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Supervisor Ronen feuds with SFO over Harvey Milk’s name

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“This is not acceptable”

Virgin airlines jets parked on an SFO runway with the control tower in the background. Photo by EQRoy

Despite enjoying broad political and public support, the campaign to rename part of San Francisco International Airport (SFO) after late Supervisor Harvey Milk is still hitting turbulence.

Former Supervisor David Campos proposed renaming the entire airport after Milk in 2013. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who was an aide to Campos at the time, said that the suggestion resulted in death threats (although only after it received national news coverage).

In 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to name just Terminal 1 at SFO after the assassinated civil rights icon, a less sweeping change that involved a smaller amount of work and expense.

Since Terminal 1 was already in the midst of a renovation, the change was folded into the existing overhaul plans.

But now Ronen is mired in an argument with airport decision makers about how best to represent the Milk legacy—specifically, his name.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ronen said:

Sadly, the SFO Airport Commission has fought against [our] 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.

Under their proposed plan, the main sign on the front of the terminal would state “Terminal 1,” with “Harvey Milk Terminal” written in much smaller font underneath the larger sign.

This is not acceptable. [...] The entire point of the terminal renaming is to elevate Harvey Milk’s legacy, not have it mentioned as a footnote.

Ronen says she will introduce legislation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting “to force the airport to change their design [...] so that ‘Harvey Milk Terminal’ graces the entrance of the terminal in visible, bold letters.”

In renderings for the airport-approved design released in 2018, Milk’s name appears roughly half the size as the terminal designation.

The Bay Area Reporter noted last week that Ronen’s preferred design would essentially invert the design, putting Milk’s name on top “in capital lettering at least four feet high.”

The airport-approved design, which Ronen argues turns Milk into a “footnote.”
Rendering courtesy of SFO

In response to Ronen’s pending legislation, SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel told Curbed SF, “Our team is working to ensure the exterior design of Terminal 1 fully reflects the Board of Supervisors’ efforts and intentions.”

The airport will reopen Terminal 1 this summer, but final completion of the renovation is still years away.

According to the October announcement that accompanied the release of the now contentious designs:

The first section of the new terminal, opening in July 2019, will include a 400-foot temporary construction wall featuring an exhibit of images honor Harvey Milk, including those sourced from the public.

Selected images from this exhibit will then go into the long-term central inglenook design, slated to open in February 2020 along with the exterior terminal treatment. Full terminal opening is expected by the end of 2022.