcement who said the store attracted prostitution and other criminal elements. It remained open during the AIDS crisis, when numerous employees died. But it could not survive Amazon.”

Even into the early 1990s, the shop faced prosecution for filling mail orders from jurisdictions outside of California where “prevailing community standards” put sellers of sexually explicit magazines and videos into legal jeopardy.

Circus of Books owners, Karen and Barry Mason, told the LA Times that “they never planned to sell porn for long. They were just really good at it.”

Circus of Books owners, Barry and Karen Mason. (Facebook)

“I always assumed that we would end up doing something else,” Karen told the Times. “We don’t know anything, really.”

There were instances where the Masons found themselves being criminally charged. Not even ten years into being in business, in the early 1990s the Times reported, an employee shipped several gay and straight pornographic VHS tapes — including “Licorice Twists,” “Latex Slaves Discipline” and “The Best of Bruce Seven, Vol. 1” — to a customer in Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County.

But it was a Federal criminal sting. The Masons were indicted on federal charges of interstate transportation of obscene materials, and the FBI raided their warehouse, carrying guns.

After years of litigation, the couple avoided jail time by agreeing to a pretrial diversion program and a $20,000 fine. For about a year, Barry had to report to federal court once a month to show he was still working and not committing any crimes. Federal investigators, he said, later mailed back the tapes they’d taken as evidence.

In an era of Amazon and internet retailing, the shop, like many other ‘Mom & Pop’ businesses have ended up closing, unable to compete; “A lot of people are sorry to see it go, grateful its been there all this time,” Karen said. “And as we’re closing, people are saying, ‘You know, this store saved my life.’ “
The fate of the Spanish-style building where the store has operated, built in 1928 and remodeled in 1934, is unknown at this time.

Reporting contributed by the Los Angeles Times & the Staff of the Los Angeles Blade.

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West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

WeHo Pride Parade & Pride Weekend, Draft Housing Element Report, West Hollywood Park Update, & Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood has announced that it will recognize Janelle Monáe as Grand Marshall Icon and JoJo Siwa as Next Gen Icon during the upcoming #WeHoPride Weekend Pride Parade on Sunday, June 5, 2022.

The free WeHo Pride Parade will step off at noon on Santa Monica Boulevard starting at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard and will head west into the heart of the City’s Rainbow District to N. Robertson Boulevard.

“The City of West Hollywood is thrilled to be producing #WeHoPride for our community this year,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, “and our amazing icons – Janelle Monáe and JoJo Siwa – truly reflect the core values of our city. Pride celebrations have always been more than festivals or parades. Pride events give the diverse LGBTQ community a place to advocate for equality as well as a place to celebrate exactly who they are – exactly who they were meant to be. As our icons join parade contingents rolling down Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, West Hollywood will give #WeHoPride Parade participants and spectators from around the world a safe space and a loving, accepting home. At this moment in history, with women’s rights and LGBTQ rights under attack, our icons stand as proud, outspoken beacons of light and hope for a better tomorrow. West Hollywood has been the home of the largest Pride celebration in Southern California for nearly four decades. We’re looking forward to continuing that tradition this year for WeHo Pride. I can’t wait for our city to be filled with all the colors of Pride as we welcome the global community to our historic Rainbow District, filled with LGBTQ bars, clubs, restaurants, and retail shops. Come celebrate Pride with us in West Hollywood! Pride starts here!”

 This year, Janelle Monáe will be honored as the Grand Marshal Icon for the inaugural WeHo Pride Parade for continuing to inspire the world with her incredible artistry and advocacy. Monáe is a renowned American singer, songwriter, producer, rapper, author and actor. She has become an icon for queer people of color by illuminating the community’s most important conversations about identity and being true to who you are.

She has received numerous award nominations and has won multiple awards for her music, including eight Grammy nominations. Monáe made her theatrical film debut in two high-profile productions: Hidden Figures and Moonlight. In 2019, Monáe won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist. In April 2022, Monáe published her book, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories from Dirty Computer, which became a New York Times bestseller. She will soon star as icon Josephine Baker in De La Resistance, which is also produced under her Wondaland banner.

