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KCBX Two-Way: Solvang City Council reverses its denial of Pride banners

 Pictured (from left to right) Kiel and Matt Cavalli of The Rainbow House Inc.
Photo by Jayson Mellom, courtesy of the Santa Maria Sun.
Pictured (from left to right) Kiel and Matt Cavalli of The Rainbow House Inc.

In February, the Solvang City Council denied a proposal to hang rainbow banners and paint sidewalks in rainbow colors in support of the LGBTQ+ community. After public outcry, the Council partially reversed their decision last week and will allow pride banners — but only for the first two weeks of June.

The Santa Maria Sun covered the controversy in a two-part series. KCBX’s Amanda Wernik spoke with reporter Taylor O’Connor with the Sun to find out more.

The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.


Why did council members and some members of the public oppose the pride banners and sidewalk paint back in February?

The reason they denied the project was with city policies that are in place surrounding streetlight banners and safety reasons for the crosswalks. They use horse-drawn trolleys throughout the town to take people around, and from discussion, it sounds like horses see in grays, and a red-painted crossed walk, for example, might look like a hole to a horse. So that would cause, maybe, traffic concerns.

And then the pride banner policy states that it has to be Danish-themed. It has to go along with Solvang’s messaging and promotion, and that has to be sponsored by the city.

So that was why the city council denied the project, but there was a lot of discussion about how the pride flags are very political and they promote certain ideologies. They are exclusive to one community. So how does that welcome everybody when it's only geared toward one community? That was one question that was geared many times during the conversation at the city council meeting and in conversations that I had with my sources.

Yeah, so from my understanding of the story, basically was it the council members who were saying, ‘It has nothing to do with how we feel about the LGBTQ community but it's just about Solvang's policies’ while the public was saying they don't want political imagery hung up around the town?

 Pictured (from left to right) Kiel and Matt Cavalli of The Rainbow House Inc.
Photos by Jayson Mellom, courtesy of the Santa Maria Sun.
Pictured (from left to right) Kiel and Matt Cavalli of The Rainbow House Inc.

Yeah, I would totally agree with how you phrase that. The city mainly stuck to its policies. However, saying that pride flags are political is a politicalization of somebody's identity, and somebody's existence is not political, and that's something that a source of mine had shared with me during our conversations about what pride flags really mean, and it's really just a symbol of safety and a symbol of acceptance for those communities.

What were some of the emotional impacts this rejection had on Solvang’s LGBTQ+ community?

Tears were shed; people were very upset. Children were present during the meeting, and it was very scary for them. Often, these children had parents who are in the LGBTQ+ community, so it's very intense for a child to hear something like that.

You spoke to a lot of different LGBTQ+ people in Solvang. Which stories resonated with you the most?

Matt and Kyle Cavalli, who proposed the project again, in previous encounters through previous proposals they had received online threats; they’ve been called pedophiles; they've had threats to have the Department of Social Services called on them to remove their adopted children from their custody.

So hearing those stories, you realize there is an impact, and that was one thing that really resonated with me, and I wanted to make sure that people can see how their words impact others.

What was the most surprising or shocking thing you learned in your reporting of this story? 

This is an issue that many people are facing in the Santa Ynez Valley, and it's very real. I think often when we think of California, we think of a very progressive place that's welcoming to everybody, but we still have several communities throughout our state that really experience discrimination, and in this case homophobia, and just to have that all kind of narrowed down here locally was pretty shocking.

I would say it makes me want to continue reporting for this community and continue looking into some of the issues that are occurring there just because it is so important and it is something that people experience for many years.


Since the Sun published the series, the Solvang City Council approved hanging banners for the first two weeks of June, but not for the entire month. 

They also voted to ban all non-city specific banners in the future. 

The original Santa Maria Sun article is available here. Part 2 is available here.

Amanda Wernik is a reporter and substitute announcer at KCBX. She graduated from Cal Poly with a BS in Journalism. During her time at Cal Poly, she worked as a news anchor for KCPR Radio and as an intern for the CJ Silas Show on ESPN Radio. Amanda enjoys surfing, reading, playing with her dog, traveling, and fronting her own rock band, Kiwi Kannibal.
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