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San Francisco votes to name SFO terminal after Harvey Milk

Name change five years in the making clears committee

Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced legislation to rename a terminal at San Francisco International Airport after late politician and queer rights icon Harvey Milk in July of 2017, but it wasn’t until Thursday that the Board of Supervisor’s Budget Committee voted to go ahead with the rechristening.

The name initiative started in 2013, when then-Supervisor David Campos pitched a plan to rename the entire airport for Milk. After the proposal proved surprisingly provocative, lawmakers eventually settled for putting Milk’s moniker on just Terminal 1.

“In my own naive way, I didn’t fully understand the politics behind naming a landmark like an airport,” Campos told the committee Thursday. “I didn’t fully realize that many of the people [Milk] challenged are still around.”

Campos added he fears that “in San Francisco there’s a complacency” about LGBT issues and warned that the ire around the airport argument indicates that “the reality is there’s still a lot of challenges.”

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who wrote the legislation renaming the terminal, said that Campos received daily death threats and angry messages calling Milk “a pervert and a pedophile” after the story made national news. (Ronen was an aide to Campos at the time.)

“We thought all of San Francisco would be proud” of the idea, Ronen said Thursday. “It didn’t quite work out that way.

The exterior of SFO International Airport at night. Kenishirotie

The Budget Committee noted that changing the signs in the terminal will cost $357,000, but since Terminal 1 is already in the middle of a renovation money for new signs has already been budgeted anyway. Ronen added an amendment prior to the vote to commission art for the space inspired by Milk’s life and career.

The renaming passed unanimously and will have to carry a vote at the full Board of Supervisors in April to go into effect. Mayor Mark Farrell has said he supports the change and will sign the law if it passes.