SAN DIEGO — San Diego will become the first city in the nation to honor legendary LGBT civil rights icon Harvey Milk with a street naming. On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal which will rename Blaine Avenue in Hillcrest as Harvey Milk Street.
City Council member Todd Gloria, who represents the district in which the street is located, said he is pleased with the vote.
“I believe this is an appropriate way to honor Harvey Milk’s tremendous contributions,” Gloria said. “This is the culmination of years of work by many San Diegans and will ensure the civil rights leader is never forgotten in our city.”
Milk had ties to San Diego during his time served in the Navy, and was a diving instructor. In 1978, Milk became one of the first openly gay officials to be elected to public office when he was voted into office on the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors. Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated on Nov. 27, 1979, by Dan White, a supervisor who had resigned and wanted his position back.
A group of community members have been working with San Diego Pride to make the idea a reality. Pride staff, volunteers and community members have been visiting various community groups over the last few months to receive their endorsements and support.
Numerous community groups signed on to support the project, including the Hillcrest Town Council and Uptown Planners. The City of San Diego Planning Commission gave its thumbs up for the project at a meeting on April 12. The commission’s recommendation was forwarded to the City Council for review today.
Speakers at the planning commission’s meeting last month included Stuart Milk, nephew of the slain LGBT civil rights hero.
At today’s city council meeting, only one community member spoke in opposition to the proposal.
James Hartline, who says he lives in San Diego’s new 9th city council district, and frequently speaks in opposition to items that favor the LGBT community, read a letter to the council that Harvey Milk wrote to President Jimmy Carter in 1978, attempting to point out Milk’s ties to “Rev. Jim Jones of the People’s Temple,” who he said has ties to the KKK.
“If you want to name a street after this man, the voters are watching,” Hartline said.
Hartline’s anti-gay rant was nearly 10 minutes long, as two other citizens ceded their time to him.
One resident said she supports naming a street after Milk, but believes that the chosen street is not sufficient. Her wish is that a large thoroughfare, such as University Avenue, be named in Milk’s honor.
Several community members attended today’s meeting to express their support of the proposal, many of them dressed in “white for Milk,” including GSDBA executive director Tom Luhnow, San Diego Pride executive director Dwayne Crenshaw and community activist Susan Jester.
Numerous slips in favor of the project were also submitted for the record.
Jester said that she worked with the City Council 26 years ago to organize the first AIDS Walk in San Diego and encouraged the council to have that same kind of courage today.
Crenshaw said he is grateful with the outcome of today’s vote, which was the culmination of over a year’s work.
“A year ago, a group of community leaders came together around the notion the time had come to honor an LGBT civil rights leader in San Diego the same way we have given honor to other civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Crenshaw said. “Today marks a symbolic and significant moment in the movement forward towards the American value of equality.”
Council President Tony Young encouraged the LGBT community to recognize what an important part of the city they are, expressing his support for the project.
The item was motioned for approval by Gloria, a Democrat, and seconded by Councilmember Carl DeMaio, a Republican. Both councilmembers are openly gay. DeMaio is running for mayor, and Gloria is up for re-election to the council.
The project will include changing the street signs along Blaine Avenue to read Harvey Milk Street. The entire project is being privately funded, and donations are being sought.
Pride officials hope to have the signs changed out in time for an unveiling celebration from 5 to 6 pm Tuesday, May 22, the date of Harvey Milk’s birthday.