In addition, Monáe recently wrapped production for Netflix’s Knives Out 2, headlined the dramatic thriller Antebellum, and starred in the second season of Amazon’s critically acclaimed series Homecoming.

Along with her film and television work, Monáe officially launched her non-profit, Fem the Future, which provides young women and girls the resources and support they need to overcome the challenges associated with upbringings in under-resourced communities of color. Fem the Future aims to expand their world of opportunities by supporting and creating after-school and summer enrichment activities that increase exposure and access to a variety of careers. 

JoJo Siwa will also be joining the parade as WeHo Pride’s Next Gen Icon. Siwa is a global superstar, entrepreneur, singer, television and film star, New York Times bestselling author and social media sensation. In 2021, Siwa came out as gay to her millions of fans on social media and inspired a generation of young LGBTQ+ community members and their allies.

Siwa has more than 66 million followers on social media and more than 3.7 billion views on YouTube. In 2020, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She has bridged a fan following across a broad demographic by promising and delivering on her messaging of “positivity, self love, inclusivity and acceptance.”

Siwa’s newest TV venture finds her on the judges panel for Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance. ​​Facebook Watch will be following alongside JoJo at WeHo Pride as part of its docuseries-format JoJo Goes which will premiere on Facebook Watch this summer and will be available on Watch Together via Messenger and Instagram video calls.

On June 14, 2022, Siwa will be hosting P&G and iHeartMedia’s Can’t Cancel Pride, a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community celebrating visibility and inclusivity for all.

The City is reminding community members about events surrounding the upcoming #WeHoPride season and is providing regularly updated information about WeHo Pride 2022 programming as it becomes available:

  • WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, June 3, 2022, Saturday, June 4, 2022, and Sunday, June 5, 2022 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard and will include will include a free WeHo Pride Street Fair representing a diverse array of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.
  • The annual Dyke March and the Women’s Freedom Festival will take place beginning on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 5 p.m. The Dyke March will feature the presentation of the Melissa Etheridge and Community Activist awards, a poetry reading, sign-making and supplies, speakers, a DJ, and the Dykes on Bikes contingent. The Dyke March will step off and return to the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica Boulevards. The Women’s Freedom Festival will take place immediately following the Dyke March at the #WeHoPride Street Fair stage on Robertson Boulevard and will feature emerging LGBTQ and BIPOC women and non-binary musicians, comedians, poets, and activists.
  • WeHo Pride Weekend will feature OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, the award-winning three-day LGBTQ concert series produced by JJLA at West Hollywood Park. Headliners, artist lineup, and ticket information are available by visiting https://weareoutloud.com
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Pride Parade will step-off at noon at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, 2022 and will make its way west along Santa Monica Boulevard to the City’s Rainbow District.
  • WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival began on Sunday, May 22, 2022 (Harvey Milk Day) and continues for 40 days, closing out the Festival on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Events will be live at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood and will also feature selected online programming. The theme for 2022 is With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion, and Progress For All. The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, and community partners. A full calendar of events is available online.

Updated details about WeHo Pride Weekend are posted as they become available at www.weho.org/pride.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California, as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level.

The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource Guide available on the City’s website, which provides information about a variety of resources including legal, health, and social services, available in the Greater Los Angeles area to enhance and improve the well-being of transgender people.

For more information about WeHo Pride, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Events Services Division at [email protected]. For more information about the WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator Mike Che at (323) 848-6377 or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Draft Housing Element Report is now available for public review and community input

After extensive community engagement and public hearings to gather information about community needs, values, and priorities, the City of West Hollywood’s draft Housing Element Report for 2021 to 2029 is available for public review until June 6, 2022, as required by state law.

The Housing Element serves as a policy guide that provides an indication of housing needs in the community – in particular, the availability, affordability, and adequacy of housing.

The City of West Hollywood encourages community members to take part in the process of reviewing the draft Housing Element Report and providing comments and input. The forthcoming Housing Element is for the period of 2021 to 2029 and it will assist the City in completing its housing policy framework for the future to address vital housing needs in the community. 

