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Airport in hot water over Harvey Milk signage

The design presented for new signage for San Francisco’s Terminal 1 has been met with criticism from local elected officials in San Francisco.

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San Francisco International Airport has unveiled plans for the Harvey Milk Terminal signage

The signage, they argue, does not “elevate Harvey Milk’s legacy.” The design shows the words ‘Terminal 1’ displayed in a large font, with the words ‘The Harvey B. Milk Terminal’ underneath in a much smaller font. 

Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official in California when he was elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in 1977. He was an established leading political spokesman for the Castro’s gay community in the city.

After less than a year in office, Milk was assassinated by a disgruntled former city supervisor alongside mayor George Moscone. His life and career have been well-documented over the years in books and cinema for his work in fighting for LGBTQ rights.

Harvey Milk stepping in for mayor Moscone for a day in 1978. Photo: Daniel Nicoletta

The move to name San Francisco’s Airport after Milk was suggested by former supervisor David Campos in 2013, whose re-election in 2012 saw him become one of only two LGBT San Francisco supervisors. Supervisors then voted in favour of naming just Terminal 1 after Milk.

In a statement, supervisor Hillary Ronen says: “This legacy was to be expressed through artwork and photography inside of the terminal and also by prominent signage on the exterior of the terminal.

“Sadly, the SFO Airport Commission has fought against these efforts every step of the way. Most recently, they presented a design plan for the terminal signage that goes against the very core of the legislation to rename the terminal after Milk.”

Ronen is calling for the designs to be inverted, putting Milk’s name on top “in capital lettering at least four feet high.”

... they presented a design plan for the terminal signage that goes against the very core of the legislation to rename the terminal after Milk

In addition to the exterior signage, there will be an exhibition of photographs from Milk’s life on display inside. The renovation of Terminal 1 is expected to be completed by 2022 and is expected to cost $2.4bn overall. The Bay Area Reporter reports that the cost for the overall architectural components relating to Milk is $1.5m, which are set to be unveiled in March 2020.

It has emerged that the airport had not been in contact with Milk’s family since 2013, when the proposal was first announced. Stuart Milk is the nephew of the late civil rights activist and runs the Harvey Milk Foundation and says he has not been involved in any consultation by airport officials.

According to multiple news reports, San Francisco Airport representative Doug Yakel says the airport “is working to ensure the exterior design of Terminal 1 fully reflects the Board of Supervisors’ efforts and intentions.”

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