Market Street rainbow flags wear out their welcome

December 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is a bastion of gay pride but one of its symbols, the rainbow flag, is being debated. It is a debate that puts preservationists on one side and a city supervisor on the other.

Visitors to the Castro have probably seen them lining Market Street. The rainbow banners are a symbol of gay pride. Under city law they were supposed to be temporary, just a month or so, but the banners have been hanging for nearly a decade.

"They are part of the identity of the neighborhood, if they need a little freshening up, they should be replaced," neighborhood merchant Greg Bronstein said.

Some of them do look shabby, but if they come down they might not be replaced since they violate city code.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty represents the Castro and is introducing a measure to allow for permanent neighborhood banners.

"If you look at certain preservation codes these probably should come down or change the law, I'm changing the law," Dufty said.

All sorts of banners are flying throughout the city, but the rainbow flags are different. The flags are attached to historic street lamps and preservationists say since they have been up there so long, the brackets are rusting the pillars. The preservationists have been complaining to the San Francisco Planning Department and its Historic Preservation Commission.

"It's important to look at these kinds of things because we tend to often overlook our infrastructure as significant from a historic standpoint, the cable cars are an obvious thing that people embrace as part of San Francisco history, but things like these lamp posts are another part of that," San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim said.

There are more than 300 of the light fixtures along Market Street, together they are known as the 'Path of Gold' and are designated landmarks. Rainbow banners hang from about 20 of them.

The rainbow flag that was created in San Francisco 30 years, originated here 30 years ago, is also part of historic preservation," Dufty said.

Dufty will hold a hearing on the matter on Monday.


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