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will review the draft after the public review period is complete and will provide comments to ensure that the Housing Element meets all State requirements. Should HCD have additional comments, staff will amend the Plan as necessary.

Additional changes will be made to future drafts based on City Council requests for policies that create additional affordable housing in the City, and changes to the site inventory, which provides a conceptual plan for where housing could be built over the next eight (8) years.

The community will be able to weigh in as future drafts are published for public review. Once HCD approves the plan, the West Hollywood City Council will then adopt the plan as a part of the City’s General Plan. Additionally, the City will continue to study the environmental impacts of the Plan and will certify an Environmental Impact Report upon adoption of the Plan. 

The Housing Element is required by the State of California to be included in the City of West Hollywood’s General Plan and it must be updated every eight years to demonstrate that the housing needs of all community members can be met regardless of income. The purpose of the Housing Element is to achieve an adequate supply of safe and affordable housing. It assesses housing needs for a variety of income groups and lays out a program to meet those needs as part of a strategy for addressing housing needs across the economic and social spectrum.

The draft Housing Element Report for 2021 to 2029 is available for viewing at www.weho.org/housingelement

For more information or to submit written feedback, please contact Rachel Dimond, City of West Hollywood Senior Planner, at [email protected] or by postal mail to West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood May 2022 West Hollywood Park Update

The City of West Hollywood is working to open the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC) at West Hollywood Park in the coming weeks. Public access to the ARC will be accomplished in a phased approach to protect the safety and welfare of the public and users of the facility.

Despite the finished appearance of the building, final items are being completed and City staff has just begun to occupy the ARC at West Hollywood Park under a temporary occupancy permit. Currently, staff are training and certifying fire-life-safety systems for the pools and equipment in the building, and staff are beginning to move into office space and test and familiarize themselves with operations of the site.

The City anticipates receiving approval to allow limited public access soon and will begin a phased roll-out approach in June 2022. All maintenance, operations, and recreation staff, including lifeguards, must be fully trained in site operations and pools prior to public access.

The children’s playground remains closed at West Hollywood Park. Deficiencies in installation were identified after a state-mandated Playground Safety Audit and site inspections were conducted. The City has commenced repair work under guidance of the playground manufacturer and its installation contractor. The City anticipates this work to take a few weeks for completion. The playground repair work is being expedited to the best of the City’s ability. The City is aware this is especially frustrating and is working to open the playground for community use as soon as possible. In the interim, the City operates two (2) playgrounds at other locations: Kings Road Park (1000 N. Kings Road) and Plummer Park (7377 Santa Monica Boulevard). The playground at Plummer Park is the largest playground operated by the City of West Hollywood.

The City recently reopened a large portion of the park-site at West Hollywood Park. This area was previously closed for completion of the West Hollywood Park Phase II Master Plan Implementation Project, which includes the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC) building and park construction work. 

West Hollywood Park open areas currently include:

  • Adult Fitness Equipment: Open to the public. 
  • El Tovar Place: Open to the public. El Tovar Place provides east to west access through West Hollywood Park between N. San Vicente Boulevard and N. Robertson Boulevard including access to the parking structures.
  • Expanded Turf Areas: Open to the public. There is access from N. San Vicente Boulevard, N. Robertson Boulevard, El Tovar Place, and from the third level of the West Hollywood Park Five-Story Parking Structure located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.
  • New Public Art: Open to the public. Parallel Perpendicular by artist Phillip K. Smith III is located in the Robertson Gardens area. 
  • Robertson Gardens: Open to the public. There are picnic tables and an expanded turf area for passive recreation activities.
  • West Hollywood Library Parking Structure: Open to the public. Open hours align with the West Hollywood Library’s operating hours.
  • West Hollywood Park restrooms adjacent to the City’s Small Dog Park: Open to the public.

For park updates, subscribe to the City’s West Hollywood Park Master Plan Phase II e-notifications list to receive updates.

