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Organizers say they’re moving ahead with their planned LGBTQ+ Pride event at Founders Park in Ladera Ranch on Friday — with no intention to restrict who can show up to an event they say is an all-inclusive celebration.
“It’s going to be a gathering of Ladera communities and surrounding ones,” said Ladera Ranch resident and mother Morgane Sabin on Wednesday, who has led the way in planning for an event this month now known as “Ladera Love.”
“Whoever wants to come support is welcome. We are hoping it will bring communities together.”Morgane Sabin
It comes after contention this month between organizers and the local homeowners association over the association’s seeming objection to a gathering of more than 100 people at the park.
The Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation (LARMAC) homeowners association, in turn, put out a statement Wednesday disputing any notion they oppose any Pride event in town.
The association says it’s always been a policy to not allow formal reservations for events of more than 100 attendees at parks out of respect for neighbors, and thus told organizers they couldn’t allow reservations for theirs.
And, responding to criticisms over other large events — like Coronavirus shutdown protests — happening at Ladera’s parks with seemingly few hitches, the association in its statement said those events were protected by people’s legal right to peaceful assembly:
“These were not formally approved LARMAC events nor were portions of the park reserved through LARMAC. These events were held at a park by Ladera residents choosing to exercise their right to peaceful assembly under California Civil Code section 4515.”
In a response statement, shared with Voice of OC on Wednesday, “Ladera Love” organizers say they “will exercise their right to peaceful assembly” on the same grounds.
Emails to organizers from the homeowners association, shared with Voice of OC this week, initially approved formal reservations for a Pride event of up to 25 people at a picnic area at the park with no issue.
After receiving an additional reservation request from another organizer, and as rainbow-colored flyers for the event began circulating online, the homeowners association told organizers in another email they couldn’t formally approve reservations for an event exceeding 100 people at the park.
The association said that policy comes “out of respect for the neighbors.”
The messages from the association stirred backlash from organizers who saw it as restricting the event.
In turn, the Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation in its Wednesday statement said such restrictions have always been their policy, universally applied.
(The Pride event) “may move forward and we hope it will proceed (under the previously-stated guidelines that) apply to all members of this community and (will be) enjoyed by all in attendance.”The Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation
The statement adds “there has always been an established process applicable to all LARMAC homeowners, residents and local groups to properly reserve and use the community’s common areas, including the facilities at Founders Park.”
In emails to organizers, the association raised the possibility of fines and liability if the event proceeded without any size restrictions.
The homeowners association has since said in its statement that “any homeowner making reservations is informed that any expenses incurred for hosting un-sanctioned large-scale events would be the responsibility of the homeowner.”
It added: “While homeowners cannot formally reserve any other portions of the park, homeowners, residents and guests can use the additional field space in the park without reservations, on a first-come-first-serve basis.”
The association argues that “at no point in time was the request for a large gathering denied.”
The Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation’s General Manager, Ken Gibson, didn’t respond to Voice of OC questions on Wednesday over what action the association will take if the event exceeds 100 attendees.
In their statement, “Ladera Love” organizers voiced delight “to see LARMAC’s new position to support a cause that is so important to the community,” but said the association never told this to them directly “despite phone calls, emails and in-person visits.”
The statement adds:
“Given the latest public statement of its support for inclusion and diversity from LARMAC, we would like to invite LARMAC and its board to establish direct communication with the organizers to discuss how best to support not only Pride event on June 25, 2021 but also discuss their commitment to Diversity and Inclusion efforts here in Ladera.”
Sabin said the original idea was to have the event be more of a party-like celebration with food and music, but organizers have since scrapped that due to the reservation controversy.
Still, she said she and other organizers have retained an attorney and are “ready to take it to court” in the event the homeowners association levels a penalty.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC staff writer and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.