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After five years of debate, city to rename airport terminal for Harvey Milk

SF Arts Commission directed to lay plans for terminal installations by the end of the year

SF International Airport terminal seen from the freeway.
SFO. Note that the SF International Terminal will retain its current name, while Terminal One will be named for the late supervisor.
Photo by N. F. Photography

It took five years and a significant scaling back of the original concept, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to rename San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal One after late board member Harvey Milk.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of both Milk’s swearing in at the Board of Supervisors (January of 1978) and his death. Then-Supervisor David Campos pitched the idea of renaming the entire airport after Milk in 2013, but says that volatile opposition to the idea scuttled it.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who worked in Campos office and succeeded him as the supervisor for District Nine, instead moved along a more modest plan to put Milk’s name on just the terminal, which the board’s Budget Committee passed in March.

Tuesday’s 11-0 vote was on the first reading of the legislation, but given the unanimity, and the fact that Mayor Mark Farrell supports the change, it’s clearly a done deal.

The plan estimates new airport signage will cost roughly $357,000, but since Terminal One is in the middle of a $2.4 billion renovation until 2022, new signs were fit into the budget.

The legislation includes a timetable for new planned new public art commemorating Milk:

By no later than September 1, 2018, the Director of the Airport shall submit to the Arts Commission for the Commission’s approval a plan for design and placement of artwork in the terminal memorializing the life and legacy of Harvey Milk.

[...] By no later than December 1, 2018, the Director of the Airport shall submit a report to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor describing the steps the Airport has taken and plans to take to implement this Section 2A.174 and publicize the name of the terminal, including plans for signage in the Airport and plans to place artwork in the terminal.

The bust of Harvey Milk at SF City Hall. Photo by Dan Schreiber

The airport vote provided an upbeat moment in a meeting that also included a contentious hearings about Scott Wiener’s transit housing bill SB 827. (The board voted to oppose the bill, although the language of the resolution has less bite in it than originally intended.)

Former Supervisor Harry Britt, who was first appointed to office just after Milk’s death, teared up during a speech before the vote, declaring, “This [building, City Hall] will be forever Harvey Milk’s place. If he could come back from wherever they send people like Harvey Milk he’d want to come here and say, I used to sit here and I made a speech up there.

“It was his greatest pride to make it possible for gay people to be seen sitting in the chairs you’re sitting in,” Britt added before the lawmakers took turns heralding Milk’s memory.