For more information, please contact Erin Hamant, City of West Hollywood Senior Administrative Analyst, at [email protected] or (323) 848-6859.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Co-Presents Two-Day Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium 

The City of West Hollywood co-presents an upcoming two-day Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium. This symposium is the first of its kind to center the science and voices of LGBTQ+ people on cancer care, community engagement, and policies that influence health disparities. Cedars-Sinai Cancer recognizes that by examining the intersection of sexual orientation, gender, and cancer, it can better prevent, detect, and cure cancer.

The LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium will take place on Thursday, June 2, 2022, and Friday, June 3, 2022, at Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, located at 8555 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Oncologists, oncologic surgeons, epidemiologists, health equity researchers, health outcomes researchers, policy makers, community organizers, and thought leaders in this space are encouraged to register and attend.

The Symposium will feature, as Keynote Speaker, Karen L. Parker, Ph.D., MSW, Director of the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office at the National Institutes of Health. Symposium Co-Chairs are B.J. Rimel, M.D., Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai, and Zul Surani Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Cedars-Sinai Cancer.

For registration information, a full schedule, and details about conference faculty and more, please visit the Cedars-Sinai website.For more information about this event, please contact Andi Lovano, the City of West Hollywood’s Community & Legislative Affairs Manager, at (323) 848-6333 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

The City of West Hollywood’s first annual Pet Week, City also to Re-Open Applications for Guaranteed Income Pilot Project Testing

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is pawsitively pumped to host its inaugural Pet Week. Pet Week is an initiative to highlight animal companions and celebrate the joy they bring into our lives.

“I am so excited for the City of West Hollywood’s first annual Pet Week, featuring pet-friendly businesses and pet-centered events, like World Dog Day,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “Pet Week is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation and love for our companion animals. My dogs, Suki and Sammy, approve!”

“West Hollywood is one of the most pet friendly cities in America,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne. “Many of our residents have beloved animal companions. I am so delighted to have brought forward the initiative with Mayor Meister to create Pet Week dedicated to our beloved companions, which includes an entire day dedicated to felines. My hope is that we as a community learn more about how to care for our companions, celebrate them, and make West Hollywood a destination for visitors who have pets as well.”

As part of the Pet Week celebration, the City’s Recreation Services Division will be highlighting community members’ pets on social media. To join the paw-ty, submit a pet picture and description to [email protected], including a fun fact about them and what they mean to you! Pets of all species, shapes, and sizes are welcome to participate. One day will be designated as “Feline Day” to specifically highlight our feline friends! Follow along @wehorec on Instagram and @westhollywoodrec on Facebook. 

As part of Pet Week, the City will be hosting a virtual Pet Week Panel Discussion focused on holistic veterinary care and alternative remedies featuring Dr. Heather Oxford, DVM, MPH, CCRT, CVA and Dr. Lindsey Wendt, DVM, CVA, CVFT on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Register at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QWBpx4GgRj-Zw0NyiyCiTQ.

Dr. Oxford is an acupuncture and rehabilitation veterinarian focused on mobile integrative holistic veterinary medicine to improve health, optimize performance, and accelerate healing for small animals. Dr. Wendt is the owner and creator of Crystal Lotus Veterinary Care, which focuses on providing individually focused holistic health care to pets in the comfort of their homes.

Dr. Oxford and Dr. Wendt will be in conversation with City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister and Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne where they will discuss several topics, including health and wellness of pets; and holistic care and alternative remedies such as acupuncture, laser therapy, food therapy, integrative medicine, and dealing with separation distress and anxiety. 

The City of West Hollywood is also excited to co-sponsor The Vanderpump Dog Foundation’s 6th annual World Dog Day on Saturday, May 28, 2022 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

“Ruff ruff. Ruff-ruff ruff ruff ruff-ruff Saturday May 28, West Hollywood Park, ruff ruff woof-woof ruff ruff,” interpreted Councilmember John D’Amico. “Meow? Grrrrrr. Ruff ruff ruff.”

World Dog Day brings together hundreds of people and their furry friends to celebrate dogs for a day of fun and entertainment and takes place during the City of West Hollywood’s first ever Pet Week. Admission is free and open to the public; canine companions must attend on a leash. All activities will be outside and socially distanced; masks will be encouraged.

