Redesign of SF's Harvey Milk Plaza one step closer to becoming reality honoring late LGBTQ+ icon

Saturday, June 8, 2024
Here's where SF's Harvey Milk Plaza redesign stands honoring icon
San Francisco community members have been envisioning a more desirable plaza for late civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's Pride month and thousands of people worldwide are already descending on San Francisco's Castro District. One of the mandatory stops is Harvey Milk Plaza, home of the Rainbow Flag. The community has envisioned a more desirable plaza honoring the legacy of the late civil rights leader.

In 1985, the Castro Muni station was named "Harvey Milk Plaza," after the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

It wasn't until the year 2000 that there was a call to design a new plaza, but the on-again, off-again project never materialized.

"Twenty-four years yeah, not continuously trying but it's like a series of efforts but this effort that started in 2016 is certainly moved the farthest along," said Brian Springfield of Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, a group behind the most recent attempt to redesign the plaza.

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The corner of Market and Castro streets in San Francisco is where Harvey Milk first rallied support for the gay community and human rights. Now almost 40 years after he was gunned down, that street corner has been named in Milk's honor.

When Muni announced it had to build a new state-of-the-art elevator on the plaza, that set the wheels in motion for the overall project.

Cleve Jones who was at Milk's side during the many rallies and marches says, the project is worthy of a trailblazer.

"This was Harvey Milk's neighborhood. Harvey Milk was part of creating what we know as the Castro today, which is known all across the world and when visitors come here it's a little bit underwhelming to come to Harvey Milk Plaza and see this," expressed Jones.

The design is intentional. The updated version will have a pedestal at the entrance and a meeting place to encourage activism, which Milk, himself mastered.

"And at the other end of the site is the medallion that says 'Hope' and that is in this park-like setting," pointed out Springfield.

That area will be surround by 11 trees representing the 11 months that Milk was in office before he was murdered.

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There will be a central terrace at the base of the rainbow flag created by the late Gilbert Baker.

Kathy Amendola who offers Walking Tours of the Castro says people from all over the world connect with that flag.

"Such an iconic symbol globally and we just want to preserve that part of our history," added Amendola.

The stairs that lead to the Muni station will be pushed back and once your enter the station, there will be an area honoring Milk's legacy.

Today, there are only a few photos without any real context as Muni passengers seem not to notice.

The new design will be somewhat similar to what SFO has at the Harvey Milk Terminal.

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Inside Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport there is now a massive exhibit telling the story of Harvey Milk's life.

Not everyone is on board. There's a small group that wants to make minor changes without demolishing the current plaza.

Our problem now in this city is too much money. We've had the doubling of the budget. Don't spend the money on this. Don't spend the money on this. It's not community led. What is community is to preserve this," insisted Alan Burradell, a resident of the Castro.

Still, the money has been coming in from private donations and state and federal funds. But nothing close to the 35 million needed to complete the work, until Mayor London Breed included the project as part of a much larger infrastructure bond.

We asked the Supervisor who represents this district if he thinks the bond measure would pass.

"You never know, the voters are cranky and they have good reason to be cranky, but I'm certainly hopeful that they vote for this bond because it's very important. I'm hopeful it will get through the board of Supervisors bur we're not there yet so we cannot take anything for granted," explained Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

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But the word 'hope' sees to resonate with those behind the project who have already promised a delivery date.

"2028, I'll see you in 2028," revealed Springfield.

Even Jones remembers he was once told the project would never happen in his lifetime.

"Well Cleve, this will happen eventually but you probably won't be here to see it. Ha!," laughed Jones.

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