A planned LGBGTQ+ Pride event in Ladera Ranch has roused the objections of the local homeowners association, which organizers say has threatened them with fines if they don’t confine their event to a limited space at a public park in the unincorporated south county town.
Morgane Sabin — a resident and mother — said it seemed to be smooth sailing when she first contacted the Ladera Ranch Homeowners Association (LARMAC) to get the permit for an event this month at Founders Park, a large public space and community gathering center.
Few questions were asked, said Sabin, who had watched other large events, like a September “Freedom Rally” protesting Covid-19 restrictions, take up space over the last year at other parks in Ladera with seemingly few hitches.
Then she and other local parents supportive of the Pride event, planned for Friday, began circulating rainbow-colored flyers on social media.
Shortly after that, Sabin — who fetched the idea for a local Pride after an unsavory interaction between a group of kids and a dog walker on a street earlier this month over the kids’ LGBTQ+ support signs — said LARMAC promptly told her the event needed to be constricted in size.
According to emails from LARMAC, which Sabin shared with Voice of OC, the homeowners’ association told organizers they could indeed have their event, but they had to limit their function to 100 people at a BBQ table at the park.
“LARMAC does not permit large-scale events at the community parks, which is why I am unable to offer you a permit for your event. Given that this is a neighborhood park, we limit the number of large-scale events that are held at Founders out of respect for the neighbors,” reads a June 17 email from LARMAC General Manager Ken Gibson.
Requests for comment to Gibson and the offices of LARMAC went unreturned as of Tuesday morning.
In another email to organizers, a LARMAC employee wrote:
“If your event goes forward with more than that authorized number of guests, you as the ‘host’ will be responsible for holding an unauthorized event. This could include reimbursement to the HOA for any clean up required by LARMAC and any damage to the park, along with possible fines.”
Sabin, in a Monday interview with Voice of OC, said it’s unfair to limit the Pride event, while other large events over the last year went unrestricted.
It’s “a huge park. I’m not sure how they expect me to keep count of everyone moving into and out of the park,” Sabin said.
“No one stopped the big pro-Trump events” at Ladera’s parks over the last year, which spread all throughout those public spaces, said Shannon Lenke, a Ladera Ranch resident and mother of seven, in another interview.
Lenke’s gender nonbinary child was among a couple of kids who stood on the street earlier this month, on the afternoon of June 9, with LGBGTQ+ support signs, she said.
Lenke said a dog walker voiced disapproval of their message.
That’s when Lenke said Sabin and other parents decided to plan a local town Pride event, in support of their kids.
“When we first discussed holding this, the night I went to bed there were 18 people who joined the (organizers’ social media) page. I told my kid, ‘Oh my gosh if there’s 18 people holding up signs that support you, that’s gonna be amazing,” Lenke said.
“When I woke up in the morning, there were 80-plus people. Now there’s over 100,” Lenke said.
Sabin, Lenke, and other parents say they plan on proceeding with the event on Friday anyway, despite the threat of liability and fines.
“I think it’s a matter of them not agreeing with some of these causes,” Sabin said. “Here there were Trump rallies during lockdown, church gatherings on every green area … for them to tell me I can’t have more than a certain number of people at a park — that doesn’t make any sense.”
Lenke said anyone is welcome to the event, and that she and other organizers have a right to use a public park that they pay for.
If LARMAC ultimately levels a penalty on the event organizers, Sabin and Lenke said they’re prepared to challenge it in court.
“If we can’t stand up for our kids and help them fight for their futures, then what are we showing them?” Lenke said.
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.