Started in 2016, this family-friendly event will include live performances and DJs; an Adoption Area with adoptable rescue dogs; an Animal Education area; a dog water park; a doggy fashion show featuring past Adopted Rescue Dogs and celebrity judges; a doggy pie eating contest; an amazing raffle with incredible prizes; dozens of exhibitors featuring pet-friendly products and services; plus an array of food trucks for all to enjoy – even celebrity guests!

World Dog Day will be a memorable day of celebrating dogs while raising awareness about global dog abuse, including the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. The Vanderpump Dog Foundation has rescued and adopted more than 2,300 dogs to their forever homes domestically, and hundreds more internationally. For additional information about World Dog Day, please visit www.vanderpumpdogs.org/world-dog-day.  

The City of West Hollywood invites canine members of the community and their humans to sniff out a spot and romp around at the City’s two dog parks at West Hollywood Park. A small dog park and large dog park are located on each side of the park’s basketball courts and each area features expanses of open space with shade trees, small mounds and turf terraces, and water stations. In addition, the City operates the William S. Hart Park and Off-Leash Dog Park located at 8341 De Longpre Avenue.

The City of West Hollywood is often recognized as one of the most animal-friendly cities in the nation and has a long history of supporting measures that promote the protection of animal rights and animal welfare. In April 2003, the City became the first municipality in the nation to prohibit cat declawing. In February 2010, the City passed an Ordinance to address the inhumane conditions endured by “puppy mill” animals by prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in companion animal stores. In September 2013, the City’s Fur Ordinance went into effect, which prohibits retail establishments from selling, trading, distributing, importing, or exporting any fur product.

For more information about upcoming dog events in the City of West Hollywood, please call (323) 848-6460. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood to Re-Open Applications for Guaranteed Income Pilot Project Testing the Impact of Cash Payments on the Financial Stability of Older Adults on June 17

The City of West Hollywood, in collaboration with nonprofit partner, National Council of Jewish Women/LA, will re-open applications for the pilot project for guaranteed income aimed at evaluating the impact of cash payments on the financial stability and quality of life of older adults. Guaranteed income is a direct and regular cash payment – no strings attached – provided to a specific group of people for a designated time.

In January 2021, the West Hollywood City Council approved an item for the City of West Hollywood to join the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) network and directed staff to develop a guaranteed income pilot program for West Hollywood, including identification of research, funding, community implementation, and evaluation partners.

There are numerous cities, counties, and private guaranteed income pilots happening throughout the nation. Guaranteed income pilots are a way to test the impact of cash payments, while also providing a service to help financially stabilize community members and learn information to help create future, evidence-based policies and programs.

Beginning June 1, 2022, community members may access www.ncjwla.org/whpgi to learn more. The application will open on the website beginning Friday, June 17, 2022, and will close on Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Applicants Must Reside in City of West Hollywood and: Must be 50 Years or Older; and Must Meet Criteria for Individual Yearly Income of $41,400 or Less

Community members who are interested in applying for the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income must reside in the City of West Hollywood, be 50 years or older, and have an individual income of $41,400 or less. The program will be facilitated by the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles. People who need assistance applying may call (323) 852-8500, ext. 650, or may send an email message to [email protected].

A total of 25 qualifying participants will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants to receive unconditional monthly $1,000 payments from September 2022 through February 2024. 

The move to re-open applications for the pilot project for guaranteed income follows a shift in March 2022 when the City became aware that the pilot, because it was created and supported by a government entity, was susceptible to legal challenges due to the inclusion of LGBTQIA criteria as an eligibility requirement to participate.

The City, with the help of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and the Center for Guaranteed Income at the University of Pennsylvania (CGIR) had originally developed a data-driven guaranteed income pilot that was set to launch in April 2022 and would have been the first LGBTQIA-focused pilot and the first older adult-focused pilot in the nation.

Protecting the rights of LGBTQ community members has been a long-standing mission of the City, and the City has worked tirelessly to identify and address inequities. For years, the City – along with LGBTQ advocates nationwide – has fought for equal civil rights, including the right to marry, the ability to obtain access to spousal protections and benefits including healthcare and pensions, and efforts to reduce/eliminate discrimination in housing and employment.

