According to city surveys, its population remains about 45% LGBTQ – mainly gay men. By and large gay neighborhoods were established by gay men and are home to very few lesbians, transgender folks and gays of color.
West Hollywood is different because of its cityhood and that may be its saving grace, Gates said. It is able to do what bigger cities can’t, focus on the LGBTQ residents by providing services, support and events. The city is known for its gay-centric focus. It started the first registry of domestic partners, offers health services and has a HIV zero campaign to stop the transmission of the virus.
“It was founded to be an LGBT haven,” Gates said. “It is unique among LGBT enclaves”
Before it became a city, the 1.9 square-mile area was unincorporated and had been home to mobsters who served alcohol during the Prohibition, the first movie studio and, eventually, gay nightlife.
In 1984 it was incorporated as West Hollywood, home to more than 37,000 residents, many of them gay. It continues to be a beacon for LGBTQ folks, though it is much more expensive to move in than when D’Amico or councilwoman Lauren Meister arrived decades ago.
“They want to be here either to live or to work,” said Meister, who is not LGBTQ. “We have that edge. But I think it’s changing, and it’s changing partly because of the housing; and I think it’s also changing partly because of acceptance.”
For West Hollywood, where gay couples, who can now marry and have families, may be leaving for more suburban environs and some seniors may be retiring elsewhere there are still many aging gay residents who plan to stay.
That is creating a new moment in the city, said D’Amico.
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“We haven’t lost our identify as an LGBTQ center for Los Angeles,” he said.