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Journey Guitarist Sues S.F. for Discrimination

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The lead guitarist of Journey sued San Francisco, claiming it "extorted" him for "outrageously high" permit fees to punish him for broadcasting his wedding to a reality TV star on pay-per-view.

Neal Schon sued the City and County of San Francisco and three top officials of its Parks and Recreation Department on Feb. 6 in Federal Court. His wife, Michaele Schon nee Salahi, and N & M Productions also are plaintiffs.

They claim the defendants created "outrageously high" permitting fees for their 2013 wedding at the Palace of Fine Arts to punish them for broadcasting the ceremony.

City officials said they did not want the couple to broadcast "a commercial event at this historic venue," according to the lawsuit.

In addition to paying rental fees of $35,000, the rock star said he had to pay a $100,000 "premium reservation fee" and a $50,000 "park regeneration fee" for the Dec. 15 wedding.

The combined fees were "more than 200 times the next highest fee ever paid for the use of the Palace of Fine Arts," the lawsuit claims.

Schon complains that his filming permit cost $25,000, far more than the filming of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," which cost only $1,200. Payments to the city, including for filming permits, ended up being nearly $240,000.

City officials set the fees "without regard to any guidelines set forth in city ordinances," the Schons say.

They claim the defendants "unlawfully used (their) unfettered discretion to arbitrarily discriminate against plaintiffs based simply on who they are, their perceived economic status, and their exercise of their free speech rights."

The Schons also claim the city did not allow them to take photographs in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, and that officials wouldn't let them use a room in the old Exploratorium that they named "Sexy," to fit their theme of "Royal, Sexy, Magic."

"Defendants expressed distaste for the stated theme of the room and concern that the room would suggest profane or pornographic thematic elements," the complaint states. That violated their First Amendment rights, the Schons say.

"Neal and Michaele Schon suffered emotional distress," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs should have been excited and happy in the days leading up to their wedding. Instead, they were being extorted by defendants. Plaintiffs felt they had no choice but to pay the illegal fees defendants demanded days before their wedding was to take place."

The Schons seek declaratory judgment and punitive damages for constitutional violations and discrimination.

They are represented by James Quadra, with Quadra & Coll.

Contact Arvin Temkar at [email protected]

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