These hard-earned rights and protections come with other legal consequences as well. Although the City could engage in a legal battle over the contested eligibility requirement, the implications of litigating such a challenge had to be considered. Having LGBTQIA identification as an eligibility requirement for the pilot could potentially violate the California Constitution as sexual orientation is a protected suspect class in the state.

Therefore, the City Attorney, City staff, and pilot partners recommended that the City Council of the City of West Hollywood revise the pilot to include three of the four original criteria (residency, age, and income level) in order to satisfy the legal obligations, protect potential participants, and move forward with a program that serves community members in need of financial support and stability. All applicants from the first iteration of the pilot will be automatically entered into the pool of applicants for the revised pilot.

The City of West Hollywood seeks to test the emerging promise of guaranteed income to help prevent homelessness, support community members as they age in place, and to reduce the stressors of poverty and financial insecurity.  In addition, the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income seeks to examine impact in the following areas: 

  • Quantitative data to evaluate the collective impact of guaranteed income on different populations;
  • Capture unique qualitative narrative information to provide greater understanding into the income challenges faced by older adults in West Hollywood and inform the creation of evidence-based policies and programs to better support the health and well-being of older adults; and
  • Test the concept of guaranteed income to evaluate whether to expand the initial pilot or create new/additional pilots in the City.

The City will engage two nonprofit partners in the pilot. The first is the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at University of Pennsylvania as the research and evaluation partner responsible for creating and administering the research instruments, conducting the randomized selection of eligible applicants to participate in the pilot, collecting/processing/analyzing the data, and providing a report on the findings. 

The City’s second partner in the pilot is the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles (NCJW|LA) as the nonprofit administrator implementing the pilot. NCJW was selected for its knowledge, experience, and understanding of the nuances of guaranteed income. NCJW will be responsible for conducting outreach to the community about the pilot, assisting community members to complete applications, verifying that West Hollywood residency and other pilot criteria are met to ensure the eligibility of each applicant, submitting the completed and verified applications to CGIR for the randomized selection of participants, and notifying the participants selected by CGIR.

25 Randomly Selected Participants will be Chosen from a Pool of Eligible Applicants to Receive 18 Unconditional Monthly $1,000 Payments

They will also conduct onboarding and provide individualized benefits counseling for each participant, manage a storytelling cohort and storytelling activities that complement the research component of the pilot and provide the participants an opportunity to share their experiences in their own voices. In addition, the nonprofit administrator will subcontract and coordinate services with a nonprofit financial distributor (utilizing debit card services) to ensure that funds are distributed to participants in a timely, predictable, and seamless fashion.

Additional information about research and evaluation, as well as pilot partners and pilot funding is available in the May 2022 City Council staff report at https://weho.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=1357&meta_id=228362.

For more information, please contact Diane Kahn-Epstein, the City of West Hollywood’s Strategic Initiatives Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6548 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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City of West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ Arts Festival 2022 kicks-off

Festival Kicks Off on Sunday, May 22 with a Harvey Milk Day Virtual Staged Reading of ‘Dear Harvey’ Featuring an All Trans & Non-Binary Cast

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Our Pride, a mural by artist LaToya D. Peoples (Photo credit: Jon Viscott)

WEST HOLLYWOOD, – Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community with its WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival).

The festival runs for 40 days, from Harvey Milk Day on Sunday, May 22, 2022 through Thursday, June 30, 2022, which marks the end of Pride month. This year, some events will be presented in-person and others will be available online.

Note that for all all programming details please visit this link: pride.weho.org

The LGBTQ Arts Festival is presented in addition to WeHo Pride Weekend from Friday, June 3, 2022 through Sunday, June 5, 2022 and will include a Street Fair, the Dyke March, the Women’s Freedom Festival, the ticketed OUTLOUD Raising Voices Music Festival, and the WeHo Pride Parade.

For decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation. All #WeHoPride weekend programming details: www.weho.org/pride.

