California city adopts policy banning LGBTQ+ and other flags on city
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California city adopts policy banning LGBTQ+ and other flags on city

Aug 28, 2023

The Torrance City Council has formally adopted a resolution that effectively bars Pride rainbow flags and other displays of conflicting religious, racial or political beliefs from flying on municipal street light poles, unless they are part of a city-sponsored event.

The resolution, which passed unanimously, stipulates that only banners of city-sponsored events, as well as government and military flags, are allowed on light poles in Torrance’s public right-of-way.

The decision drew the ire of some Torrance community members.

“I find it embarrassing to be a part of a city that doesn’t want anything to do with Pride in any way at all, not even to allow other businesses or districts or areas to utilize the poles for inclusivity and equality,” Tiffany Mitchell, owner of Black Raven Tattoo in Old Torrance, said on Thursday, Aug. 24.

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Mitchell is part of a group made up of Torrance business owners and residents who wrote their own Pride Month Proclamation earlier this year after the city declined to issue one.

Former Torrance Mayor Pat Furey, who had supported Pride proclamations when he was in office, called the resolution “unintended consequences by the group that was very, very adamant about the LGBT+ signage.”

“It’s so very difficult to allow one group to put signage up and then not to allow someone else,” he said Thursday. “I certainly understand the legal reasons for it, but it’s unfortunate.”

The City Council’s move stems from months-long community protest after government workers removed LGBTQ Pride banners from downtown light poles in June. The Downtown Torrance Business Owners’ Association initially put those banners up.

That led to confusion and questions from community members about which items can decorate city-owned light poles. Torrance officials, for their part, have said any decorations on public property require city approval.

Emotions ran high during a June 20 City Council meeting. While some people said anything other than government flags could be divisive, others accused the city of selectively enforcing a largely unknown and unobserved regulation.

There are currently 10,066 light poles in Torrance, the vast majority of which — 9,988 — are owned by SCE, according to a staff report.

Under the company’s guidelines, the only things that can go on its light poles are “non-electrified traffic regulating signs, American flags, Neighborhood Watch signs” or signs for city-sponsored events.

The banner policy adopted by the council Aug. 22 also requires anyone who wishes to hang a banner on a city-owned light pole to submit an application and to get approval from the council. The application must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the proposed banner installation date, according to the resolution.

An applicant will need to pay $229 for a banner permit application and $212 for agenda preparation. There will also be a cost for the banner installation. The fees are good through June 30, 2024, as they will be reassessed annually each fiscal year.

The banners or flags must also be flown on light poles in streets where businesses are located and not within residential areas. Only city staff or a city-authorized agent have the right to install, maintain or remove the display.

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