“The City of West Hollywood is thrilled to be producing the LGBTQ Arts Festival and #WeHoPride for our community again this year,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister.

“The City has a long-standing and proud commitment to both the arts and the LGBTQ community, and what better way to meld those commitments than with the #WeHoPride LGBTQ Arts Festival? Join the City online and in-person for art exhibits, thought-provoking panel discussions, entertaining performances, invigorating creative writing, educational self-guided walking tours, and even our very own queer ComicCon, where cosplay is encouraged and celebrated. Pride starts right here in West Hollywood and I’m looking forward to seeing you all in-person and virtually!”

The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival theme for 2022 is “With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion and Progress for All” and this year’s festival poster was designed by Kaija Sydlowski through an open call poster competition which received submissions from around the world. 

This year’s festival poster was designed by Kaija Sydlowsk

The City of West Hollywood will celebrate Harvey Milk Day, kick-off #WeHoPride, and commence the LGBTQ Arts Festival with a virtual staged reading of the play Dear Harvey: Stories of Harvey Milk, by Patricia Loughrey.

Extensively researched and beautifully constructed, this documentary-style ensemble play recounts the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best … the real-world figures whose lives were forever altered by Milk’s too-short career. This spirited play reaffirms his impact and the continued relevance of his campaign towards equality, three decades after his assassination. 

This year’s production features an entirely transgender and non-binary cast including: Luckie Alexander, Blossom C. Brown, Abdullah “Abby” Rahsheen Hall, Marval A. Rex, Mallery Jenna Robinson, Sydney Rogers aka Miss Barbie-Q, and Emily Westheimer. This performance is directed by Brittney S. Wheeler and produced by Parnell Damone Marcano and Celebration Theatre, LA’s oldest theatre dedicated to producing LGBTQIA+ work.

The reading will be available for the public to view for free on the City’s WeHo Arts YouTube page (www.youtube.com/wehoarts) for one week, from May 22 through May 29, 2022.

The City has also installed Our Pride, a mural by artist LaToya D. Peoples on the N. Sweetzer Avenue east-facing wall of West Hollywood City Hall, located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard. The mural features four hands, symbolic of LGBTQ equality, activism, and pride: the first is a fist, symbolizing the LGBTQ and BIPOC community’s fight against oppression throughout history; the next is a painter’s hand symbolizing the community’s creativity and openness; the next hand holds a sunflower, a symbol for self-love and the seeking of light; and finally, a hand in a classic peace sign.

Our Pride, a mural by artist LaToya D. Peoples (Photo credit: Jon Viscott)

The background is a gradient bright sky, symbolic of the progress the community has made and has yet to make. Each hand is painted realistically, in color, representing diverse people. Installation is complete and the mural will remain on City Hall through May 2023.

The Meringue public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck will be lit up in pink, light blue, and rainbow colors for the duration of Pride Month. The translucency of Meringue lets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. Meringue is located in the median on Santa Monica Boulevard near N. Doheny Drive. 

Some highlights of the 40-day festival include:

  • QUEER DIASPORAS: Lavender City of Dreams presented by Rubén Esparza and Queer Biennial – May 27, 2022 through August 19, 2022. Free. Online exhibition with some in-person events at ONE Gallery. Touching on issues of identity, activism, futurity, and beauty where queerness is the thread that weaves through all these personal – yet universal -perspectives. Realized in imagined (no limits) digital galleries, spaces, and textures as the backdrop, along with up-to-the-minute live performances on May 28, June 3, and June 4, 2022. View the exhibition beginning May 27, 2022 and find in-person event info at www.lavendercity.art 
  • Queer Crossroads – June 1, 2022, 10 a.m. Free. Online at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcTAimXuIpWYkLkUeRZdxiw An exploration of queer intersectionality through video performance and conversation! What else do we bring to our beautiful queer spaces? Are you queer and Black, differently-abled, neurodivergent, HIV positive, Trans, Muslim, etc.? Let’s meet and share our stories in this workshop where intersectionality is explored and championed.
  • Write Out Proud LGBTQ writing workshops – Wednesdays and Saturdays in June. Free. When we Write Out Proud, we share the love of who we are for the world to see, so the world can become better at loving us back. We write fun and flirty stories of our magical LGBTQ selves influenced by our personal ideas of gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation. All are welcome, both new and seasoned writers. This no-cost four session writing workshop will take place virtually on Zoom. There are two workshop groups, each with the same writing prompts and plans. One group meets on Wednesday evenings in June from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the other group meets on Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. culminating on Wednesday evening June 29, 2022 with an online reading of writings for those who care to participate. For more info go to writeoutproud.com. To sign up for this free workshop email [email protected].
  • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Pledge Allegiance to Your Flag: A Festival of LGBTQ Flags – June 4, 2022 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at various locations. Free. The Sisters will delight you as they work their butts off to erase shame and stigma and lovingly help you to claim your LGBTQ identity by choosing from a myriad of their spectacular LGBTQ color guard flags (or bring your own!) and create your personalized made-up mad cap mad lib Pledge of Allegiance. The Sisters will record content for you for your Pride media posts with Sisters, your flags, and your pledge. For details: http://www.writeoutproud.com/pledge.html
  • Church of Trans Love – June 5, 2022 at 2 p.m. Free. The fictitious ‘The Church of Trans Love’ presents a queerdo take on ecclesiastical liturgical practices in the tradition of ‘The Book of Mormon’. The audience plays a ‘full, active, and conscious’ role in the show. The Church of Trans Love performance includes music from David Bowie and features Key Exchange, the show’s gospel choir of professional trans and non-binary singers. More information: https://bit.ly/churchtranslove.
  • WeHo Reads: Pride & Joy in the Matrix – June 7, 2022 at 6 p.m. Free. Online, RSVP: www.weho.org/wehoreads. LGBTQ+ authors are taking a hard look at society IRL and virtually, pinpointing the ways we come up short in connecting with and loving each other.
  • Pride Poets – “Pledge” Poetry Hotline – June 11, 2022 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from June 11, 2022 at 11 p.m. to June 12, 2022 at 2 a.m. Free. Call (202) 998-3510. LGBTQ poets are standing by ready to tackle all your poetic needs! Call in and have an original poem created for you or a loved one. This year’s theme is “Pledge: come share your allegiances with us!”
  • Q Con: A One Day Comic Convention Celebrating LGBTQ Comics – June 18, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Free. Find an exciting, diverse selection of LGBTQ comics and graphic novels all in one place! Talk to creators, get autographs! Q Con is family friendly, and admission is free. Cosplay is encouraged. Join in the costume contest for fun and prizes! For the latest updates on Q Con, visit https://www.prismcomics.org/q-con
  • Trans Pride LA 2022: The VarieTy Show – June 18, 2022 at 7 p.m. RSVP required. Free.  For more information and to RSVP: https://transpride.lalgbtcenter.org/. The VarieTy Show serves as the grand finale of the annual Trans Pride LA Festival.

More detailed information and a full list of the City of West Hollywood’s LGBTQ Arts Festival 2022 programming is available at pride.weho.org.  

In addition, archived online programs from 2020 and 2021 are available to view. Among these is a collection of short films which tell the fabulous, fun, and deep LGBTQ history of the City of West Hollywood called the Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour. Acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons (author The Trouble With Harry Hay, co-author of GAY L.A., former executive director of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives) was in the process of writing his West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour as the final in a trio of walking tours (Downtown Los Angeles and Silverlake are the other two) when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008. The tour remained incomplete until the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division funded its completion as part of the City’s 2015 LGBTQ Arts Festival, allowing Timmons and a small team to help finish his research, bringing it to completion as both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person event featuring performance artists as tour guides. This fun and informative tour returned for two more years, and in 2021, was recorded as a collection of short films that can be viewed on the City’s WeHo Arts YouTube channel.

The City of West Hollywood’s #WeHoPride LGBTQ Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors. The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including: Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Human Rights Speakers Series and the #WeHoPride LGBTQ Arts Festival.

For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts. For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected] or visit www.weho.org/pride.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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